Ucyu Renshi (Space Poem Chain): Connecting Global People With Words

For as long as we can imagine, the heavens have at times been an easel on which human beings painted their dreams, sometimes mirroring their own lives. Today, as scientific progress helps unravel the world’s mysteries one by one, the skies above, extending to outer space, continue to inspire us with limitless curiosity as well as awe of the infinite beyond.

Ucyu Renshi (space poem chain) targets the establishment of a collaborative venue through renshi (chain poetry) by collectively considering space (the universe, Earth and life itself), unfettered by barriers of nation, culture, generation, profession, and position or rank.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, started the Ucyu Renshi program to connect people, including crew members in space, with words and allow them to feel more closely involved in space activities. Even those not interested in space sciences and technologies can participate in and enjoy Ucyu Renshi.

Renshi (chain poetry), a form developed from traditional Japanese “renga and renku (linked verse)” in the early 1970s, is now well known and has gained a global following. It is open ended, aiming to fuse the traditions of classical Japanese poetic forms with the world of modern poetry. Renshi is compiled by weaving words like batons in a relay race from one participant to the next.

Ucyu Renshi is a form of renshi compiled by thoughts of imaging space, including Earth and our lives. Collaborating with and considering other participants is clearly essential to creating remarkable Ucyu Renshi, and doing so helps to build bonds among people.

JAXA compiles one Ucyu Renshi collection every year, consisting of around 24 short poems. Half are written by the public, while the remainder feature the contributions of famous poets. After the completion of the Ucyu Renshi, it is recorded on a DVD, which is then loaded into the International Space Station every year. A Ucyu Renshi symposium is also held to introduce the Ucyu Renshi to the public. JAXA also is applying Ucyu Renshi to Japanese language classes in elementary schools. Students compile Uchu Renshi in class and learn how to create the poems with famous poets while learning the importance of cooperation within the class. Students enjoy creating Ucyu Renshi and are very excited about participating in the “Kibo” big space project.

JAXA started the Ucyu Renshi in 2006, and the four Ucyu Renshi already composed are now stored in the International Space Station’s Japanese Experiment Module, or “Kibo,” which means “hope” in Japanese. All participants can watch the space station from the ground, imagining their poems stowed in the station, a shining star in space. Since it started in 2006, the number of participants has steadily increased, with more and more people interested in Ucyu Renshi and space activities. Furthermore, Ucyu Renshi inspires them with a new universal view.

Masato Koyama
Space Environment Utilization Center, JAXA

Last update: 15 August 2012

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