[Updated: 14-Oct-2019]

Japanese – English translation competitions are a great way to improve your translation skills and get your name out there.

They can be particularly great for people new to the industry for putting on resumes. If you win one you’re more likely to attract clients and get work too.

I personally love them just as a way to challenge myself. And I have to admit this is a partially selfish post because I’m tired of Googling for these all the time.


My Advice for People Looking to Enter Translation Competitions

  • Pick one or two you want to do in the year.
  • Carefully schedule and plan your time.
  • Start early!!!
  • Review and edit as much as you can.


So here is a somewhat complete list of the Japanese – English translation competitions 2019. More may be added throughout the year. Who knows when a new contest might pop up!


Sixteenth Annual JAT Contest for New and Aspiring Translators

Japanese - English translation competitions

The Japan Association of Translators (JAT) is a great organisation for Japanese translators. There’s a forum for members and you get added to their database of translators. It’s one of those thing where the more you put in the more you’ll get out. But I digress…

Their annual translation competition is aimed at beginner translators with less than three years experience. You always have one month to complete the translation of a generic piece that freelancers are likely to translate.

This is not a literary translation.

Finalists get feedback from the judges which is incredibly valuable as a beginner.

Information on the competition here.


Translation Content: Generic document.

Deadline: Competition open only between October 1st – 31st 

Prize: JAT membership, feedback, free ticket/travel/accommodation for IJET.

Restrictions: Beginner translator with less than three years experience.


Manga Translation Battle

The manga translation battle is an annual manga (and now light novel) translation competition. This is very popular among up-and-coming Japanese to English translators because so many people love manga. Many think it’s easier than translating prose, but that is not the case. It’s just a matter that prose and manga translation are similar but also have their own challenges.

It’s hard to link a website for this because the URL changes every single year… MyAnimeList has hosted the last few contests so you might find the 2019 contest here. But really it’s best to keep an eye out around July/August.

Translation Content: A chapter of manga/light novel.

Deadline: Competition only open September(ish?) October/November? (Nothing official yet!)

Prize: Laptops, vouchers, trip to Japan, a chance to translate manga for publication.

Japanese - English translation competitions


Closed Competitions from 2019

Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature
(Donald Keene Translation Competition)

This contest is restricted to US citizens/residents!

The Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University annually awards $6,000 for this competition. A prize is given for the best translation of a modern work or a classical work, or the prize is divided between equally distinguished translations.

Click here for the submission guidelines.

Translation Content: A book-length Japanese to English translation. (Novel, collections of short stories, manga, essay, memoir, drama, or poetry.)

Deadline: June 3, 2019 [CLOSED]

Prize: $6,000

Restrictions: Must be citizen or resident of USA.


4th JLPP International Translation Competition

Japanese to English / Russian translation competition. Its aim is to “foster emerging translators of Japanese and promote Japanese literature”.

Click here for more details, the source text, and submission application.

Translation Content: A short story and short essay provided by them. (Can download and start translating now.)

Deadline: Must submit application and translation between June 1st to July 31st [CLOSED NOW]

Prize: There are prizes, not sure what though.

Japanese - English translation competitions


Selden Memorial Translation Prize

Japanese - English translation competitions

This competition aims to celebrate Japanese literature, giving more weight to texts with “significant meaning”.

So you can’t just translate anything, but translate something which has meaning. I.e a text that looks at identity, or a woman’s role, or the impact of disaster on Japan, etc.

You do not need permission to publish the translated text from the original copyright holder, but they would like it. Their rules state you at least need to contact them copyright holder.

More details here.

Translation Content: A 20,000 word unpublished translation of Japanese literature.

Deadline: August 1st [CLOSED NOW]

Prize: $1,500

Additional information: Must send physical copies as well as digital. Have contacted the copyrights holder. Plus a 1000 essay explaining the significance of the text.


Asymptote Close Approximation Translation Competition

This is an any language to English literary translation competition. You need to select your own piece, but unlike the Donald Keene competition, this doesn’t have to be an entire book long! You do still need to have permission from the copyrights holder.

This is also the only contest I’ve found (so far) with an entry fee.

More details in entry and submission here.

Translation Content: 5-10 pages of poetry OR 10-25 pages of fiction.

Deadline: October 1st [CLOSED]

Prize: Up to $1000 and $250 worth of prizes.

Restrictions: $25 entry fee. Need a statement from the copyright holder that the rights are available or the piece is in the public domain.


Kurodahan Press Translation Prize

This is a great translation competition for beginner translators. It’s similar to the JLPP International Translation Competition, where they provide the short story for you to translate. But there’s no short essay! You will also only have a month or so to complete the translation.

They also clearly lay our their judgment scheme, based on accuracy, representation of the original, and English flow. Although they don’t give direct feedback, they do release the “marks” for each person. So you can see where you ranked and where you were strongest/weakest.

Click here for more details.

Translation Content: A short story provided by them.

Deadline: September 30th [CLOSED NOW]

Prize: 30,000 JPY


There may be more competitions that get announced for this year,
but no gaurantee that ones that have run in the past will run again.
I will try to keep this list updated.
Japanese – English Translation Competitions 2019
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