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.

So, here’s a list of Japanese – English translation competitions 2020 to keep an eye out!


My Advice for Aspiring Translators

  • Pick one or two you want to do in the year and DO THEM.
  • Carefully schedule and plan your time.
  • Start early!!! (Don’t put if off to closer to the deadline because you run out of time, FAST.)
  • Review and edit as much as you can. (Re-read and edit at least seven times.)
  • Go with your gut and check dictionaries! (Check dictionaries for words you’re unsure of, but go with your gut for what you think sounds good.)


So here is a somewhat complete list of the Japanese – English translation competitions 2020.
This list will be updated throughout the year.

English Japanese translation competition


Seventeenth Annual JAT Contest for New and Aspiring Translators

*Great for aspiring translators*

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.


More information on the competition here.

Translation Content: Generic document.

Deadline: Competition open only between October 1st – 31st [OPEN NOW]

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

Restrictions: Beginner translator with less than three years experience.


English Japanese translation competition


Selden Memorial Translation Prize

(Postponed to 2021)

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

This means you can’t just translate just anything, but something which has meaning. E.g 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.

News on the postponement here.

Translation Content: A 20,000 word unpublished translation of Japanese literature.

Deadline: Usually August 1st but postponed to 2021

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

(Not confirmed for 2020)

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 [NOT CONFIRMED for 2020]

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.


J-Net Translation Competition

I had NO IDEA this competition existed because it’s impossible to find information on it! Partially because they don’t have any online presence, but also because it’s for J-Net members only.

It costs £25/year to be a J-Net member.

Join J-Net for more information

[More information on the way!]


Manga Translation Battle

(Not confirmed for 2020)

The manga translation battle is a somewhat annual manga (and possibly 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.


We were expecting this competition to be held in 2019, but it was not!
There was no news or confirmation from anyone if it will be held again.
MyAnimeList has hosted the last few contests so you might find the 2020 contest here.

Translation Content: A chapter of manga/light novel.

Deadline: ??? [NOT CONFIRMED for 2020]

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


English Japanese translation competition


More Useful Articles

Never Assume – The Importance of Research in Translation

Translating Japanese for Beginners




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

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.

This contest says it is restricted to US citizens/residents. However, they occasionally award “outstanding translations by non-citizens or non-permanent-residents of the United States.”


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 2020 [CLOSED]

Prize: $6,000

Restrictions: Must be citizen or resident of USA.


5th JLPP International Translation Competition

*Great for aspiring translators*

Japanese to English / German translation competition. Aimed to “foster emerging translators of Japanese and promote Japanese literature”.

Translation Content: A short story and short essay provided by them.


(1) Fiction Category
“Tokyo Shosetsu Kateihen” by Nosaka Akiyuki
“Minnano Shitto” by Ito Hiromi

(2) Criticism and Essay Category
Three short essays by Tanikawa Shuntaro: “Omoitsumeru,” “Kyoiku ni tsuite,” and “Zentei to shite”
“Hiroin no Namae” by Tanabe Seiko


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

Deadline: Must submit application and translation between June 1st to July 31st 2020 [CLOSED]

Prize: There are prizes, not sure what though.

Restrictions: Must not have published a book-length translation before.


2020 Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize [NEW]

*Great for aspiring translators*

The language pairs for this translation competition changes every and 2020 is the year of Japanese to English translation!

It aims to recognize the achievements of young translators at the start of their careers, which is why the competition is limited for ages of 18 and 34, but there are no restriction on country of residence.


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

Translation Content: A short story – “Yakyoku” by Yusho Takiguchi

Deadline: September Wednesday 16th [CLOSED]

Prize: £1,000 and a selection of Harvill Secker books

Restrictions: Aged 18-34 on September 2nd 2020. Must not have published more than one “full-length translation.” (I think this means more than one literary novel, but might be best to check with them if you’re unsure.)


Kurodahan Press Translation Prize

*Great for aspiring 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 clearly lay our their judgment scheme, based on accuracy, representation of the original, and English flow. They don’t give direct feedback, but 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, the source text, and submission application.

Translation Content: A short story – “冬のアブラゼミ” by 安土 萌

Deadline: September 30th [CLOSED]

Prize: 30,000 JPY


Japanese – English Translation Competitions 2020
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