Latest update date: February 11, 06

Japanese-English translation competitions are a great place to improve your translation skills and promote your name. They can especially help with the profiles of new entrants to the industry. If you win an award, you can attract clients and get the job you want too!

Personally, I love competitions as a way to challenge myself. So, here is the list of Japanese - English translation contests 2020 for you to follow!

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My advice to aspiring translators

Pick one or two things you want to do this year and DO them.

Carefully schedule and budget your time.

Get started as soon as possible!!! (Don't delay them to get close to the deadline because you're running out of time, MUST FAST.)

Review and edit as much as possible. (Re-read and edit at least seven times.)

Be as careful as you can and check the dictionary! (Check a dictionary for words you're not sure about, but be patient to find words you think are cool.)

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So here is the complete list of Japanese-English translation competitions 2020.

2020 Harvill Secker Young Translators' Prize [NEW]

* Ideal for aspiring translators *

The language pairs for this translation contest change every year, and 2020 is the year for Japanese to English translation! It aims to recognize the achievements of young translators at the beginning of their careers, that's why the competition is limited to 18 and 34 years old only, but there is no restriction on the country of residence.

  • Translation content: A short story – “Yakyoku” by Yusho Takiguchi
  • Deadline: September 2 [OPENING]
  • Prize: £1.000 and a collection of books by Harvill Secker
  • Restrictions: Ages 18-34 as of September 2, 9. Not published even as a “full-length translation”. (I think this is more than translating a literary novel, but it's best to check with them if you're unsure.)

Kurodahan Press Translation Prize

* Ideal for aspiring translators *

It is similar to JLPP International Translation Competition where they provide short stories for you to translate. But no short essays! You will also only have a month or so to complete the translation.

They give a detailed evaluation chart, based on accuracy, closeness compared to the original and the English you use. They do not give direct feedback, but give “scores” to each person. So you can see where you've ranked and where you're strongest/weakest.

  • Translation content: A short story – “冬 ” by
  • Deadline: September 30 [OPENING]
  • Prize: 30.000 JPY

Seventeenth Annual JAT Contest for New and Aspiring Translators

* Ideal for aspiring translators *

The Japan Translators Association (JAT) is a great organization for Japanese translators. There is a forum for members and you are added to their database. It's one of those things where the more you get involved, the more you'll realize. But I digress...

Their annual translation competition is aimed at beginner translators with less than three years of experience. You always have one month to complete the translation of a generic section that freelancers are likely to translate. This is not a literary translation. The finalists receive feedback from the judges, which is invaluable when starting out.

  • Content of translation: General document translation exam.
  • Deadline: The contest is only open from October 1 to October 31
  • Prizes: Breathe in JAT membership, get feedback, free tickets/transport/accommodation for IJET.
  • Limitations: Beginner interpreting with less than three years of experience.

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Selden Memorial Translation Prize (Postponed to 2021)

This contest aims to honor Japanese literature, creating more reputation for texts with "important meaning". This means you can't just translate anything, you have to translate something meaningful. For example, the text mentions the role of women or the impact of the disaster on Japan, etc.

You're not allowed to publish translated text from the original copyright holder, but they'll love it. Their rules state that you should at least contact the copyright holder and respect the copyright.

  • Translation content: Unpublished translation of Japanese literature 20.000 words.
  • Deadline: Usually August 1 but postponed to 8
  • Prize: $1.500
  • Additional Information: Hard copies as well as digital copies must be submitted. Contacted copyright owner. Plus, a 1000 word essay explaining the meaning of the text.

Asymptote Close Approximation Translation Competition (Not yet updated for 2020)

You need to choose your own work, but unlike the Donald Keene contest, this doesn't have to be an entire book! You still need permission from the copyright owner. This is also the only contest I've found (so far) that has a fee to enter.

  • Translation content: 5-10 pages of poetry OR 10-25 pages of novels.
  • Deadline: October 1st [NOT UPDATED for 10]
  • Prizes: Prizes up to $1000 and $250.
  • Restrictions: $25 entrance fee. A statement from the copyright owner is required that the rights are available or the work is in the community domain.

+ Note: Experience Improving Translation Skills

J-Net Translation Competition

I DON'T THINK this contest exists because I can't find information about it! Partly because they don't have any online presence, but also because it's only for J-Net members. It costs £25/year to become a J-Net member.

Manga Translation Battle (Not yet updated for 2020)

The manga translation battle is an annual manga (and possibly light novel) translation contest. This contest is very popular among Japanese to English translators coming soon because so many people love manga. Many people think that it is easier than translating prose, but it is not. The point is that prose and manga translations are similar but have their own set of challenges. We were expecting this contest to be held in 2019, but not sure! There is no news or confirmation from anyone, whether it will be held again or not.

  • Translation content: A chapter of the manga/light novel.
  • Deadline: ??? [UNCONFIRMED for 2020]
  • Prizes: Notebook, voucher, Japan tour, opportunity to translate manga for publication.

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Japan-US 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 to this competition. The award is given to the best translation of a modern or classical work.

This contest is limited to US citizens/residents. However, they do occasionally award “excellent translations by non-citizens or nonresidents of the United States.”

  • Translation content: Japanese to English translation the length of a book. (Novel, anthology of short stories, comic books, passages, memoirs, plays or poems.)
  • Deadline: June 6 [CLOSED APPLICATION]
  • Prize: $6.000
  • Restrictions: Must be a citizen or resident of the United States.

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5th JLPP International Translation Competition

* Ideal for aspiring translators *

Japanese to English/German translation contest. Aimed at “promoting emerging Japanese translators and promoting Japanese literature”.

  • Translated content: A short story and short essay provided by them.

(1) Genre of Fiction

“Tokyo Shosetsu Kateihen” by Nosaka Akiyuki


"Minnano Shitto" by Ito Hiromi

(2) Criticism and essay genre

Three Short Essays by Tanikawa Shuntaro: “Omoitsumeru,” “Kyoiku ni tsuite,” and “Zentei to shite”


“Hiroin no Namae” by Tanabe Seiko

  • Deadline: Application and translation must be submitted between June 1 and July 6, 31 [APPLICATION CLOSED]
  • Prizes: There are prizes, but not sure what.
  • Restrictions: Translations into novels cannot be published as before.

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