Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature

The Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University annually awards $6,000 in Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prizes for the Translation of Japanese Literature. 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. Translators must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States.


Click here for the submission guidelines.

Deadline for submissions is June 1, 2018.


David Boyd for Slow Boat
(Pushkin Press, 2017)

Hiroaki Sato for The Silver Spoon: Memoir of a Boyhood in Japan
(Stone Bridge Press, 2015)


None awarded


Steven D. Carter for The Columbia Anthology of Japanese Essay
(Columbia University Press, 2014)

Terry Gallagher for Toh Enjoe's Self-Reference ENGINE
(VIZ Media, 2013)

Stephen D. Miller and Patrick Donnelly for The Wind from Vulture Peak
(Cornell East Asia Series, 2013)

Awards Ceremony and Reception for the 2015-2016 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature
Friday 11 December, 5:30 PM, C.V. Starr East Asian Library Reading Room, 300 Kent Hall


Juliet Winters Carpenter for A True Novel
(Other Press, 2013)

Rebecca Copeland for The Goddess Chronicle
(Canongate Books, 2012)


W.S. Merwin and Takako Lento

Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson (Copper Canyon Press, 2013)


None awarded


Matthew Fraleigh
Assistant Professor of East Asian Literature and Culture at Brandeis University

New Chronicles of Yanagibashi and Diary of a Journey to the West:
Narushima Ryūhoku Reports from Home and Abroad
(Cornell East Asia Series)

Matthew Fraleigh’s carefully annotated translations of Narushima Ryūhoku’s (1837 – 1884) New Chronicles of Yanagibashi (Ryūkyō shinshi) and Diary of a Joukeerney to the West (Kōsei nichijō) help us appreciate the pivotal position of Ryūhoku occupied as someone who bridged the literary worlds of both Edo and Meiji. The first of these two translations presents Ryūhoku’s nuanced, often satirical contemplation of Yanagibashi, one of Tokyo’s celebrated entertainment districts that flourished and faded during the tumultuous 1850s – 1870s. Fraleigh masterfully preserves the linguistic playfulness of the text by providing translations of the colloquial glosses that Ryūhoku added to his Chinese prose. At a time when Japanese writing in various sinocentric styles reached a brilliant final flowering before giving way to what we now call “modern Japanese,” this text, as well as the poetry-filled Diary of a Journey to the West that records the author’s trip around the world in 1872 to 1873, show Ryūhoku’s creative struggle to find the proper language with which to capture the harmony and dissonance of tradition and modernity in their frenzied dance with each other. Fortunately for the reader, Ryūhoku polyphonic voice as a penetrating critic, a budding journalist, a faithful chronicler, and as a lyrical poet is appropriately matched by Fraleigh’s boundless erudition and sensitivity to style.

J. Keith Vincent
Assistant Professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature at Boston University

The Food Demon (in A Riot of Goldfish, Hesperus Worldwide) J. Keith Vincent’s translation of Okamoto Kanoko’s (1889 – 1939) The Food Demon (Shokuma, 1941) successfully captures the author’s many-layered portrait of a complicated “sensei” of cuisine, a man whose disdain for others finds expression in the perfection of his culinary taste and performance as a cook. The richness of Okamoto’s insistent prose is well matched in the sureness of Vincent’s well- measured rhythms and melodic phrasing. This collection also contains the eponymous A Riot of Goldfish (Kingyo ryōran, 1937), which contains one of the most powerful lyrical moments in all of Japanese literature. “How fresh and forgiving was the breath of the trees and the grasses. Green, madder, orange, and yellow, each and every cluster of leaves swelled and seemed to gasp with a surfeit of life. The disheveled grasses lightly shook off beads of dew and rearranged themselves luxuriantly like bosoms standing to attention. Wherever Mataichih bent his ear to listen, there was the babbling sound of water, and the echo of this hastily improvised mountain steam gave a pulse of movement to the landscape before his eyes.” This story of the unrequited love and madness of a goldfish breeder is well rendered in the measured richness of Vincent’s prose.

The 2011-2012 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prizes for the Translation of Japanese Literature were presented at an awards ceremony held at Columbia University on April 27th, 2012.


Michael Emmerich
For Manazuru (original work: Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami). Michael Emmerich is an assistant professor at University of California, Santa Barbara Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures.

Tom Hare For Zeami: Performance Notes (original work: Nihon Shisotaikei 24 Zeami Zenchiku by Zeami Motokiyo). Thomas William Hare is William Sauter LaPorte ’28 Professor in Regional Studies, Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.

The award ceremony took place on February 25, 2011.

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Jeffrey M. Angles
For his translation of Tada Chimako's Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems of Tada Chimako, to be published by University of California Press in 2010.

Jeffrey Angles is an Associate Professor at Western Michigan University, where he teaches Japanese literature and translation studies. He earned his Ph.D. at Ohio State University in 2004, and his book Writing the Love of Boys: Desire Between Men in Early Twentieth-Century Japanese Literature will be published by University of Minnesota in 2010. His other translations include Killing Kanoko: Selected Poetry of Ito Hiromi (Action Press, 2009) and numerous short stories in various anthologies. Recently, he earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant to support his current translation project, the memoirs of the Japanese poet Takahashi Mutsuo.

Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen
For her translation of Shinkei's Murmured Conversations

Professor Ramirez-Christensen is the Director of Language Studies at the University of Michigan and specializes in classical Japanese literature, especially Heian and medieval poetry, narrative, and criticism. Her research interests include literary hermeneutics and Buddhist intellectual philosophy, as well as feminist readings of Heian women’s writing. Among her works are Heart's Flower: The Life and Poetry of Shinkei (1994) and "Self-Representation and the Patriarchy in the Heian Female Memoirs" in The Father-Daughter Plot: Japanese Literary Women and the Law of the Father (2001).

The award ceremony took place in April 2010.



Dennis C. Washburn
For his translations of Tsutomu Mizukami's The Temple of the Wild Geese and Bamboo Dolls of Echizen.

Dennis Washburn is Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College. He has authored or edited several books, including: The Dilemma of the Modern in Japanese Fiction (Yale University Press, 1995); Word and Image in Japanese Cinema (Cambridge University Press, 2000); Translating Mount Fuji (Columbia University Press, 2006); and Converting Cultures (Brill, 2007). He has also translated novels by Ôoka Shôhei and Yokomitsu Riichi. His current projects include preparation of a Critical Edition of The Tale of Genji for Norton and a translation of Tsushima Yûko's novel Laughing Wolf.

The award ceremony took place in 2009.

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Anthony H. Chambers
for his translation of Akinari Ueda's Tales of Moonlight and Rain

Anthony H. Chambers is Professor of Japanese at Arizona State University. Professor Chambers is widely known for his studies of the novelist Jun'ichirô Tanizaki and is the author of Secret Window: Ideal Worlds in Tanizaki's Fiction. He has translated numerous works of modern and classical Japanese literature, including writings by the 13th-century priest and poet Kamo no Chômei and fiction by Tanizaki. Professor Chambers has also taught at Wesleyan University, the Associated Kyoto Program, and the Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies.

Kozue Uzawa and Amelia Fielden
for their translation of tanka poems in Ferris Wheel: 101 Modern and Contemporary Tanka

Professor Uzawa is a tanka poet and a former professor of Japanese language and culture, recently retired from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Her first collection of tanka was titled Kanada nite (In Canada). With Amelia Fielden, Professor Uzawa has co-translated As Things Are (100 tanka by Yūko Kawano), as well as the forthcoming Kaleidoscope: Selected Tanka of Terayama Shūji from Hokuseidō Press. Professor Uzawa is also an editor of Gusts, Canada's first English tanka journal.

Ms. Fielden is an Australian translator and poet. Her other published translations include collections of contemporary tanka by Hatsue Kawamura, Kyoko Kuriki, Mariko Kitakubo, Machi Tawara, and Yūko Kawano, for the last of whom she is the official translator. She is currently working with Professor Uzawa on translations from Yukitsuna Sasaki’s latest book, First Snow.

The award ceremony took place on April 18, 2008.



Professor Joel Cohn
For his translation of Botchan: A Modern Classic by Natsume Sōseki

Joel Cohn studied Japanese language and literature at Cornell University, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and Harvard University. He has taught at the University of Hawaii at Manoa since 1988 and is now Associate Professor of Japanese Literature and Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures. He has translated several works of Japanese literature from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, including "In the Soup, Hand Made: The Thousand Sliced Arms of the Bodhisattva of Mercy" ("Oteryōri oshiru no mi Daihi no senrokuhon," 1785), a kibyōshi by Shiba Zenkō, as part of An Episodic Festschrift by Professor Howard Hibbett (Hollywood: Highmoonoon, 2003); "In the World of Men, Nothing But Lies" ("Ningen banji uso bakkari," 1813), a kokkeibon by Shikitei Sanba in an anthology of Edo-period literature edited by Professors Sumie Jones and Watanabe Kenji (University of Hawaii Press, forthcoming); as well as works by Kanagaki Robun and Ōba Minako. He is also the author of Studies in the Comic Spirit in Modern Japanese Fiction (Harvard University Asia Center, 1998).

Professor Edward Fowler
For his translation of A Man with No Talents: Memoirs of a Tokyo Day Laborer by Ōyama Shirō<

Edward Fowler’s first experience in Japan was as an exchange student during the summer of 1964, immediately before the Tokyo Olympics. He has spent a total of ten years living, working, and studying in Japan. His early research on Japanese literature, particularly the autobiographical shishosetsu form, resulted in a monograph, The Rhetoric of Confession (Berkeley, 1988). Later, he turned his attention to the problem of translation (its politics as well as its aesthetics) and examined the ways in which the existence of an English-language "canon" of Japanese literature has affected, and in some ways skewed, the West's perception of the literature. More recently, he has investigated the ethnic, social, and cultural diversity that has been commonly written out of accounts of late twentieth-century Japan. This research interest has resulted in several articles; a book-length study—part oral history, part personal account—of Tokyo's largest day-laborer quarter (San'ya Blues; Ithaca, 1996); and a translation of Ōyama Shirō's a prize-winning memoir of life in San'ya, A Man with No Talents (Ithaca, 2005). He has translated stories by Shiga Naoya, Tanizaki Jun'ichirō, and Tamura Toshiko, as well as essays on the city in literature by the celebrated cultural critic Maeda Ai. He currently teaches in the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine.

The 2006 prizes were presented to Professors Cohn and Fowler during an award ceremony at Columbia University on April 3, 2007.

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Professor Damian Flanagan
For his translation of The Tower of London by NATSUME Sôseki

Damian Flanagan originally went to Cambridge University to read Natural Sciences. He ended up studying Japanese and lived in Japan for a year before returning to graduate in English Literature in 1992. From 1993 he studied at Kobe University, and in 2000 became the first Westerner to be awarded a Ph.D. in Japanese Literature at that institution. In 2003 he published his first book, a Japanese-language study of Natsume Sôseki.

Dr. Flanagan is a regular contributor of articles on literature, politics, and society for the Japanese press. His translation of and introduction to Sôseki's writings on Britain, The Tower of London, was published by Peter Owen in January 2005, marking the start of that publisher's relaunch of Sôseki classics in the United Kingdom. More recently, he contributed an introduction to another Sôseki work, The Gate, which appeared in January 2006. Dr. Flanagan is currently working on his fiction.

Professor Yosei Sugawara
For his translation of The Gift of Numbers by OGAWA Yôko

Yosei Sugawara received his Bachelor of Law degree from Meiji Gakuin University's College of Law. In 1993 he earned an M.A. in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at California State University in San Bernardino, and in 1998 another M.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is currently lead instructor in the Japanese Program at Pima Community College in Tucson.

Mr. Sugawara has taught Japanese language extensively, including courses at the University of Arizona and IBM. He has also worked as a translator for Dickerson, Butler, and Rodrigues; ReliaSoft; and Velcro USA.

The 2005 prizes were presented to Professors Sugawara and Flanagan during an award ceremony at Columbia University on April 21, 2006.


Professor Lawrence Rogers

For his translation of Tokyo Stories: A Literary Stroll (University of California Press)

Lawrence Rogers is currently Professor of Japanese and Chairperson of the Languages Department at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo. He received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. (1975) in what was then the Department of Oriental Languages at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests in graduate school were Edo-period literature, specifically the prose of the haiku poets, known as haibun, and guidebooks written for the newly prosperous townspeople of the urban centers of Japan. After he began teaching in Hawai'i, his focus shifted to modern literature– the novel, the short story, and, to a lesser extent, poetry. His translation of Agawa Hiroyuki's war novel Citadel in Spring appeared in 1990, and Tokyo Stories was published in 2002. The several dozen short-story translations he has had published over the last twenty years include works by Ôe Kenzaburô, Mishima Yukio, Endô Shûsaku, and Yoshiyuki Junnosuke. Many of these translations have also been reprinted in recent anthologies of modern Japanese literature. Professor Rogers is currently on sabbatical leave, reading and translating twentieth-century Japanese drama.

The prize was presented to Professor Rogers during an award ceremony at Columbia University on April 29, 2005.


Classical Literature: Charles S. Inouye - Japanese Gothic Tales, Volume Two by Izumi Kyoka
Modern Literature: Shogo Oketani & Leza Lowitz - America and Other Poems by Ayukawa Nobuo
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Professor Royall Tyler

For his translation of  The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. (Viking Press)

Royall Tyler was born in London, England, and grew up in Massachusetts, England, Washington D.C., and Paris. He has a B.A. in Far Eastern Languages from Harvard, and an M.A. in Japanese History and Ph.D. in Japanese Literature from Columbia University. He has taught Japanese language and culture at Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Oslo, Norway. Beginning in 1990, he taught at the Australian National University, in Canberra, from which he retired at the end of 2000. He spent the 2001-2002 academic year as a Visiting Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.

Widely acknowledged as the world's earliest novel that remains fully alive today as a widely read masterpiece, The Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu in the first decade of the eleventh century. Professor Tyler's highly praised translation, detailed and poetic, remains scrupulously true to the Japanese original while appealing immediately to the modern reader as well. Although two other complete English translations exist (Arthur Waley's of 1933 and Edward Seidensticker's of 1976), Professor Tyler considers his version "a new, more detailed and more fully engaging Genji than has yet been seen in a language outside Japanese. Every word, every sentence offers a range of possibilities among which I had to thread a path thanks to my own conception of the text. That is why this is a new Genji."

Professor Tyler's previous works include Japanese Noh Dramas, a selection and translation of Noh plays published by Penguin Putnam, Inc.; Japanese Tales and French Folktales, anthologies published by Pantheon Books; and The Miracles of the Kasuga Deity, a study of a medieval Japanese cult published by Columbia University Press.

The prize was presented to Professor Tyler during an award ceremony at Columbia University on April 11, 2003.

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The prize for the best classical literary translation was awarded to:
Professor Mae J. Smethurst
For her translation of Dramatic Representations of Filial Piety: Five Noh in Translation

Publisher: Cornell University East Asia Series
Professor Smethurst is currently a Professor of Classics and Adjunct Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. She spent the 2000-2001 academic year as a Visiting Professor of Humanities at the Mita Campus of Keio University in Japan. She is the author of The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami: A Comparative Study of Greek Tragedy and No (Princeton University Press, 1989), which was translated into Japanese by Akiko Kiso and published by Osaka University Press. In 1990 Professor Smethurst was awarded the American Association of University Presses' Hiromi Arisawa Memorial Award for The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami.

The prize for the best modern literary translation was awarded to:
Professor James Philip Gabriel
For his translation of Life in the Cul-De-Sac (Gunsei) by Senji Kuroi

Publisher: Stone Bridge Press
Professor Gabriel is an Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona, where he teaches Japanese Literature. He received his Ph.D. in East Asian Literature in 1993 at Cornell University. He is the author of Mad Wives and Island Dreams: Shimao Toshio and the Margins of Japanese Literature (University of Hawaii Press, 1999), and the co-editor of Oe and Beyond: Fiction in Contemporary Japan (with Professor Stephen Snyder, University of Hawaii Press, 1999). In addition, Professor Gabriel is the translator of numerous works, including several by Haruki Murakami: Underground (Vintage International, 2001; co-translated), The Sputnik Sweetheart (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, 2001), South of the Border, West of the Sun (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), and three of Murakami's short stories that have appeared in The New Yorker in recent years.

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The prize for the best classical literary translation was awarded to:
Professor Roger K. Thomas
For his translation of A Tale of False Fortunes (Namamiko Monogatari) by Fumiko Enchi
Publisher: University of Hawai’i Press

Professor Thomas is an Associate Professor at Illinois State University, where he teaches Japanese language and culture.  He received his Ph.D. in 1991 at Indiana University.  His research and publications have focused primarily on poetry and poetics of the Edo period, but he has an active interest in modern fiction as well.  Although Enchi Fumiko is a twentieth-century novelist, A Tale of False Fortunes is distinguished by its long passages in archaic Heian-period prose style.  For this reason, Professor Thomas’ translation was considered eligible for the award in the category of classical literature.

The prize for the best translation of a modern work of literature was awarded to:
Ms. Meredith McKinney
For her translation of Ravine and Other Stories (Tani, etc.) by Yoshikichi Furui
Publisher: Stone Bridge Press

Ms. McKinney is a freelance translator and part-time lecturer in Japanese and Asian Literature at Australian National University.  Her other published translations include, The Flame Tree/Aogiri no Uta (translations of the poetry of Judith Wright, with introduction, co-translated with Sakai Nobuo); Cooloola no Tasogare (translations of the poetry of Judith Wright, with introduction, co-translated with Sakai Nobuo); and The Tale of Saigyô (translation with introduction and notes).   She is currently completing a Doctorate in Asian Studies (subject of research: A Study of The Tale of Saigyô) at Australian National University.


Modern: Prof. Jay Rubin for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Nejimaki-dori Kuronikuru), Murakami Haruki, Knopf

Classical: Mr. Hiroaki Sato for Breeze Through Bamboo, Ema Saiko, Columbia University Press


Modern: Prof. Elaine Gerbert for Love of Mountains (Yamagoi), Uno Koji, University of Hawaii Press

Classical: Prof. J. Thomas Rimer & Prof. Jonathan Chaves for Japanese and Chinese Poems to Sing: The Wakan Roei-shu --- Columbia University Press


No Prize was awarded this year


Modern: Prof. John Solt Glass Beret for The Selected Poems of Kitasono Katsue (1902-78), Kitasono Katsue, Morgan Press

Classical: Prof. Makoto Ueda for Modern Japanese Tanka --- Columbia University Press


No Prize was awarded this year


Modern: Mr. Wayne P. Lammers for Still Life and Other Stories, Shono Junzo, Stone Bridge Press

Classical: Prof. H. Mack Horton for The Journal of Socho, Saiokuken Socho, Stanford University Press


No Prize was awarded this year


Modern: Ms. Eve Zimmerman for Strawberry Road, Ishikawa Yoshimi, Kodansha International

Classical: Prof. Edwin Cranston for A Waka Anthology: The Gem-Glistening Cup (Vol 1) --- Stanford University Press


Modern: Prof. Paul McCarthy for A Cat, A Man, and Two Women (Neko to Shozo to Futari no Onna), Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, Kodansha International

Classical: Prof. Margaret Childs for Rethinking Sorrow: Revelatory Tales of Late Medieval Japan --- University of Michigan, the Center of Japanese Studies


Modern: Prof. Stephen Snyder for The Signore (Azuchi Okanki), Tsuji Kunio, Kodansha International

Classical: Prof. Paul Gordon Schalow for The Great Mirror of Male Love (Nanshoku Okagami), Ihara Saikaku, Stanford University Press


Modern: Ms. Phyllis Birnbaum for Confessions of Love (Irozange), Uno Chiyo, University of Hawaii Press

Classical: Prof. Steven Carter for Waiting for the Wind: 36 Poets of Japan's Late Medieval Period --- Columbia University Press


Prof. Carol Apollonio Flath for Aogiri Rasoku, Kizaki Satoko, Kodansha International


Prof. William Naff for Before the Dawn (Yoakemae), Shimazaki Toson, University of Hawaii Press


No Prize was awarded this year


Mr. Lane Dunlop for Twenty-four Stories from the Japanese --- Northpoint Press Charles E Tuttle


No Prize was awarded this year


Prof. Phyllis Lyons for The Selected Works of Dazai Osamu, Dazai Osamu, Stanford University Press


Prof. Laurel Rodd for The Kokinshu --- Princeton University Press


Prof. Karen Wigen for A View by the Sea, Yasuoka Shotaro, Columbia University Press


Prof. Juliet Winters Carpenter for Secret Rendezvous, Abe Kobo, Knopf


Mr. Ian Hideo Levy for Man'yoshu --- Princeton University Press
Prof. Robert Epp for Poetry by Kinoshita, Yuji Kinoshita, Yuji Katydid Books

Note: From 1979 to 1988, only a single translation prize was given annually. Beginning in 1989, the prize was given in two categories: translations from Japanese classical literature & Japanese modern literature.

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