The 2019 Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize in Japanese Literature, Thought, and Society

See below for information about the prize.


Defoliated Island - Agent Orange, Okinawa and the Vietnam War  枯れ葉化した島−−枯れ葉剤オレンジ、沖縄,ヴェトナム戦争

Defoliated Island - Agent Orange, Okinawa and the Vietnam War

Asia-Pacific Journal Feature

A new TV documentary reveals the toxic legacy of military defoliants on America’s “Keystone of the Pacific” 

On May 15 2012, Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting aired a primetime TV documentary to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese control. Titled “Defoliated Island - Agent Orange, Okinawa and the Vietnam War,” the program featured 7 U.S. service members who were exposed to military defoliants on the island during the 1960s and early ‘70s. As well as these accounts, it showed interviews with Okinawan civilians worried that they, too, have been affected by these dioxin-tainted herbicides which continue to sicken millions of people in Vietnam today.

The documentary was based largely upon the research of Asia-Pacific Journal associate, Jon Mitchell, who has been investigating the issue for the past two years. In that time, he has interviewed dozens of U.S. veterans poisoned by these chemicals in Okinawa and found evidence of Agent Orange usage on more than 15 U.S. installations on the island - including the possibility that it was buried in Chatan (today a popular tourist town) and the Marine Corps base at Futenma. In August, the discovery of a U.S. army report appeared to provide the smoking gun that 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange had been stored in Okinawa during the Vietnam War.

However, despite this wealth of evidence, the U.S. government has repeatedly denied that Agent Orange was ever on the island. As a result, hundreds of sick American veterans have been refused medical assistance and the Japanese government has been able to reject calls from citizens’ groups for health surveys and environmental testing in the island.

In November 2012, Japan’s Association of Commercial Broadcasters awarded the documentary a Commendation for Excellence and shortlisted it for a prestigious Broadcast Culture Award. On his homepage, Mitchell called the prizes “a rare nod from the mainland (Japanese) media that all too often shy away from Okinawan issues.”

The documentary has now been made available in English. According to Mitchell, “It is hoped that the English version will help to convince the governments of Japan and the USA to finally acknowledge the poisoning of American veterans and pave the way for long-overdue investigations into the health impact on Okinawa civilians as well as the environmental damage to their communities.”

The 2019 Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize in Japanese Literature, Thought, and Society

The Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University is pleased to announce the 2019 prize honoring the life and work of our colleague, Kyoko Selden. The prize will pay homage to the finest achievements in Japanese literature, thought, and society through the medium of translation. Kyoko Selden's translations and writings ranged widely across such realms as Japanese women writers, Japanese art and aesthetics, the atomic bomb experience, Ainu and Okinawan life and culture, historical and contemporary literature, poetry and prose, and early education (the Suzuki method). Recognizing the breadth of Japanese writings, classical and contemporary, and with the aim of making such materials more widely available, we ask that prize submissions be of unpublished translations. Collaborative translations are welcomed. In order to encourage classroom use and wide dissemination of the winning entries, prize-winning translations will be made freely available on the web. The winning translations will be published online at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

Prize selections will take into account both the quality of the translation and the significance of the original work. In cases where a text already published in English is deemed worthy of retranslation, new translations of significant texts are accepted (please provide date and place of earlier publication). Applicants should submit the following hard copies to the Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize, Department of Asian Studies, 350 Rockefeller Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853:

  • 1 copy of an unpublished translation
  • 1 copy of a statement of up to 1,000 words explaining the significance of the text. Although we do not require that the translator has already obtained permission to publish the translation from the copyright holder, please include in the statement information about whether preliminary inquiries have been made or whether or not the work is in the public domain.
  • 1 printed copy of the original Japanese text
  • A brief c.v. of the translator
  • In addition, please send electronic copies of all the above as attachments to

The maximum length of a submission is 20,000 words. In case

of translation of longer works, submit an excerpt of up to 20,000 words. Repeat submissions are welcomed. Please note that

the closing date for the prize competition this year will be August 1, 2019. For the 2019 competition, one prize of $1,500 will be awarded in two different categories:

1) to an already published translator; 2) to an unpublished translator. The winners will be informed by November 1, 2019.

For further information, please visit the Asian Studies website or send questions to