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

See below for information about the prize.


Al-Jazeera America on the Fukushima Triple Disaster, Three Years On アルジャジーラ・アメリカが報じる福島トリップル災害 三年目

January 13, 2014
Volume 12 | Issue 3 | Number 1


As the third anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster approaches, a string of new projects analyzing its causes and impact are underway. Al-Jazeera America is among the first out of the blocks with a four-part documentary, broadcast on its "America Tonight" segment in early January 2014. Among the questions it explores in the video below: Does the lingering aftermath of the crisis pose any danger to people living on the West Coast of North America?

The documentary concludes that it does not. "The radiation will slowly sink, before harmlessly decaying over decades as Pacific currents turn most of the groundwater toward Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean," says Professor Aoyama Michio, a scientist at the Meteorological Institute of Japan. But, he adds, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) must remove all the Strontium-90 from contaminated water or it will cause a "big problem" for the whole Pacific.

Compiled during two weeks of November 2013, the documentary's most damning report profiles the so-called nuclear gypsies, the largely unskilled, non-unionized and transient workforce that TEPCO has employed, through a network of subcontractors, to clean up from the disaster. In contrast to its regular employees, many are paid less than $100 a day. Conditions are poor and concern for their safety is lax. When the workers have reached their radiation limit, they are discarded, say the program's producers.

The documentary also questions the vast, expensive project to decontaminate an area the size of Connecticut. The project has created mountains of radioactive waste, scattered in dumps around the prefecture. Radiation is still high even in areas that have already been cleaned. Yakuza gangs have siphoned off much of the budget. Residents interviewed in the documentary say they will never return. But Sakurai Katsunobu, the mayor of Minamisōma, believes no good comes from agonizing over the past. "I just focus on how to move the city forward into the future."

Most remarkably, perhaps, America Tonight concludes that the Fukushima disaster has had little if any impact on Japan Inc.'s plans to sell nuclear technology abroad. The business of nuclear power may well grow in the coming years, and Japan is attempting to position itself at the front of the business pack with bids to build plants in Vietnam and the Middle East, among others.

The Nuclear Gypsies Cleaning Up Fukushima Part One (Al-Jazeera)

David McNeill writes for The Independent and other publications, including The Irish Times, The Economist and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator and coauthor of Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).


His January 15, 2014 appearance on Amy Goodman's radio show Democracy Now! is here.

Recommended citation: David McNeill, "Al-Jazeera America on the Fukushima Disaster, Three Years On," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 3, No. 1, January 20, 2014.

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