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writer + translator








I translate Japanese nonfiction and fiction and edit translations from Japanese. I am a member of the Third Coast Translator’s Collective, an international community of literary translators in the Chicago area, a member of the Society of Editors, Writers, and Translators, and a winner of the 3rd JLPP International Translation Competition, for translations of texts by Ekuni Kaori and Tereda Torahiko. Below are a few of the young adult novels I’ve translated.


Winifred Bird
Paul Poynter book illustration

From bracken to butterbur to “princess” bamboo, some of Japan's most iconic foods are foraged, not grown, in its forests, fields, and coastal waters--yet most Westerners have never heard of them. In Eating Wild Japan, I eat my way from one end of the country to the other in search of the hidden stories of Japan's wild foods, the people who pick them, and the places whose histories they've shaped.

Published by Stone Bridge Press.

Eating Wild Japan book cover




In this world of mine

Even humble roadside weeds

Make a pretty cake

- Kobayashi Issa (b. 1763)

Drawing of Winifrd by Paul Poynter


I am a writer and translator in northwestern Illinois. I grew up in San Francisco in a family of book-loving artists, dreaming of moving to the country. After studying political science at Amherst College, I worked at farms across the United States and Canada before moving to rural Japan, where I spent close to a decade writing, growing organic rice and vegetables, and absorbing a second culture. I returned to the United States in 2014 and currently live with my family in a small town on the banks of the beautiful Rock River. Along the way I’ve reported on the environment and architecture for many national publications and translated a growing stack of books from Japanese to English. Over the past several years I’ve had the enormous pleasure of researching and writing Eating Wild Japan: Tracking the Culture of Foraged Foods, which ties together three of the things I care most about: food, nature, and Japanese culture. (Drawing of me by Paul Poynter)

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"A beautiful and thoughtful exploration of the deep relationship--past and present--between people and wild plants in one of the world's richest foraging regions.”

Samuel Thayer

Incredible Wild Edibles and The Forager's Harvest

“This is a terrific book, and the only one of its kind. A fascinating and knowledgeable history, many insightful stories about the roles these plants play in people’s lives, a useful wild plant guide, and delicious recipes. You’ll want to try them all!”

Azby Brown

Author of Just Enough: Lessons in living green from traditional Japan

"Winifred Bird has penned a delightful homage to those who practice the art of bringing wild foods deliciously to table. Eating Wild Japan triggered fond memories of outings with my mother-in-law in Shikoku unearthing edible shoots and roots that her kitchen wisdom later turned into a feast."

Elizabeth Andoh

Author of Washoku and Kansha

"Not only a superbly-written and engaging read but plays an important role in spreading and preserving the knowledge of the Japanese wilderness."

Metropolis Magazine

“A charming and indispensable companion . . . Eating Wild Japan will make you reconsider the essential connections between wildlands, conservation, and food.”

Caroline Fraser

Author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Fills a hole that much needed filling in the landscape of writing on Japanese food."

Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Author of Japan: The Cookbook

"A charming escape, as well as a practical guide for those who choose to explore on their own."

Story Circle Network

"Winifred Bird has created a fascinating, thought-provoking, and delightful book. A must read for anyone interested in the role of wild edibles in Japanese culture and cuisine. A scrumptious story that made me want to eat and travel with Bird as my companion."

Gina Rae La Cerva

Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food

"More than a curated guide to Japan's wild edible plants and their preparation . . . a blueprint for making our own journeys into distant foodways."

Langdon Cook

Author of Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table

“Finally, a book that can begin to answer some of my questions about different plants, how they’re consumed, and most delicious of all: a glimpse into the role they play in Japanese culture.”

Chef Alan Bergo

Author of The Forager Chef's Book of Flora

"This is a marvelous book, a book to savor. . .  infused with tantalizing stories and flavors. Instructive and wise, Eating Wild tells of foraging to inspire closer attention to the weedy, wild world around us."

Anna Tsing

Co-Editor of Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene

“I long to encounter every enchanting forest, passionate preservationist, and bracingly bitter taste Winifred Bird vividly describes. I’m grateful to learn along with her about Japan’s traditional and contemporary wild food cultures that nourish connection to the nonhuman world—to incremental changes in season and climate—and to history.”

Hannah Kirshner

Author of Water, Wood, and Wild Things

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Event Announcement: Slideshow and Book Talk for SWET

Join me at 10:00 AM JST on May 23 for a slideshow and conversation with Jeanette Fukao for the Society of Writers, Editors, and...

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International Women Associates Presentation

This slideshow of photos from my travels for Eating Wild Japan can be viewed here, along with a discussion with Chicago translator Alta...

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Season by Season Podcast Interview

I talked with hosts Kit and Alexis about the many uses of bracken ferns, the ways that edible wild plants tie people together through...

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Sustainability Podcast

JJ Walsh hosts a daily podcast talkshow, Seeking Sustainability Live, featuring guests whose work relates to Japan. The archives are a...

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Book Launch!

Join Eating Wild Japan illustrator Paul Poynter, author and illustrator Azby Brown, and me for this free online event hosted by Chicago...

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Excited to see Eating Wild Japan on Kinokuniya’s list of popular new releases for March, as well as on Books on Asia’s list of “9 New...

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I’m used to having a byline in the Japan Times, but being the subject of the story is a whole new experience. Thank you Kris Kosaka for...

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I was happy to work with old friends at Kyoto Journal recently to share an excerpt from Eating Wild Japan with their readers...

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Perks of having a fabulous artist for a mother: when you write a book, she can design a custom bookplate for you featuring a lady...

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One thing I’ve been happily surprised by in recent feedback about Eating Wild Japan: Tracking the Culture of Foraged Foods is that... Logo
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Since 2007, I’ve reported as a freelance journalist on wildlife, agriculture, nuclear disaster, architecture, and more for a wide range of national publications. My journalism career has taken me throughout Japan and the United States as well as to South Korea, Senegal, and Burkina Faso. I am the recipient of a First Prize for Outstanding Feature award from the Society of Environmental Journalism Awards for Reporting on the Environment, a Fund for Environmental Journalism grant, a Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership grant, and a media fellowship at Vermont Law School. In one of my more delicious assignments, I wrote the Japan entry for The Oxford Companion to Cheese. Click on the icons below to read past articles.