The Cikada Prize was founded in 2004 following the 100th anniversary celebration in commemoration of the birth of the Swedish Nobel Prize winner, Harry Martinson. The award consists of a diploma, 20.000SEK and a piece of ceramic art designed by the Swedish ceramics artist Gunilla Sundström.
The award was initially (the first five prizes) presented in cooperation with the European Institute of Japanese Studies (EIJS) at the Stockholm School of Economics, the spa hotel Yasuragi, Judiska Teatern (The Jewish Theater), Östasieninstitutet (East Asia Institute) and Nyteboden. From 2013 it is mainly financed by the Swedish Institute.
The name of the prize has been inspired by Martinson's poetry collection "Cikada", which was published in 1953. In this collection is also included the first 29 poems of his famous work Aniara, "The Song about Doris and Mima". The atomic bombs in Japan, followed by the construction of the world's first H-bomb in 1953, had a big impact on Martinson's writing, which is reflected in Aniara. The prize focuses on East Asian poets, writing in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese, not only because of Harry Martinson's great interest in East Asian literature, but also because the initiators of the prize believe poetry written in these languages deserves better recognition.
- The 1st Cikada Prize was given to the poet So Sakon (1919-2006). The prize was presented in connection with the opening of a symposium about Japanese literature at the Yasuragi in Stockholm on the 6th of August 2004. The prize was given to So Sakon at the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo on the 3rd of September 2004.
- The winner of the 2nd Cikada Prize was the Japanese haiku poet Kaneko Tota (1919- ). The prize was given to Kaneko Tota at the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo the 13th of December 2005 by the Princess Desirée of Sweden.
- The 3rd Cikada Prize went to the Korean poet Ko Un (1933- ) at the Swedish Embassy in Seoul, South Korea on the 28th of November 2006.
- The 4th Cikada Prize was given to the Korean poet Shin Kyong Rim (1935- ) in 2007, again presented at the Swedish Ambassador's residence in Seoul.
- The 5th Cikada Prize went to the Korean poet Moon Chung-hee, who also received the prize at the Swedish Ambassador's residence in Seoul, on 6 November 2010.
- The 6th Cikada Prize went to the Japanese poet Mizuta Noriko. The prize ceremony was held at the Swedish Ambassador's residence in Tokyo on 9 December 2013.