Japanese Studies personal statement

A one-day introductory Japanese course as part of my school's Gifted and Talented programme was where I began. I came away intrigued and determined to find out more about this truly unique country and its customs. Over time, my MP3 player became filled with Japanese music, and learning to read the katakana and hiragana scripts opened up a new world for me. I remember the sense of achievement when I was able to decode the title cards of my favourite anime series. Since then, I have taken a further one-week course at SOAS and practise when I can in my own time. More recently, I have learnt to read around 40 kanji. Studying the rules and idiosyncrasies that come together to make up a language is a great pleasure to me. Although language is my primary area of interest, I have been reading some short stories, poems and novels by Japanese writers. I found quite a few texts to share similarities with the minimalist movement in English literature. The work of Yuuko Tsushima, particularly Child of Fortune, appealed to me. I admired its feminist principles (an issue about which I have always felt very strongly) and the unusual depiction of motherhood. Additionally, her talent for building captivating stories around her characters' often mundane existences exposes a disillusionment with the Japanese psyche. I want to be able to read them in their original language and experience first-hand the society in which they are set. Having done some further reading on Japanese history, I was astounded at how a country which had so long followed a policy of isolation has developed such a rich and varied culture. This reflects how loan words from numerous different countries have found their way into a seemingly unique language - for example 'arubaito', from German, and 'shabon' from Portuguese, which I was pleasantly surprised to see in a Japanese dictionary. Mikiso Hane suggests in 'Modern Japan: A Historical Survey' that Western trends and ideas have encroached upon Japan to the point of eroding their own culture, but I think these have served more to enrich; many elements of the older (and even feudal) Japan still prevail. I was puzzled by the fact that although anime originally drew inspiration from American cartoons, it has moved away from these roots to form an iconic part of Japanese society offering something for every age and taste. In contrast, Western animation is still largely viewed as for children. Perhaps the reason for this is that the emphasis on hard work in Japan has led to less of a preoccupation with the notion of reality than we have in the West. I find that the Japanese have a sense of anarchic fun I am keen to explore further. Anime and manga not only provided an entertaining view of some gorgeous artwork but also allowed me to gain an insight into everyday life in contemporary Japan. Next year, I am choosing to take some time out in order to broaden my cultural knowledge and will travel to Japan to do some voluntary work. At present I am still undecided regarding future career prospects but am considering becoming a translator. Outside of my studies I enjoy following artistic sports and am a dedicated member of i-star Academy rhythmic gymnastics club. Since I came to gymnastics very late (age 13) I have had to put in an enormous amount of hard work, but I have still managed to participate in both national and international competitions. I also have evening job housekeeping at a local private school. Balancing these commitments with A-Levels has been a difficult yet rewarding challenge. When I do have any spare time, I like to read all kinds of novels and poems and teach myself the guitar. I feel that Japanese Studies will provide me with invaluable skills on my journey toward strengthening the connection between West and East. I was not always pushed at school to fulfil my academic potential and look forward to the challenges and experiences that studying on a demanding degree course would bring.

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This personal statement was written by ameliajane2 for application in 2013.

ameliajane2's Comments

This personal statement looks a bit cringey to me now, but it got me an offer from Newnham, Cambridge - they asked for A*A*A but I got A*AA so got pooled to Homerton in the summer - a bit far out of town but I'm having a great time now!

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