Japanese Studies Personal Statement Example 2

My initial interest in the Japanese language began with a fascination for the kanji. At the time, whilst holding scarce knowledge about the language, I found myself attracted to this completely alien writing system which looked like an art form. This led me to explore, cultivating a basic understanding of the Japanese language.

Comprised of three writing scripts and influenced by countries worldwide, Japanese is one of the most unique languages still spoken. It is tonal and largely built upon characters which can be dated back to ancient Chinese however, it is not considered to be a part of the same language family. These qualities distinguish it from other modern foreign languages I have studied such as Spanish and French and are a key factor in my desire to pursue a deeper understanding.

Moreover, from the perspective of a native English speaker, Japanese can be likened to a complex, multi-layered puzzle. It has more first-person pronouns than letters in the English alphabet; speech patterns that can be categorized by gender; a distinctly stratified hierarchy of formal and informal speech; characters that appear to change in meaning and reading from encounter to encounter and an abundance of rich dialects. For someone driven by challenge, the complexity of Japanese holds endless appeal to me as an intellectual pursuit and further than that, a means to discovering a culture that deeply fascinates me.

In addition to the script, I have found immense pleasure in exploring a realm of literature different to the one that I had encountered previously. My first glimpse into Japanese literature came from the illustrious author of modern literature, Murakami Haruki. A combination of simple literary style yet relentlessly metaphorical storytelling makes his novels a gripping read. I experienced this first-hand through the trilogy featuring the enigmatic Nezumi. However, it was not just cryptic plotlines that were intriguing about Murakami’s works.

Although unaware at the time, I found myself seduced by the style of literature completely unique to the Japanese language: Jun-bungaku. Jun-bungaku can be described as ‘Not prose for the sake of study but literary pieces where importance is placed upon aesthetic structure’ and is antonymous to taishuu-bungaku.

This fashion of literature was birthed by the revolutionary writer, Futabatei Shimei. The pioneer who famously first authored a novel in genbunicchitai and had an influence on other notable authors of the time such a Natsume Souseki and Akutagawa Ryuunosuke. In reading the masterpieces crafted by these greats, such as Kokoro and Rashomon, I was able to appreciate the delicate artistry of jun-bungaku. I would be interested in exploring this concept further and what distinguishes it from standard literature.

Through reading Royall Tyler’s translation of ‘The Tale of Genji’ I was able to explore the world of ancient Japanese aristocracy. I was enamoured by the portrayal of the Heian period, particularly the focus on correspondence through ‘Waka’. Whilst the characters who appear are fictitious, I learnt much about values central to Japanese culture, which are still very applicable in the modern era.

I participated in an online course in phonetics, learning about the less discussed aspect of spoken Japanese, pitch accent, and its role in making Japanese a tonal language.

Thus far, I believe my studies of a new language and by extension, a new culture, have taught me how to tackle academic problems from new perspectives. The process of learning this language independently has given me the confidence to persist, even when things appear bewildering. I can confidently say that the work required to bring myself up to GCSE and subsequently A level standard, through self-study, would have presented an insurmountable task if not for my passion for this subject. I look forward to studying Japanese at university and the challenges it will bring.

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Author's Comments

Worked hard on this and fairly proud with the result.
Got me an offer from Cambridge so I hope it provides a decent template for people looking to study japanese at oxbridge.


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