SOAS University of London

SOAS Language Centre

Hagio Prize 4th Year Winner: Jonathan Mann

As 2010 marks the tenth anniversary of this unique and generous award, we have asked past winners to reminisce about their time spent in Japan, as well as how the experience has affected their lives. Here is Jonathan's report.


I look back on my time as a Hagio Prize winner in Japan extremely fondly, for the huge array of fantastic people I encountered, for the first-hand experience of a country full of wonder and surprise, and for the deep and lasting impression it has made on me. I feel as though I have permanently changed for the better by having the chance to experience Japan in this way.

The combination of the small-scale cultural nuances, the marvellous food, the people, the language, the landscapes, even what seemed like the perpetually clear skies, have coalesced over time into a sense of place that doesn’t simply define a point in time and space, but an attachment that continues to dictate in some small subtle way who I am and what I do.

Even leaving aside the fact that I simply wouldn’t have been able to single-handedly afford such a venture, I think that if I was left to my own devices I wouldn’t have been able to achieve that sense of immersion and understanding that the award provides. The combination of an extended period of work experience at Reuters TV in Tokyo, a period of teaching at various schools and institutions in Hokkaido and the freedom to travel has, I feel, facilitated a more coherent perception of Japan. I can only hope that my limited contribution through these award-assisted ventures helped in some small fashion to give a good impression of England in return.

The small things, as ever, tend to stick in the mind: the first bowl of Ramen in a tiny back-alley, long shadows on black-sanded beaches, glorious shabu-shabu courtesy of Mrs. Hagio, roadside food stops, melon flavoured Kit-Kats, fish for breakfast... I could go on.

For all of this, I am deeply indebted firstly to Mrs.Hagio but also to SOAS and, in my case, Reuters for jointly enabling this fantastic opportunity. I feel some small regret for not continuing my studies successfully or keeping in touch well enough with my numerous generous hosts and, finally, for my failure to return to this fascinating country, but some part of me is probably resisting this to avoid spoiling the memory of a quietly revelatory experience.

I hope that future recipients will gain as much from the prize as I did.

Jonathan Mann