SOAS University of London

SOAS Language Centre

Hagio Prize 9th Year Winner: Emma Boardman

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 Emma's report.


The Hagio Prize allowed me, in 2 months, to explore an expanse of Japan and Japanese culture that by myself I could never hope to be able to experience in as many years.


I was able to enjoy so many different aspects of Japan, and the diversity of the country that had initially sparked my interest. It goes without saying that I experienced the bright lights and incredibly busy streets of Tokyo, but I was also able to experience more unusual things, such as staying in a Buddhist Temple, the incredibly relaxed island life of Yakushima, and secret Ninja houses in Kyoto. 

Throughout my travels I learnt more and more from all the locals I encountered – I was amazed time and time again by their willingness to help. As a reaction to the simplest greeting, people would happily go above and beyond in assisting me.

Concerning my studies of Japanese language, the Hagio Prize was an especially invaluable experience. Mistakes such as not lengthening vowels (kou/ko), or the tendency to pronounce katakana words in English (internet/intaanetto) -- which in the classroom conversation could still stumble on despite our very supportive and patient teachers! --  were suddenly being met with blank stares. With no one there to correct me I had to learn very quickly to correct myself. 

Needless to say my first, quiet, shy, jetlagged interaction in Tokyo station was not such a success – but it motivated me to improve. It was also a brilliant aid for my listening skills, especially the time I spent with my homestay family. Spending time with them and their friends gave me much more insight into “real Japanese”, (and the real speed of Japanese!) and they had great fun teaching me about their local customs and dialect. With their local knowledge I was able to get away from the guidebook and experience some truly interesting places, as well as experiencing a Japanese home life that otherwise I wouldn't have been able to.


The Hagio Prize also allowed me to study at a language school in Fukuoka where I also took culture lessons, which was really really fun! I made a sake jug, my own hanko, practised calligraphy and learnt to make sushi, not to mention visited numerous temples and even a maid café!

Because of the Hagio Prize I was able to go places and meet wonderful people that I otherwise could not have been or met. Since then I have adjusted easily to my new life in Japan, taken the JLPT2 (Japanese Language Proficiency Test - level 2), and hope to continue living in Japan for a long time.