Comparing choice of themes by Emirati and Japanese students writing for the Extremely Short Story Competition

Naomi Matsubara


This paper aims to highlight contrasts between the writing of young people in the UAE and Japan. For comparison, anthologies of 50-word short stories written in English, resulting from the Extremely Short Story Competition (ESSC) in each country are examined. These two ESSC anthologies were created under similar conditions in 2006. Analysis of the most frequently-appearing topics in each ESSC anthology provides insights into the daily life, general mindsets, behavior, preferences, values and culture of these two groups. These data help us to understand the everyday life and social context of young people in the UAE and Japan.  Thematic analysis shows that youth in both countries are often preoccupied with seeking identity, and regard friends to be important. Both groups of young people also appear to appreciate the beauty of nature and feel affection towards living creatures. An identifying characteristic of Emirati youth is that they talk about death more often than do the Japanese writers; in addition, the ESSC anthologies indicate UAE society is remarkably family-oriented, with life being firmly connected to Islam and God. In contrast, Japanese youth show they are keen to engage in various hobbies and also like to express their romantic feelings and thankfulness for their environment. The ESSC was originally designed to develop students' creative writing in English. This study explains that corpora generated by the ESSC may be used to illuminate the lives and societies of students living in disparate countries, with implications for planning and delivering locally appropriate education.