I can feel that you are strongly inetersted in learning Japanese culture and society.
I think your essay is good in terms of showing your inetest and motivation to the study.
As a mere reader, I thought your essay would be more interesting and strong if I was able to know something more personal, maybe your background information about what made you ineterested in the culture and what kind of similarities and differences that you found through your experiences made you "awe" and seek to study the culture and the society from sociological point of view.
For example, rather than stating "I have always had a keen interest in the Japanese culture," I want to know the evidence through which I can confirm that you have been really a keen interest in the culture.
Also, "I realized how similar we could be in our values and traditions despite our differences."
>> While I agree that this statement holds some truth, I want to know from what experiences you derived this general idea/statement. How did you realize this idea? If you do not provide this kind of information, you become basically the same as people who learned it though the second hand infromtion like books and media. Since you have been participating in a lot of programs and activities, which shows that your interest and motivation must be greater than those people's, I think you should use these experiences more in your essay!
I hope my personal opinion will be a little help of your developing your own essay!