How I Preformed My Autoethnographic Approach

A few weeks ago I wrote about my autoethnographic experience viewing a live-action Japanese drama called GTO Great Teacher Onizuka. This blog is to look back on how effective my autoethnographic research was to try and make my thoughts about GTO more transparent and what coloured them that way, which Ellis described as a “layered account” (ELLIS, 2004;).

While watching GTO I found that after an episode or two I would be googling about Japanese schools and reading new articles on “black classrooms” which are about the serious issues of bullying in Japanese schools the main theme of GTO.


I mainly focused on GTO’s support cast as I saw them as more realistic expressions of a Japanese teacher and found several online discussions, journal articles and even a thesis on and in agreeance that debated the types of teaching styles represented in GTO. After viewing the thesis by Olli Riihimäki I found my views change and began comparing the divide between the teachers to the American major political parties of Democrats and Republicans not based on their views so much but more how they refused to cooperate for the future episodes. I kept seeing the vice principal Uchiyamada as that member of the political party which wouldn’t listen to facts and hated the other side purely because that’s what he thought he had to do and would do anything to discredit them.



furthermore while watching the series I tried to understand why Uchiyamada had those views and why people still respected his views and why he’s words still carried weight. It was jarring watching people higher in the faculty listen to him and not just telling him he was wrong until I learned about the post-WW2 Japanese educational reform and then learning about the education system he would have grown up with and been a part of before reaching he age (Miki Y. Ishikida 2005).


one aspect that I didn’t touch on but upon reflecting is how GTO could be considered a form of Soft power. the series shows children going through intense hardships but Onizuka solves all the children’s issues and even shows most characters that would be cast as villains in the story as those that see the error of their ways and repent. Joseph Nye states that Soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction (Nye 2004). If while viewing the series our perception of Japanese schools and teacher we come to the conclusion that the teachers do go above and beyond and Japanese schools are better which is a strong subtle message in my interpretation of the series then I feel that GTO expresses a form of japan’s Soft power at work (Hashimoto 2018).

Below is a youtube link to the first season:

NyeJoseph S. 2004. Soft power: the means to success in world politics. New York: Public Affairs.

Hashimoto, Kayoko 2018, Japanese language and soft power in Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore

O’Neill, W.F. 1981. Educational ideologies. Santa Monica: Goodyear Publishing Company.

Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art. 10,

Linda Sieg. (2016). Secrecy, hierarchy haunt Japan corporate culture despite Abe’s reforms. Available:

Miki Y. Ishikida 2005, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse,

Olli Riihimäki (2011). THE UNCONVENTIONAL TEACHER AND HIS PEERS . Finland: University of Jyväskylä . pg6-80.

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