Author: corey517153279037

what can text mean. An autoethnography on Calligraphy 書道


Personally, my handwriting has always been terrible, I can’t do cursive and being left-handed I’ve always struggled to not smudge or heavy press while writing and making dark thick lines. While not having any real experience growing up with other cultures language until I was in my late teens. We then got Japanese exchange student and one of them while over here made me a cross-stitch of her favourite Pokémon Togepi and while back then I couldn’t read her name signed on it or the word トゲピ (Togepi) I knew what it meant.

At the time I already had other passions like programming and music which I also now have a heavy Japanese influence in with learn about Japanese RPG’s and owning guitars from Japan and knowing how to play Japanese band’s songs now. I remained detached from the language and really looking back wish I had a chance to study it at a school level to have understood a lot more back when things of Japanese culture like Anime, Manga, JPOP and Calligraphy (書道sho-do) were becoming more exposed in Australia.

Now that I’m learning Japanese at a university level, I want a deeper understanding of why Japanese calligraphy is important to those that use the language and how writing like it’s an art form can express more than just the words penned.


My methodology for this assessment was first to conduct information gathering on the strict techniques and stroke orders used in Japanese calligraphy, I also looked at techniques that help to memories Japanese words and kanji characters and learnt from a variety of sources so that my reflective response and my analyses of my own calligraphy would help me understand calligraphy and what it means to Japanese culture (Ellis, et al 2011).

So much of my research was about technique, how traditional and contemporary methods of undertaking calligraphy change calligraphy and the art presented would look. But this just wasn’t giving me a deeper connection to the words being penned. Following the YouTuber 宮崎書道教室渋谷教室 Japanese Calligraphy Class SHIBUYA, TOKYO and learning how to write愛 (LOVE) with Gyosho style (semi-cursive),

while this increased my technical skills in calligraphy I still didn’t feel as though what I produced was art and I felt like I wasn’t really connecting to Japanese culture because this important skill is passed down from generations, emphasizing a beauty and balance in writing and I just was seeing words while written in various ways I didn’t feel I was creating aesthetically beautiful and emotionally relevant work (Enkamp, 2010). I also attempted to film this experience for review but didn’t like anything I filmed so I trashed the recording out of discontent for it. Now you could say I had a lot of epiphanies (Ellis, et al 2011) at this stage and you may be right. Things like how growing up with a simplistic lettered language, how cursive is dead in English handwriting or how the digital age has separated us from writing but personally I felt I was just getting frustrated at a creative/mental block between me and my work.

So, this made me rethink my methodology of this autoethnography I started looking at more unconventional methods of learning about calligraphy from watching elementary school kids learn how to write in class in YouTube videos to tattoo artist drawing characters or phrases on people and it wasn’t till I fell back on a Japanese culture favourite anime did I find what I was actually looking for. Barakamon is an anime about Seishuu Handa an emerging calligrapher but more importantly a talented calligrapher that an expert label his award-winning piece as not expressive merely book technique on canvas. While the series helped me better appreciate how to express calligraphy as art real what helped me was the opening intro.

The intro music and opening animation of the brush skating along allowed me to probably have my biggest epiphany. Music and how I actually learnt guitar which was though tabs and chords I didn’t learn how to read music or the techniques but though just playing till I could. With that I took the characters and stroke orders and with them in mind but not trying to make a recreation based on techniques I penned a famous Japanese poem line “burning incense to the king” which is actually Chinese in origin but has relevance with the new emperor of japan being sworn in which I was also watching at the time. What I created I genuinely felt had expressed something else to me and when signing my name in Japanese on the side I felt like it was actual art, not just text.

What I attained in the end though this autoethnography was that music is a great artistic motivator and that learning calligraphy is easy but mastering it or being content with your work is the hard part. So, for all those profession calligrapher’s actual presenting essentially text as an artwork that you feel express something, I now revere them as more artistic then painters. If the saying a picture is worth 1000 words is true, then make a single letter or a small phrase mean 1000 is far more a challenge.


Jesse Enkamp. (2010). Kaisho, Gyosho and Sosho. Available: Last accessed 2/11/2019.

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,

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.

Hierarchy and Education

For this week’s blog, I thought to look to see what older mangas had been turned into live-action dramas. I came across Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) written by Tooru Fujisawa, which ran from 1997 – 2002 as a manga. Not having read either the manga or seen the anime adaption I did not know what it was about other then I had heard the term GTO before.


The live-action drama that I watched was from 2012. GTO tells a story about how an idealistic 22yr old teacher that has complete disregard for the foundations of Japans educational system earns the trust of his students, which all have at least one psychosocial issue either from bullying by other students to pressures from parents or others to succeed. The whole series Onizuka walks a tightrope solving each students issues as his methods are ridiculous and repeatedly dangerous.

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As an educator, Onizuka is hard to defined by educational ideologies at best he fits under liberalism values but will just as quickly switch to anarchism (O’Neill, W.F 1981;). While his character is very evocative and made me feel for the student’s as they grow and face the challenges in their lives, I was always under the impression that he doesn’t represent a normal teacher in Japan because his supporting cast of teachers are very much represents what I know from other research about educators in Japan which is a form of Ellis’s layered accounts (ELLIS, 2004;).

Vice-principal Hiroshi Uchiyamada is one of my favourite characters in the series he is an epitome of Japan’s workforce hierarchy who fears being fired and will sacrifice his quality of life for financial gain. Uchiyamada in my mind represents the average Japanese worker. While Onizuka represents liberalism in GTO Uchiyamada is the other side of the coin conservatism. Even though he works under the director whos views trend liberal before an issue with the students is resolved his opinion is treated as correct, which is mainly conforming students which will groom them to not question the existing social hierarchy (Sieg, 2016;).

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Uchiyamada at the start resents the student body of the school, he wants the school to be prestige with students that operate to his ideals. Any that don’t are utter trash in his words, when he says that in the series it had me comparing teachers I’ve had. While I doubt I was every teacher’s favourite student I’d have a very hard time thinking of them thinking of students as complete trash unworthy of attending school. I have friends who work in public schools and while I’ve heard stories of scenes similar to GTO I’ve never heard them talk of their students as trash. I see Uchiamada as viewing the present-day youth as worse than his generation and things have changed, not for the better. He holds educational fundamentalism to such high standard at the start of the series and he made me want to hate him, with his taking credit for Onizuka’s victories. Lucky his views are changed in the end and he risks everything to protect those very students that he called trash and casting off the views that represent what Japan’s educational system which in real life I think wouldn’t happen.

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: Last accessed 29/8/19

Akira a tale of how Japanese society rebuilt itself.


Akira is a Japanese manga that was created by Katsuhiro Otomo that was later developed into an animated film in 1988 it depicts a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk Tokyo that is rampant with violence, corruption and Japanese citizens lost looking in all directions for some semblance of future.

Understanding that my views have already been sculped “Researchers do not exist in isolation” (ELLIS, 2004; ) I knew going into viewing Akira that certain aspects of the plot in my mind would be drastically different to others. Recently studying the globalisation of Japan I already had the hidden undertones of the movie replicating post-WW2 japan’s struggle and then massive growth in my mind.


“Consequently, when we conduct and write research, we implicate others in our work.”(ELLIS, 2004; ) a small subtle culture cue that I’ve earnt in my Japanese studies is the difference between Honne 本音 (a person’s true feelings) and tatemae 建前 (the behaviour and opinions one displays in certain circles or public) this is displayed extensively in the film whether it’s how Kaori situate herself amongst here pears and acts with Tetsuo, Kei reactions to Kaneda’s advances or even how the Colonel treats or speaks to Tetsuo. The examples are abundant of how a character may act or say but that’s not what they really want to say or act.


This leads me to express my problems with this viewing of Akira while dubbing makes a movie more palatable for a western audience over subtitles. I have seen this movie already and in its original language which I much prefer. I felt that dubbing it ruins the expressive emotions that the original language has why else would we read Shakespeare in old English otherwise, but I am a studying Japanese. So while the translation may be correct and the editing on an animation may resync the animations to the dialogue. Conversations and the nuance of the script are lost or changed when dubbing or even subbing did you know that the word “you” is hardly used in Japanese. Conversations in Akira sound more like voice actors preforming lines in a studio without the lines recipient there and then the responses to those lines don’t have the same emotional tone or emphasis as they originally would. While Autoethnography is how to “systematically analyze personal experience” (ELLIS, 2004; ) what your trying to understand is another’s culture and when that product of their culture has been changed dramatically to make it easier for you to view is it still expressing the original culture?


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,

Personal response to The Host (2006)

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Ok so before I can review my experience of Bong Joon-ho’s The Host 2006, I must say I’m not a horror fan. I find horror movies to be unimaginative and end one of two ways generally with total tragedy or survivors’ guilt. Granted I’ve never watched a Korean horror film or tweeted about it while watching but studying Japanese makes me no stranger to subtitles.

During the film, I found it not hard to keep up with the plot even though my head was buried in my phone tweeting during non-action scenes. It’s a horror monster film, not Sophie’s Choice someone creates a monster, the monster goes on a rampage, survivors run from the monster till monster is defeated.

Bong Joon-ho’s depicts the US military as an abusive authority that for the most part just gets in the way of everyone and says some of the weirdest or blunt English lines in a non-English film, is that how they see us? Whether that is by design to present America in an unsavoury light and make the viewer’s opinion match his own or not only Bong Joon-ho could say. All I know is every time an America was onscreen; I was annoyed by their hubris or male-bravado. The monster in The Host is meant to be scary but is equally silly for the most part. I found it hard to accept as real when its 2006 CG was nowhere believable and isn’t even anywhere on par with Spielberg’s 1993 dinosaurs which all CG in live-action should have as their standard.

Furthermore, to my understanding, all males in Korea go through some form of military service which you would think had medical training but every time someone is injured or the appearance of death, those coming to the rescue just violently shake them to see if they’re alive.

One thing I found impressive about The Host was the ambience, if it was by the director’s choice or just the natural weather patterns in Korea at the time of filming the rain sounds greatly added to my enthralment in scenes or the streets of Korea, I felt like I was there. Culturally I don’t know much about Korean’s and Korean families but based on the film family is important, enough to risk everything for which I guess is the main point of Bong Joon-ho’s The Host.

By Corey Moore