Japan

GEOGRAPHY—Maps & Images

Lesson IdeaJourney to Japan!
Have the students make passports that will be stamped as they enter Japan. On a large world map, students can plot their journey to Japan.

Maps & Images

[Asia for Educators]
Reading on major features of Japan’s geography.

Images [Outdoor Japan]
Webcams today are deployed throughout Asia, providing extraordinary glimpses of the physical majesty and cultural landscapes of this vast region. This page lists live webcam footage from throughout Japan.

Images

Lesson Plan

GEOGRAPHY—Visualizing Landscape Through Art

[The British Museum]
The exhibition 100 Views of Mount Fuji explored a wide range of manifestations of the mountain in Japanese art, as portrayed in 100 works by painters and print designers from the seventeenth century to the present, including Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Munakata Shikô (1903-75), and Hagiwara Hideo (born 1913).

Lesson Plan

GEOGRAPHY—Rice Cultivation

Lesson IdeaRice Cultivation
Have students research and discuss the stages of rice cultivation and compare wet-rice and dry-rice techniques. Discuss how climate determines which crops are grown around the world.

Lesson Plan

GEOGRAPHY—Food

Lesson IdeaChopsticks
Have students practice using chopsticks. Discuss what countries use chopsticks as eating utensils. [Answer: China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam — the countries that form the East Asian cultural sphere. They also share Confucian thought, Buddhism, and the use of Chinese characters at some point in their histories.] Note that in many other countries of South, Southeast, and West Asia the custom is to eat with one hand, often using breads to scoop food.

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

[University of Texas, Austin]
Explore Tokyo and its restaurants — hear Japanese spoken (with translations) and learn about geography, food, and culture in Japan. “The goal of this Web site is to give you the chance you explore the various kinds of foods eaten in Japan. By the time you have explored each restaurant and visited some related Web sites, we hope you will be an expert in the history, geography, nutrition, and ethnography of Japanese food.” Site created by graduate students in the Instructional Technology Program at the University of Texas at Austin. Includes a guide for teachers.

[About Japan, Japan Society]
For grades K-5. Students will understand the importance of an obento (lunch box) in the Japanese lifestyle, learn the basic rules of an obento, and be exposed to a part of the Japanese food culture.

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LANGUAGE—Overview

LANGUAGE—Writing

[Asia for Educators]
This unit provides an opportunity for students to practice writing both Japanese syllabaries — katakana and hiragana.

[Asia for Educators]
This unit provides the opportunity for students to read and write kanji, the Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system.

CULTURE—General

[MOFA: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan]
With interactive games, manga, and presentations on a variety of cultural topics.

CULTURE—Festivals & Families

Classroom Activity [Asia Society Kids]
Information on Children’s Day in Japan, with instructions on how to make a koinobori banner/kite (in the shape of a carp) to fly.

Lesson Plan [Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College]
For grades K-3. Students will listen to the story “A Carp for Kimiko” and discuss its theme/lesson. Students will also be introduced to the Japanese holiday, Children’s Day, formerly known as Boy’s Day, and design and create their own carp kite (koinobori).

Lesson Plan [Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College]
For grades K-2. “Daruma is a spherical doll with a red painted body and a white face without pupils. Daruma dolls represent Bodhidharma, a Zen monk who meditated for almost 9 years while sitting in the zazen meditation posture that his legs were of no use anymore.” In this lesson, students will: 1) learn about the historical Bodhidharma and how Buddhism came to China from India, and later to Japan; 2) learn about the Japanese New Year’s tradition of wish making and goal setting as it relates to the Daruma doll; 3) learn the legends of Daruma and his dedication to meditation, his achieving enlightenment, and the relationship Daruma has to green tea; 4) reproduce their own Daruma doll, set a goal, and work towards achieving their goal.

Lesson Plan [About Japan, Japan Society]
For grades 3-5. Students will read the story and watch the Japanese movie about the fantasy creature, Totoro. Students will discuss the structure of the family in Japan and discuss environmental awareness.

CULTURE—Food & Culture

[University of Texas, Austin]
Explore Tokyo and its restaurants — hear Japanese spoken (with translations) and learn more about geography, food, and culture in Japan. “The goal of this Web site is to give you the chance you explore the various kinds of foods eaten in Japan. By the time you have explored each restaurant and visited some related Web sites, we hope you will be an expert in the history, geography, nutrition, and ethnography of Japanese food." Site created by graduate students in the Instructional Technology Program at the University of Texas at Austin. Includes a guide for teachers.

Lesson Plan [About Japan, Japan Society]
For grades K-5. Students will understand the importance of an obento (lunch box) in the Japanese lifestyle, learn the basic rules of an obento, and be exposed to a part of the Japanese food culture.

CULTURE—Tea, Teahouses, Gardens

[The Art of Asia, Minneapolis Institute of Art]
For grades 5-8. Essay with visual gallery of a reconstructed 18th-century Japanese tea house.

[Portland Japanese Garden]
Grades 5-8. A short overview, with images. Also includes overviews and images of four other types of Japanese gardens (Flat, Strolling Pond, Natural, and Sand and Stone).

[Asia Society & Japan Society]
Grades 5-8. Online guide to a past exhibition, with virtual tour, tea utensils, tea room, and ceremony.

[Bowdoin College]
Grades 3-5. With images, glossary, links, and bibliographical references, as well as a section on the elements of Japanese gardens.

[Missouri Botanical Garden]
Grades 3-5. Essay with images on the major design principles of a Japanese garden.

CULTURE—National Costume

[Victoria and Albert Museum]
Grades 5-8. Essays and images about the kimono’s history, as well as techniques for weaving, embroidery, and decoration.

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HISTORY—Archaeology

[The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
“The Jomon period, which encompasses a great expanse of time, constitutes Japan’s Neolithic period. Its name is derived from the ‘cord markings’ that characterize the ceramics made during this time.” A short introduction, with images of seven artifacts in the museum’s collection.

[The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
“Beginning about the fourth century B.C., Jomon culture was gradually replaced by the more advanced Yayoi culture, which takes its name from the site in Tokyo where pottery of this period was first discovered in 1884.” A short introduction, with images of three artifacts in the museum's collection.

HISTORY—Samurai, Swords, Sword-making

[The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
For grades 5-8. A discussion of shoguns and their role in the artistic and cultural history of Japan from the late 12th century until the end of the Edo period (1868).

[The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
For grades 5-8. A brief introduction to the bushi or samurai of Japan.

[The British Museum]
For grades 5-8. Online presentation of the 2005 exhibition Cutting Edge: Japanese Swords, which examined Japanese swords, their accessories, and depictions of their use from different periods.

[The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
For grades 5-8. Discusses two important techniques of traditional Japanese sword-making -- kitae (forging the blade) and yaki-ire (hardening the edge).

HISTORY—Mon, the Family Crest

Lesson Plan [Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College]
For grades 3-6. Lesson plan on creating individual “crests” that follow the tradition of Japanese family crests, or mon.

HISTORY—Heroes in History

Lesson Plan [About Japan, Japan Society]
For grades 5-8. Using images, including of old money, this lesson chooses two iconic and controversial figures from Japan and Korea, viewed very differently in each country, to examine fundamental issues such as the importance of national heroes and how point of view influences the way people understand the same event.

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SCIENCE—Earth Sciences

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

SCIENCE—Life Sciences

Lesson Plan [Marine Discovery, The University of Arizona]
For grades 5-6. By making use of common household foods, this activity presents the concepts of food chains and food webs. It teaches students about the differences between a producer and a consumer, and emphasizes that humans are just one piece of this very complicated web of life. It illustrates that the ocean is part of our food web, and that marine algae are an important ingredient in many of our foods.

SCIENCE—The Environment & Culture

Lesson Plan [About Japan, Japan Society]
For grades 3-6. The rural, 1950s way of life depicted in the anime film My Neighbor Totoro offers lessons in green living that are applicable across cultures and across time periods. In this lesson, students will 1) describe traditional Japanese attitudes toward nature; 2) identify at least 5 energy-saving practices in Totoro; and 3) design an advertising poster to promote those energy-saving practices in today’s world.

MATH

[Tomoe Soroban Co.]
This commercial website of a company that makes soroban offers a good introductory guide with a video and a “virtual soroban” that students can manipulate.

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LITERATURE—Origin Myths

LITERATURE—Poetry

Lesson Plan [EDSITEment, National Endowment for the Humanities]
For grades 3-5. Haiku show us the world in a water drop, providing a tiny lens through which to glimpse the miracle and mystery of life. Combining close observation with a moment of reflection, this simple yet highly sophisticated form of poetry can help sharpen students’ response to language and enhance their powers of self-expression. In this lesson, students learn the rules and conventions of haiku, study examples by Japanese masters, and create haiku of their own.

ART—Nature in Art

[The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
A discussion of seasonal imagery in Japanese art, with an emphasis on the importance of Shinto, Zen Buddhism, and poetry.

[Pacific Asia Museum]
Paintings and prints from the Edo period to the late 20th century. The inclusion of characters such as Godjira (Godzilla), Doraemon, and the Forest Spirit from Princess Mononoke makes this an especially fun unit for students. Text essays with images on the following topics: 1) Tradition; 2) Reality; 3) Imagination. With an Edo-period timeline, glossary of related terms, lesson plans for teachers, and a “Random Monster Generator” activity for students.

ART—Prints & Printmaking

[The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
A brief introduction to the development of the ukiyo-e style in woodblock printing, with a focus on the technical aspects of polychrome printing.

Lesson Plan [Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College]
For grades K-2. “Gyotaku (guh-yo-tah-koo) is the Japanese art of fish painting. It was developed more than a century ago as a fisherman’s method of recording the size and species of his catch.” In this lesson, students will: 1) learn to look long and carefully as they create exact replicas of fish; 2) familiarize themselves with the printing process of Gyotaku; 3) learn about the history and culture of the Japanese fisherman at the end of the Edo period; 4) learn how to use printing materials properly; 5) practice writing haiku and understand syllables and pattern in poetry; 6) select one final print on which to write their haiku and display.

Lesson Plan [ArtsEdge, The Kennedy Center]
For grades 5-8. By acquiring knowledge of historical and cultural qualities unique to this particular art form, students can gain an understanding of how Gyotaku reflects a part of Japanese history. Students will select a fish, prepare it, ink it, apply the paper or fabric, and complete the fish print for display. During this process they will also examine the fish and learn the correct names and uses of the external anatomical parts of the fish.

ART—Emakimono (Picture Scrolls)

[Asia Society]
“During the 11th to 16th centuries, painted handscrolls, called emakimono, flourished as an art form in Japan, depicting battles, romance, religion, folktales, and even stories of the supernatural world.” With suggestions for making emakimono in the classroom.

ART—Origami (Paper-Folding)

[Asia Society]
A step-by-step illustrated guide to making an origami rabbit.

Lesson Plan [Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College]
For grades 3-5. This lesson covers origami, crane biology, cranes in Japanese art, “1,000 cranes” as a symbol of peace, and the bombing of Hiroshima and the true story of Sadako. Students will: 1) improve motor skills through careful folding, a discipline necessary in the practice of origami; 2) develop multicultural awareness by exploring Japanese history; 3) improve their ability to follow directions through the creation of origami cranes; 4) identify a major historical event, the bombing of Hiroshima.

ART—Shibori (Tie-dying)

Lesson Plan [Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College]
For grades 3-5. Hachimaki is a thin towel or strip of cloth tied around the crown of the head. According to Japanese legend, hachimaki strengthen the spirit and repel evil spirits. In this lesson, students will: 1) learn about a Japanese dyeing method, arashi shibori; and 2) learn about the hachimaki and make their own to wear.

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DRAMA & DANCE—Kabuki

[The British Museum]
This tour explores Kabuki from its historical beginnings to the impact it has had on contemporary culture. Japanese prints and photographs from the collections of the British Museum have been used to illustrate the themes of acting styles, music and dance, theatre and audiences, make-up and costume.

DRAMA & DANCE—Folk Dance

Lesson Plan [Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College]
In this lesson, students will: 1) explore the traditions and celebrations of another culture; 2) learn about a city/community in Japan; 3) be exposed to traditional Japanese music as they learn several dance steps and their significance.

Credits

Copyright © Columbia University Asia for Educators