| Index of Topics for All Time Periods |
• Japan's Modern History: An Outline of the Periods [Asia for Educators]
Divides Japanese history from 1600 to the present into four periods, providing teachers with a synopsis of major events placed in the context of overall historical developments. Also includes a timeline activity for students (to be completed with information from the reading).
• Timeline of Modern Japan (1868-1945) [About Japan: A Teacher's Resource]
• The Meiji Restoration and Modernization [Asia for Educators]
In 1868 the Tokugawa shôgun lost his power, and the emperor was restored to the supreme position. This event was known as the Meiji Restoration. This essay examines the period during and after the Meiji restoration, discussing the new civic ideology of the time, social and economic changes of the period, and Japan's colonialism and expansion of the late 19th and early 20th century.
• Imperial Japan: 1894-1945 [About Japan: A Teacher's Resource]
Essay providing "an overview of Japanese political history during this period" and "situating it within the larger context of East Asia and Japan's views towards East Asia."
Teaching Unit w/Lesson Plans • Imperial Democracy and Colonial Expansion, 1890-1945 [About Japan: A Teacher's Resource]
"In five activity and primary source-intensive lessons that address the major social and political shifts of the period from 1890 to 1945, the authors emphasize that these shifts were interdependent forces that operated on both international and national levels."
Teaching Unit w/Lesson Plans • Japan’s Rapid Rise and Fall, 1868-1945 [About Japan: A Teacher's Resource]
"Japan 'modernized' in the late 19th century, but 'modernization' meant empires and colonies as well as industrialization and representative government, leading ultimately to destruction on a scale never before experienced on the archipelago. In five lessons using a wide variety of sources, ranging from the visual arts to political documents, this unit examines the reasons behind these rapid changes and how these changes affected the fabric of life in Japan."
| back to top |
Primary Source w/DBQs • Kokutai no hongi (Fundamentals of Our National Polity), 1937 [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Lesson Plan • The Fifteen Year War, 1931-1945: Promoting the National Agenda Through Censorship and Propaganda [About Japan: A Teacher's Resource]
"This lesson encourages a richer understanding of both Japan’s national self-concept and international image leading up to and during the Pacific War through an exploration of the interplay between artistic expression, popular perception, and governmental control of contemporary visual and performing arts of Japan, as well as comparisons with international propaganda."
| back to top |
Teaching Unit w/Lesson Plans • Throwing Off Asia III: Woodblock Prints of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) [Visualizing Cultures, Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
Featuring photographs and rare war prints illustrating the "titanic war against Tsarist Russia that stunned the world and established Japan as a major imperialist power with a firm foothold on the Asian mainland." A teaching unit richly illustrated with high-resolution images and maps and featuring essays by John W. Dower, MIT professor of Japanese history. The Visual Narratives section offers a shorthand view of the unit's primary themes and images; the Curriculum section includes eight lesson plans related to the unit.
Teaching Unit w/Lesson Plans • Asia Rising: Japanese Postcards of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) [Visualizing Cultures, Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
"Imperial Japan’s 1904-05 war against Tsarist Russia changed the global balance of power. The first war to be widely illustrated in postcards, the Japanese view of the conflict is presented in images..." A teaching unit richly illustrated with high-resolution images and maps and featuring essays by John W. Dower, MIT professor of Japanese history. The Visual Narratives section offers a shorthand view of the unit's primary themes and images; the Curriculum section includes five lesson plans related to the unit.
Teaching Unit w/Lesson Plans • Yellow Promise/Yellow Peril: Foreign Postcards of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) [Visualizing Cultures, Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
"Imperial Japan’s 1904-05 war against Tsarist Russia changed the global balance of power. The first war to be depicted internationally in postcards is captured here in dramatic images..." A teaching unit richly illustrated with high-resolution images and maps and featuring essays by John W. Dower, MIT professor of Japanese history. The Visual Narratives section offers a shorthand view of the unit's primary themes and images; the Curriculum section includes five lesson plans related to the unit.
Lesson Plan • The Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905: A Turning Point in Japanese History, World History, and How War is Conveyed to the Public [About Japan: A Teacher's Resource]
"Students will examine the significance of the Russo-Japanese War as a critical event in Japanese, as well as world history through comparisons of the events’ portrayal in contemporary traditional and emerging media; from woodblock prints, to photographs and film."
• Portsmouth Peace Treaty, 1905-2005 [Japan-America Society of New Hampshire]
"The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 was fought between Russia, an international power with one of the largest armies in the world, and Japan, a tiny nation only recently emerged from two and a half centuries of isolation. These Web pages explore the causes of the war, the military conflict on land and sea, President Theodore Roosevelt's back channel diplomacy, and the peace negotiations hosted by the United States Navy and the State of New Hampshire."
Primary Source w/DBQs • The Treaty of Portsmouth (1905) [Asia for Educators]
• Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 Mission to Asia (The Photographs of Harry Fowler Woods) [University of Cincinnati]
"On July 8, 1905, one of the first and largest U.S. foreign diplomatic delegations to Asia embarked from San Francisco for a three-month goodwill tour, stopping in Japan, the Philippines, and China. Under the leadership of Secretary of War, William Howard Taft... The 1905 voyage carried two serious diplomatic purposes: to assist with peace negotiations in order to end the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05); and to demonstrate American accomplishments in the Philippines." Includes a 25-page curriculum guide providing extensive historical background information, plus primary-source documents and map activities.
| back to top |
Okuma Shigenobu, 1838-1922
Primary Source w/DBQs • "Illusions of the White Race" (1921) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
| back to top |
• Japan's Quest for Power and World War II in Asia [Asia for Educators]
Two background readings, one examining the reasons behind Japan's military expansion into Asia and another discussing the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With discussion questions.
Documentary Film • Wings of Defeat [Edgewood Pictures]
"In Japan, WWII Kamikaze are still revered as self-sacrificing heroes. Internationally, they remain a potent symbol of fanaticism. In astonishingly candid interviews, four former Kamikaze reveal that they were neither suicidal nor fanatical. In fact, they were young men sentenced to death by a military that could not admit defeat. In heartbreaking testimony corroborated with rare archival footage, they tell us about their dramatic survival and their survivors’ guilt. This riveting, seamlessly edited film is an emotionally charged and timely exposé probing the responsibilities that a government at war has to its people and its soldiers." View a clip of the film here.
• The Road to Pearl Harbor [NEH Edsitement]
Although most Americans were shocked by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the outbreak of war between the two countries came as no surprise to most observers of international affairs. Indeed, the war could be seen as the culmination of tensions between the two countries that can be traced back to 1915, when Japan issued its so-called "Twenty-One Demands" on China. These demands, presented as an ultimatum to the Chinese government, would have amounted to giving Japan a privileged status in certain parts of the country. This was in direct conflict with the stated policy of the United States toward China—the famous "Open Door," in which all countries were to respect Chinese sovereignty and enjoy equal access to Chinese trade.
• Japan, the U.S. and the Asian-Pacific War [Education About Asia]
PDF Download. An outstanding military historian of the Pacific War traces Japan’s course of action that led to World War II in Asia and provides a revealing glimpse of the Second Sino-Japanese War.
• Teaching Pearl Harbor: A New Japanese Perspective [Education About Asia]
PDF Download. In this teaching resource, the author both discusses different ways he teaches about Pearl Harbor and describes Japanese scholarship on the background to the attack that should be quite helpful for instructors.
• From the Nisshin to the Musashi: The Military Career of Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku [Education About Asia]
PDF Download. This is an excellent biographical profile of the man who planned and implemented the attack on Pearl Harbor.
• Japan, the West, and the Road to World War, 1940-41 [Reacting to the Past]
It is September 1940. It has been just over three years since the beginning of the “China Incident,” in which Japan has sought by force to bring about an anti-Western, anti-Soviet partnership with China. Yet after a series of stunning victories, the war has settled into a frustrating stalemate. Worse, while officially neutral, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union have been assisting the Chinese, and are threatening economic sanctions against Tokyo. With few natural resources of its own, Japan’s industrial economy depends on imported raw materials—particularly oil. However, Germany’s recent conquests in Europe may have just presented Japan with a golden opportunity, as French, Dutch, and British possessions in Asia lay largely undefended. Taking on the roles of leading figures in Tokyo—army or navy officers, bureaucrats, and members of the Imperial Court—participants are thrust into the middle of Japan’s strategic dilemma. Drawing on important works from Japan’s past, they must advise the emperor on how to proceed. Will they call for a “strike south” to seize the natural resources of Southeast Asia—even at the risk of war with Britain and America? Or will they seek an understanding with England and America—even if it means giving up the ideal of a pan-Asian partnership? Similarly momentous decisions must also be made on domestic policy. How will Japan’s increasingly scarce resources be allocated? Will the economy be subject to further state control?
Nagai Ryutaro, 1881-1944
Primary Source w/DBQs • "Some Questions for President Roosevelt" (1939) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source w/DBQs • Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Saito on the Conflict in the Far East [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
| back to top |
• Japanese Internment [Stanford History Education Group]
In 1942, over 100,000 individuals of Japanese origin or descent were displaced from their homes and forced into internment camps. Their detention was federally mandated. However, a federal investigation in the early 1980s concluded that Japanese Americans posed no military threat. In this lesson, students investigate a series of primary documents to address the question: Why were Japanese Americans interned during World War II?
• Japanese-American Internment: How Young People Saw It [Smithsonian]
Through primary and secondary sources, students learn of the experiences of children and teens in World War II internment camps. This set of four lessons is divided into grades K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12. Younger students read (or listen to) Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki. Older students read the letters of teenage internees.
Lesson Plan • Japanese American Internment: Fear Itself [Library of Congress]
What was the World War II experience like for the thousands of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast? The activities in this lesson are designed to provide a window into the war years. Using primary sources, students will explore a period in United States history when 120,000 Japanese Americans were evacuated from the West Coast and held in internment camps.
• Japanese American Incarceration in WW II [Brown University, CHOICES Program]
Unit with student readings and teacher’s guide. PDF available to order.
• Manzanar National Historical Site [United States National Park Service]
"Manzanar National Historic Site was established to preserve the stories of the internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II and to serve as a reminder to this and future generations of the fragility of American civil liberties." With an extensive HISTORY & CULTURE section for background information and an excellent "For Teachers" section with lesson plans for the primary (4th grade) and secondary (10th-11th grade) levels.
• Ansel Adams's Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar [The Library of Congress]
"In 1943, Ansel Adams (1902-1984), America's most well-known photographer, documented the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California and the Japanese-Americans interned there during World War II." See COLLECTION HIGHLIGHTS (in second paragraph of text) for a selection of images. See BACKGROUND AND SCOPE for a more in-depth overview, plus a link to images of the entire first edition of Born Free and Equal, Adams's publication based on his work at Manzanar. Or select the NEW SEARCH link at the bottom of this page to search the entire collection of 244 photographs.
• Japanese American Internment [Densho]
Densho’s mission is to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. We offer these irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historical images and teacher resources, to explore principles of democracy, and promote equal justice for all.
| back to top |
Primary Source w/DBQs • The Atomic Bomb [Asia for Educators]
Background reading discussing some of the events that preceded the U.S. dropping of the atomic bomb and presenting some of the questions left about the necessity and results of the bombing. With three primary source documents with document-based questions [Report of the Interim Committee on the Military Use of the Atomic Bomb (May 1945) [PDF]; Report of the Franck Committee on the Social and Political Implications of a Demonstration of the Atomic Bomb (For a Non-Combat Demonstration) (June 1945) [PDF]; The Potsdam Declaration (July 26, 1945) [PDF]], plus activities for students.
Primary Source w/DBQs • "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb," by Henry Lewis Stimson (February 1947) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source • The Atomic Bomb and the Nuclear Age [Digital Public Library of America/DPLA]
Primary sources to explore the Atomic Bomb and the Nuclear Age it started, with teachers guide.
Primary Source • The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb [Truman Library]
Primary sources and lesson plans from the Truman Library.
• Hiroshima: Perspectives on the Atomic Bombing [SPICE/Stanford]
This curriculum unit sold by SPICE, Is designed as a supplement to textbook coverage of the war in the Pacific and of specifically the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.Since the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many people have debated whether it was "right" or "wrong," "justified" or "unjustified," "necessary" or "unnecessary." However, few people would deny the significance of the events. This module seeks to have students analyze both U.S. and Japanese perspectives of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Students are asked to draw evidence from activities that introduce these multiple perspectives in order to analyze the decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan within its historical context.
• The Atomic Bomb [Stanford History Education Group]
For decades historians have debated the morality and necessity of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In this lesson plan, students read four different accounts of the bombings and must decide for themselves how we should remember the dropping of the atomic bombs. Teacher materials, student materials, and images.
• Opposing Viewpoints on the Atomic [Education about Asia]
These two articles provide opposing viewpoints for one of the most consequential decisions in world history. Thank God for the Atom Bomb? and Learning from Truman’s Decision: The Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Surrender - both available as free PDF downloads on the site.
• Ground Zero 1945: Pictures by Atomic Bomb Survivors [Visualizing Cultures, Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
"These drawings and paintings by Japanese survivors of the atomic bomb were created more than a quarter century after the bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945." The ESSAY section examines Ground Zero 1945 using the images by survivors of the atomic bomb blast; the VISUAL NARRATIVES section features the story of one survivor who tells her story through images. With an essay by John W. Dower, MIT professor of Japanese history. See also A Schoolboy’s Story, related to this unit.
• Ground Zero 1945: A School Boy’s Story [Visualizing Cultures, Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
• Story of Hiroshima: Life of an Atomic Bomb Survivor [Stanford History Education Group]
There are many stories about Hibakusha (Japanese atomic bomb survivors), but this story epitomizes their experiences on August 6th, 1945 and long after this day. Available as free PDF download on the site.
• Interview with John Dower [PDF] [Education About Asia, Association for Asian Studies]
John Dower, professor of Japanese history at MIT and a specialist in modern Japanese history and US-Japan relations, discusses the Visualizing Cultures project, which he co-founded, as well as the impact of the atomic bombings upon Japan, the United States, and the world.
Video Unit • A-Bomb Survivor Panel Discussion & Live Webcast [Japan Society]
"Survivors of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima discuss their experiences with Dr. James Orr of Bucknell University. Ms Setsuko Thurlow and Ms. Shigeko Sasamori, both age 13 at the time, experienced the bombing first-hand. Mr. Takahisa Yamamoto was only 16 months old when his mother brought him to Hiroshima to look for his father, two days after the bomb was dropped."
Video Unit • From Hiroshima to New York: Survivors of the 1945 A-Bombing of Hiroshima Discuss Their Experiences, Paper Cranes & 9/11 [Japan Society]
"On June 13, 2009, Masahiro Sasaki and Tsugio Ito discussed their memories of the bombing of Hiroshima and its meaning and impact on their lives with a group of teachers visiting from New York. Mr. Sasaki, who was four years old when the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, did not suffer any injuries. However, his sister, Sadako, developed leukemia and passed away 10 years later at the age of 12. Sadako, who became one of the inspirations for the anti-nuclear movement in Japan, has had versions of her story chronicled in many books, including the popular children's picture book Sadako and 1000 Cranes. Mr. Sasaki tells the story of his sister and its meaning, and shares one of the cranes his sister made, in this lecture. Mr. Ito, who was ten years old at the time of the bombing, lost his older brother shortly after the bomb fell. Tragically, on September 11, 2001, Mr. Ito lost his oldest son in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Speaking publicly about these events for only the second time in his life, Mr. Ito shares these stories and their meaning to him."
• Hiroshima: History, City, Event [About Japan, Japan Society]
Provides a broader history of the city and its importance in national developments are introduced. Suggestions for investigating multiple perspectives of the event are included.
• Hibakusha Testimony as Oral History: Thoughts for Teachers [About Japan, Japan Society]
Unit provides insight as to how a-bomb survivors, or hibakusha, testimonies should be approached in the classroom.
• New Virtual Reality Experience: Drops You In Hiroshima Right After It’s Been Bombed [Smithsonian Magazine]
| back to top |
• The Allied Occupation of Japan [About Japan, Japan Society]
The Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952) remains a highly contentious period in Japanese history. Commentary varies from those who think that the relative success of the Occupation can serve as a model for future United States interventions, through more critical historians who lament an alleged “reverse course” in American reform efforts midway through the period, to more conservative thinkers who worry that the Occupation undermined the national sovereignty and moral underpinnings of the nation. Historians are also divided on the extent to which the fundamental aspects of Japanese society changed, and the degree to which change would have occurred naturally without a period of foreign occupation.
Lesson Plan • The Occupation of Japan and Democratic Reform [About Japan: A Teacher's Resource]
Learning goals for students: 1) Understand the relationship between the Japanese people and the Occupation, and the nature of the Occupation’s democratic reforms; 2) Understand the origins, content, and implications of the 1947 “MacArthur” Constitution; 3) Understand why the decision was made to retain Emperor Hirohito on the throne and what the larger, long-term implications of this decision might have been.
• The Allied Occupation of Japan: 1945-52 [Asian Studies Center, University of Pittsburgh]
The Allied Occupation of Japan began when Japanese representatives, aboard the American battleship Missouri, surrendered to the United States and its allies on September 2, 1945. Foreign Minister Shigemitsu Mamoruand Army Chief of Staff General Umezu Yoshijirō signed the surrender instrument by which Japan agreed to the Potsdam Agreement and surrendered its rights of sovereignty to the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers (SCAP), American General Douglas MacArthur, rights Japan did not regain until 1952.
• The American Occupation of Japan, 1945-1952 [Asia for Educators]
A teaching unit with an essay outlining Japan's political and economic transformation under the American Occupation, with discussion questions, a supplementary reading list for student reports, and additional student activities.
Primary Source w/DBQs • The Constitution of Japan (1947) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
• Occupation and Reconstruction of Japan, 1945–52 [U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian]
After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the United States led the Allies in the occupation and rehabilitation of the Japanese state. Between 1945 and 1952, the U.S. occupying forces, led by General Douglas A. MacArthur, enacted widespread military, political, economic, and social reforms.
Video • Reinventing Japan [Annenberg/CPP – Pacific Century Series]
| back to top |
• Selling Shiseido: Cosmetics Advertising and Design in Early 20th-century Japan [Visualizing Cultures, Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
"The 20th-century history of the Shiseido cosmetics company provides a vivid image of the efflorescence of modernity in Japan — reflecting the changing ideals of feminine beauty, the emergence of a vibrant consumer culture, cutting-edge trends in advertising and packaging, and the persistence of cosmopolitan ideals even in the midst of the rise of militarism in the 1930s. This unit draws on Shiseido’s vast archives, focusing on the marketing of concepts of modern beauty from the 1920s through 1943, when wartime exigencies eventually curtailed the promotion of an international aesthetic of worldly chic."
| back to top |
Lesson Plan • Akutagawa Ryunosuke and the Taisho Modernists [About Japan: A Teacher's Resource]
"The modernist literary movement is commonly characterized by experimental styles and themes. Literature produced in Japan during the Taisho Period shares many characteristics with this global movement, as students will discover by analyzing literature from this period such as Akutagawa Ryûnosuke’s short story "In a Grove," (1922) as well as Kurosawa's film Rashômon (1950), a later film based on Akutagawa’s works."
| back to top |
• A Brief History of Benshi (Silent Film Narrators) [About Japan: A Teacher's Resource]
"The Russo-Japanese War caused a huge upsurge in cinema attendance, as Japanese citizens rushed to see pictures of their 'heroic' soldiers battling the Russians. During the war years, 80% of the motion pictures shown in Japan were Russo-Japanese War films. Some of these films were actual news reels of the fighting. Most, however, were staged re-creations ... In front of packed houses, Benshi roused audiences into a nationalistic fervor by providing extremely patriotic and jingoistic commentaries."
| back to top |