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EDUCATION RESOURCE GUIDE

K-12 Japan-Related Lesson Plans & Materials
PRESENTED BY
FUNDED BY
The J-Center at the Center for Citizen Diplomacy was established with grant funds from the Japan Foundation
Center for Global Partnership to identify, network, and promote organizations that ofer opportunities related to
Japanese culture, language, and art in the American Midwest. The J-Center unites the eforts of leaders dedicated to
fostering the important U.S.-Japan relationship through purposeful cultural and educational interactions.

One of the core objectives of the J-Center project is to expand educational outreach about Japan to K-12 schools in
the American Midwest through promotion of and greater access to available curricula and teaching materials.

The J-Center partnered with seven trusted organizations dedicated to curriculum development, ofering lesson
plans and collateral materials aimed at introducing key components of Japanese culture and history to English-
speaking classrooms around the world. The J-Center brings together these sources of classroom content to ensure
the highest quality materials are available here, reducing the time teachers spend searching online for Japan-
centered lesson plans.

Educators are encouraged to read the lesson plan overviews available from the content providers listed below and
to click the purple link at the top of each lesson overview or to visit the website address listed on each provider page
to download the related materials.
K-12 LESSON PLANS
The Center for Citizen Diplomacy
The Asia Education Foundation (AEF) is a joint activity of Asialink
at the University of Melbourne and Education Services Australia.
Established in 1992, the Foundation advocates for and supports Asia
literacy in Australian schools. Asia literacy is knowledge, skills, and
understandings about the histories, geographies, societies, cultures,
literature, and languages of the diverse countries throughout Asia.
In order to achieve Asia literacy for every young student, The Asia Education Foundation underscores collaboration
with education systems and jurisdictions. Designed to equip young students for the 21st century by ensuring that
they all gain knowledge, skills, and understandings of the countries and cultures of Asia through their schooling, AEF
lesson plans can be tailored to ft the styles of educators around the world. | www.asiaeducation.edu.au
K-12 LESSON PLANS
J-CENTER K-12 RESOURCE GUIDE
Poetry Into Performance
A wealth of traditional and contemporary poetry hails from countries in Asia.
This unit requires students to read a wide variety of poems, to select a poem for
performance, and to write and perform their own poems. Student choice and
creativity is encouraged, with students given ample opportunity to move beyond the
class’ study of individual poems.
TaikOz: Japan-Australia Taiko Drumming
In this unit students will explore the music of TaikOz, an Australian group formed
in 1997. They will learn how taiko drumming pieces are created and analyze the
movements used in taiko drumming. Students will get the chance to make their own
piece of music, drawing on elements of the taiko drumming style, and look at the
techniques used by other taiko composers.
Visual Haiku
Students will discover, adapt, and present elements of traditional Japanese haiku
poetry in non-traditional ways. They will develop visual haiku – incorporating
imagery and text to interpret and represent a haiku poem. In developing this visual
haiku, students may use digital cameras (moving and/or still), electronic imaging
software and traditional art-making techniques to construct a series of images.
Sounds may also be used. Discussions about how art forms convey beliefs and
values form an important part of this unit.
centerforcitizendiplomacy.org
The Asian Art Museum Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture
is one of San Francisco’s premier arts institutions and home to a world-
renowned collection of more than 18,000 Asian Art treasures spanning 6,000
years of history. Through rich art experiences, centered on historic and
contemporary artworks, the Asian Art Museum unlocks the past for visitors,
bringing it to life, while serving as a catalyst for new art, new creativity, and
new thinking.
With Asia as its lens and art as its cornerstone, the museum sparks connections across cultures and through time,
igniting curiosity, conversation, and creativity. At the Asian Art Museum, artistic and educational programs empower
visitors to discover the relevance of great artworks in profoundly personal ways. Immersed in the museum’s
galleries, visitors ponder the universal values found in human expression. Through the bustle of daily programs,
students of the world steep in cultures through art, music, dance, and tradition. In the clamor of the museum’s
classrooms, children build bridges to old and new worlds. | www.asianart.org
K-12 LESSON PLANS
J-CENTER K-12 RESOURCE GUIDE
Samurai as Cultivators of the Arts
In addition to superior strategic and military ability, most elite samurai were
expected to be versed in the cultural arts. The terms bu and bun refer to the
combination of military (bu) skills and cultivation of peaceful arts (bun) that were
expected of most samurai. Excellence at archery and swordsmanship are examples
of bu, while composing poetry, watching Noh plays, or learning the “Way of Tea”
(Chado) are all examples of bun. In this lesson, students will learn the signifcance of
this balance of military and cultural arts and write their own waka poems.
Telling Tales with Kamishibai
In Japan, the tradition of storytelling with art dates back to the 9th century when
Buddhist monks would use storytelling scrolls to teach religious stories and lessons
to an illiterate public. During the early 20th century, picture storytelling, then known
as kamishibai became a way to escape from the hardships of war and economic
depression. As kamishibai became less popular, artists adapted their skills to the
popular manga and anime to tell stories. In this lesson, students will summarize and
illustrate the main events of a folktale from Japan in the format of kamishibai slides.
The Spiritual Life of the Samurai: Meditation and Brushpainting
Like most Japanese of their time, the samurai followed Buddhist religious teachings
as well as the practices of Japan’s native religion, Shinto. In this lesson, students
will discuss the ways in which spiritual belief supported and enhanced the military
function and cultural values of the samurai. They will experience this practice
through an ink painting activity.
The Center for Citizen Diplomacy
J-CENTER K-12 RESOURCE GUIDE
K-12 LESSON PLANS
EDSITEment (a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities)
ofers a treasure trove for teachers, students, and parents searching for
high-quality material on the Internet in the subject areas of literature and
language arts, foreign languages, art and culture, and history and social
studies.
All EDSITEment materials have been reviewed for content, design, and educational impact in the classroom. They
cover a wide range of humanities subjects, from American history to literature, world history and culture, language,
art, and archaeology, and have been judged to be of high intellectual quality. | www.edsitement.neh.gov
Say Hi to Haibun Fun
The Japanese art of haibun, developed in Japan in the late 17th century by Matsuo
Munefusa (Basho), focuses on objective reporting of the everyday moment and
focusing the insights of that moment into a theme developed in a concluding poem.
This cross-curricular lesson is designed to introduce students in language arts or
social studies classes to elements of the Japanese writing style and the Japanese
cultural concepts incorporated by the haibun.
Hamlet Meets Chushingura: Traditions of the Revenge Tragedy
Students will learn about the Elizabethan revenge ethic as refected in Hamlet and
about the Tokugawa revenge ethic as refected in the Japanese Bunraku/Kabuki play
Chushingura or the Treasury of the Loyal Retainers. This lesson sensitizes students
to the similarities and diferences between cultures by comparing Shakespearean
and Bunraku/Kabuki dramas.
Life in the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Prints and the Rise of the Merchant Class in
Edo Period Japan
The Edo Period in Japan was a time of great change. The merchant class was
growing in size, wealth, and power, and artists and craftsmen mobilized to answer
the demands and desires of this growing segment of society. Much of the art of this
period refects both the tastes and the circumstances of this increasingly powerful
class. This lesson will help teachers and students to investigate Edo Period Japan
through the window provided by these images of the landscape, life, and interests of
the rising townspeople.
centerforcitizendiplomacy.org
J-CENTER K-12 RESOURCE GUIDE
K-12 LESSON PLANS
Japan Society is an American nonproft organization supported by
individuals, foundations, and corporations that brings the people
of Japan and the United States closer together through mutual
understanding, appreciation, and cooperation. More than a hundred
years after the Society’s founding, its goal remains the same—the
cultivation of a constructive, resonant, and dynamic relationship
between the people of the U.S. and Japan.
The Society’s “About Japan” teacher’s resource center provides educators and specialists in Japan Studies a space
for sharing, discussing, and developing teaching ideas and resources about Japan, especially as they relate to K-12
classrooms. The center’s website features thought-provoking essays; classroom-ready lesson plans; an area for
asking and answering questions; and resources including historical documents, maps, and images. In addition to
user-generated content, the editorial team develops original materials organized around diferent themes. Users
are invited to contribute materials of their own and join the discussion. | www.japansociety.org
Nature and the Environment in Postwar Japan
Japanese culture is sufused with a profound aesthetic appreciation of nature;
traditional value systems place great emphasis on respect for the natural
environment; and Japanese people, even today, often express the belief that their
society is more sensitive and attuned to nature than Western societies are. On the
other hand, Japan has a long history of efciently exploiting the environment and
degrading the natural world to meet human needs and the demands of industry.
This lesson explores Modern Japan’s complex attitude towards the environment,
stemming from the inherent tension in reconciling a tradition of reverence and a
self-proclaimed afnity for nature with the degradation that can accompany rapid
economic growth.
Popular Culture and Japan’s Gross National Cool
The rise of Japanese popular culture has been one of the undeniable global
phenomena of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Japanese anime and manga
have become youth favorites internationally; Japanese video games and television
series claim devoted followings from Cambodia to Copenhagen; Godzilla and
Pokémon are international icons; sushi is readily available in the supermarket cases
of suburban America from coast to coast; Japanese fashion defnes chic in Asia as
well as Europe. This lesson explores modern Japan’s ability to create pop culture
trends and icons that are embraced worldwide, thus giving Japan signifcant soft
power.
Life in the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Prints and the Rise of the Merchant Class in
Edo Period Japan
The Edo Period in Japan was a time of great change. The merchant class was
growing in size, wealth, and power, and artists and craftsmen mobilized to answer
the demands and desires of this growing segment of society. Much of the art of this
period refects both the tastes and the circumstances of this increasingly powerful
class. This lesson will help teachers and students to investigate Edo Period Japan
through the window provided by these images of the landscape, life, and interests of
the rising townspeople.
The Center for Citizen Diplomacy
J-CENTER K-12 RESOURCE GUIDE
K-12 LESSON PLANS
Visualizing Cultures (VC) was launched at MIT in 2002 to explore
the potential of the web for developing innovative image-driven
scholarship and learning. The VC mission is to use new technology and
hitherto inaccessible visual materials to reconstruct the past as people
of the time visualized the world (or imagined it to be).
Topical units to date focus on Japan in the modern world and early-modern China. The thrust of these explorations
extends beyond Asia per se, however, to address “culture” in much broader ways—cultures of modernization, war
and peace, consumerism, images of “Self” and “Others,” and so on. | www.visualizingcultures.mit.edu
Black Ships & Samurai
On July 8, 1853, residents of feudal Japan beheld an astonishing sight—foreign
warships entering their harbor under a cloud of black smoke. Commodore
Matthew Perry had arrived to force the long-secluded country to open its doors. In
these lessons, students consider how cross-cultural encounters, or any event, are
variously experienced.
Asia Rising and Yellow Promise/Yellow Peril
Imperial Japan’s 1904–05 war against Tsarist Russia changed the global balance
of power. The frst war to be widely illustrated in postcards, the Japanese view
of the confict is presented in images from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection of
Japanese Postcards at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In this lesson, students are
introduced to the concept of visual literacy through postcards of the 1904 to 1905
Russo-Japanese War.
Selling Shiseido
The 20th-century history of the Shiseido cosmetics company provides a vivid
image of the eforescence of modernity in Japan—refecting 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. In these lessons, Shiseido’s vast
archives are used to explore marketing concepts of modern beauty from the 1920s
through 1943, when wartime exigencies eventually curtailed the promotion of an
international aesthetic of worldly chic.
centerforcitizendiplomacy.org
J-CENTER K-12 RESOURCE GUIDE
K-12 LESSON PLANS
The National Association of Japan-America Societies, Inc. (NAJAS) is
a private, non-proft, non-partisan organization that ofers educational,
cultural, and business programs about Japan and U.S.-Japan relations
to the general public through its member Japan and Japan-America
Societies. NAJAS is the only national non-proft network in the United
States dedicated to public education about Japan. NAJAS consists of
approximately 40 independent Japan-related organizations located in 32 cities around the country. Its membership
cuts across usual group boundaries (business, political, academic, American, Japanese, etc.) and afords a variety of
perspectives on U.S.-Japan relations.
The mission of the National Association of Japan-America Societies is to strengthen cooperation and understanding
between the peoples of Japan and the United States by providing programs, services, and information to and
facilitating cooperation among its member societies throughout North America. |www.us-japan.org
Super Clean Japan
Recycling plays a major role in global society. Waste is a big issue and countries are
struggling with ways to keep the situation under control. Japan is a model country in
terms of recycling. Their eforts have surpassed many countries. Japan has recently
passed a number of laws that have helped the country’s recycling issues. These
laws have produced tremendous results in Japan’s favor. Through enforcement
of these laws the country sends only 16% of its solid waste to landflls. The United
States sends close to 70% to landflls. In this lesson, students will learn about
both everyday practices and societal initiatives in Japan to recycle and harmonize
humanity and the environment.
Japanese Women Make An Impact In and Out of the Home
Japanese women have held many roles throughout Japan’s rich history. Women
were quite powerful in and out of the home in ancient Japan. Japanese goddesses
are credited with the creation of Japan’s islands and are believed to have familial
connections to the Japanese imperial family. Women’s power declined as
Confucianism became widely practiced in Japanese society. Confucianism describes
women’s roles as subordinate to those of men and it became difcult for women
to maintain positions of power under this belief system. This lesson exams how
modern Japanese women are working in and out of the home.
Baseball, Bushido, and Boundaries
Students will recognize and identify the presence of enduring traditional values
in modern institutions, including: the appreciation of group harmony (wa) over
individual acclaim; the combination of the sacred and the secular inhabiting the
same space; the bushido mentality applied to sport; and the continuing tension that
exists in society in defning what it means to be “Japanese,” specifcally issues of
hierarchy and group identity in a democratic society.
The Center for Citizen Diplomacy
J-CENTER K-12 RESOURCE GUIDE
K-12 LESSON PLANS
Primary Source promotes history and humanities education by
connecting educators to people and cultures throughout the world.
In partnership with teachers, scholars, and the broader community,
Primary Source provides learning opportunities and curriculum
resources for K-12 educators. By introducing global content, Primary
Source shapes the way teachers and students learn, so that their knowledge is deeper and their thinking is fexible
and open to inquiry.
Primary Source is guided by a commitment to change the way students learn so that their knowledge base is
broader, their thinking more fexible and given to inquiry, and their attitudes about peoples of the world more open
and inclusive. By equipping teachers with knowledge and resources, Primary Source prepares students for the
challenges and complexities of our diverse nation and world. |www.primarysource.org
Bentō: Appreciating the Aesthetics of Food
Bentō (or the more formal word obentō), in Japanese, is the generic word for a
portable meal, similar to a boxed or bagged lunch in American culture. Food is
carefully presented in ready-to-eat, individual portions in an attempt to provide a
nutritious meal away from home. In this lesson activity, students will examine the
characteristics of bentō and think about how bentō refect an appreciation of food,
aesthetics, and nutrition. Students will apply these understandings as they create
their own bentō through art.
Haiku: 17 Syllables of Signifcant Seasonal Sentiment
Haiku is a short, 3-line poem consisting of 5 syllables in the frst line, 7 in the second,
and 5 in the third. In the United States, haiku is often taught in elementary schools
as simply another form of poetry. However, in Japan, haiku is a popular way among
people of all diferent ages of capturing snapshots of daily life and events, often
in humorous ways. In this lesson activity, students are encouraged to explore the
signifcance of seasons in Japanese culture as illustrated through haiku poems.
Trains: More Than Just Getting People from Point A to Point B
Millions of Japanese take the train every day to school or work, making trains a
fundamental part of daily life. Since so many people rely on trains, careful attention
is paid to punctuality and efciency on Japanese railways, traits for which this
system is world renowned. In this lesson activity, students will not only learn about
why trains are so important in Japan, but also what trains and their operations can
tell us about Japanese culture and values.
centerforcitizendiplomacy.org
centerforcitizendiplomacy.org
Connect with us online
The J-Center works to identify, network, and promote
organizations that ofer opportunities related to Japanese
culture, language, and art in the American Midwest.
The J-Center unites the eforts of leaders dedicated to
fostering the important U.S.-Japan relationship through
purposeful cultural and educational interactions.
The Center for Citizen Diplomacy is a signature
initiative of PYXERA Global that promotes and expands
opportunities for all individuals to engage across
cultures and create shared understanding through
meaningful person-to-person interactions. The Center
believes citizen diplomacy is a powerful force in building
and sustaining a secure, economically sound, and
socially interconnected world.
PYXERA Global creates groundbreaking partnerships
between the public, private, and social sectors that
leverage the unique attributes of each to create shared
value and innovative solutions to complex challenges.
PYXERA Global creates opportunities for purposeful
global engagement.
The J-Center at the Center for Citizen Diplomacy
was established with grant funds from the Japan
Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP). The
Center is proud to work with the CGP toward achieving
shared goals of strengthening the global U.S.-Japan
partnership and cultivating the next generation of
leaders necessary to sustain and grow this relationship.
The Center for Citizen Diplomacy