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Japan: A Unit Study
Here is another wonderful unit study by Karen Caroe, this time a country study. Japan is a fun way to cover both the culture and geography of this unique island nation.
reprinted with permission
© Karen Caroe
Let me offer a quick disclaimer---There is sooo much information on Japan that it would be possible to study if for an entire year. I have attempted to offer suggestions for an overall introduction to this country. If you find your children particularly interested in one or more aspects of Japan--build your own unit in that direction.
Books: KONOS Character Curriculum--Volume 1
by Carole Thaxton and Jessica Hulcey.
JAPANESE THINGS by Basil Hall
Chamberlain Pub.by Charles E.Tuttle Co.
1971 (reprint 1994)
Websites: There are multiple links in most of the following sites. It would be impossible for me to check out all of them. So, with the exception of the Kids Web site, I would recommend parental supervision.
1. Kids Web Japan--Excellent site--especially if you want to give your children experience in surfing and Internet research.
2. Japanese Information
3. Chronology of Japan's History
4. Japan Interface
5. The Art of Haiku Poetry
(Activities are listed by subject)
1) Physical Geography: Make a map of the Japan--this should consist of 3 islands. Put in the rivers, oceans, neighboring countries/continent. etc.
2) Political Geography: Try to find out how Japan is divided--into 43 political provinces. Look at the capital and the major cities. Why are they "major." How does the physical geography determine the political geography?
3) Geology--what types of rock and soil are there. Note the locations of volcanoes on your map. Are they still active?
Japan is a country grounded in tradition and superstition--all related to it's religion. There are numerous activities here.
1) Make a flag of Japan. Find out what it means.
2) Select one or more of the Festivals to study. For girls: Doll Day (The Girl's Festival). For Boys: Boy's Day. Or choose among many others. (Note: Many of the festivals are related to the practice of Buddism. Use discretion)
3) Study the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Learn it's discipline, history, and importance. Have one of your own.
4) Study Samarai Warriors. Notice the character traits of a Samarai. Can we as Christians learn anything from them that would strengthen our devotion to Jesus? How would the Samarai Warrior be different if he were a follower of Christ?
5) For older children who are grounded in the Christian Faith--Study Shintoism and Buddhism. What do Missionaries need to know about these religions in order to lead the Japanese to Jesus?
6) Read about Christian missionaries in Japan.
7) Have a missionary or a Japanese student come into your home to talk about Japan.
8) What can you find out about the everyday life of the average Japanese person?
9) Study Japanese Theatre. The No play and Kabuki. See if you can find one or more plays translated into English.
10) Study the educational system. Why are Japanese students excelling above American public school students?
The History of Japan is long and complex. I recommend that you limit your study of the history to a simple time-line. If you have a particular interest--choose one area to study in depth.
1) Make a time-line (Commodore Perry, shogun, open door policy, etc) Use chronology link to help you.
2) Discuss what was happening in US or other parts of the world during times of change in JAPAN. How did world events influence the changes in Japan? How did changes in Japan influence the world?
1) Write some Haiku poetry.
2) Read a Japanese play. Try to write your own.
3) Write a report on any of the above topics--especially those that require analysis.
4) Read a biography of a missionary or read something from Pearl S. Buck.
Learn to use an Abacus. This is very important because the abacus is still used today in spite of the development of the calculator. Common people prefer the abacus and can use it as quickly as a calculator.
1) Study rice and how it is grown. What are the different kinds of rice and how do they differ?
2) Make a volcano.
3) Study goldfish and how they are raised and cared for.
4) Study Bonsai gardening. See if you can visit someone who does this.
5) Study earthquakes that have hit Japan.
6) Note all the products that are manufactured in Japan. If you are really brave--take something apart and try to put it back together.
1) Try your hand at Origami.
2) Listen to Japanese music.
3) Study Sumo wrestling--why it is important. How the common people view it. (National Geo. did a story on Sumo wrestlers sometime in 1997--see if you can find the article. It was really good.)
4) Cook Japanese food and sit on floor to eat. Why do they do that? Or go to a Japanese restaurant. (These tend to be expensive so maybe best to do with the older children who will eat and appreciate.)
5) Try your hand at Ikebana--flower arranging.
6) Study some Japanese architecture--the insides and outsides of buildings.
7) Visit a Japanese Garden.
8) Try some watercoloring
9) Learn some Japanese characters (writing)
There are many, many other activities to help your study of Japan. These are just a few to get you started. Enjoy.