Castle Towns: An Introduction to Tokugawa Japan

"This unit is a image-based introduction to life in Japan during the late feudal period (1600-1868), known as either the Tokugawa or Edo Period. The images focus on architecture and defense features of the castle, the rise of castle towns as nascent urban centers, and those who lived in the castle towns. Students interpret the images in a closed-inquiry fashion to derive some basic features of geography, including the relationship between topography and human activity. The purpose of this unit is to introduce students to the historical tradition of a non-Western nation seen within the comparative concept of feudalism. This will be done partly through a look at Tokugawa Japan itself, and partly through a comparative examination of the concept of feudalism. Although the unit deals mainly with a specific time span in Japanese history, it will nevertheless prepare students to make broad generalizations regarding the history and development of other world areas." (text taken from SPICE)
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Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE)
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Average: 3.7 (3 votes)


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STEAM Connections in Japan

Field of Interest/Specialty: Art & Social Studies
Posted On: 07/09/2016

In this brief SPICE unit on Tokugawa Japan, students are introduced to the concept of castle towns through two visually-rich lessons and a culminating map activity. Students are thoroughly engaged in this unit by exploring a variety of major concepts and transferrable ideas through a number of different modalities. From making inferences and identifying various cause and effect relationships in the evolution of castle towns based on an examination of physical geography to comparing the social structure of Japan in the Edo Period to other feudal systems across the globe, students are challenged to view, examine, dissect, discuss, debate, and create based on their investigations. Most interestingly, this SPICE curriculum examines the economic transformations of a unified nation and its impact on the political and social structures of Japan.
While Lesson One has number of map reading activities that educators can use as a way of reinforcing and reviewing map and measuring skills at any time throughout the school year, Lesson Two focuses on the impact of supply and demand on society while offering a number of opportunities for persuasive writing prompts. Over forty digitized slides accompany Lessons One and Two, and although the quality of the slides are not always the best (and the accompanying descriptions do not always match the direction of the image shown) there are footnotes that can help someone access better copies and additional information. Finally, a number of supplemental primary and secondary source readings allow for additional enrichment and differentiation both in and outside of the classroom.
While I wish I were still teaching Middle School Social Studies so that I could incorporate this into class and use the third activity as a “castle challenge” between cooperative learning groups, I will definitely be using it in my current Art history class as a way of examining both architectural design and the growing role of the arts in Japan during the Tokugawa Era. With a number of diverse visual resources to use--from images on scrolls and screens to woodblock prints--this SPICE unit offers a way to incorporate a variety of arts into telling the story of change over time.

Castle Towns: an introduction to Tokugawa Japan

Field of Interest/Specialty: Anthropology/Archaeology/Mythology
Posted On: 06/16/2010

Veronica Kennedy, Winchester Thurston School.
6th, 7th, 8th, grade World Mythology and Spanish
Lesson plan review: “Castle Towns: an introduction to Tokugawa Japan”
This is a lesson plan for three lessons and it focuses on how Castle Fortresses became the focus for the development of urbanism in Japan and the rise of a merchant class. The lesson plan outlines with clarity the sequence, reasons and consequences of the Tokugawa period and lays out the point by point comparison with feudal Europe.
The lesson is best suited for high school students who already have a background in and are hooked on Japanese history. There is much useful information for teachers of middle school who want to do a unit on Samurai culture and history. The unit could benefit greatly from some power point presentations of the castles and their interior and those nifty graphics they do now that make a place come to life. I would say that it should be a piece of the puzzle in teaching about the shogunate period in Japan, but it would be hard to have the lessons stand alone.
If one is very well versed in this period the notes are easy to follow and the slide show guides the lessons sequence quite well. I give it a qualified PASS.

Exploring Tokugawa society through castles

Field of Interest/Specialty: Japan
Posted On: 08/17/2009

This slim curriculum unit offers an introduction to Tokugawa Japan through the Japanese castle--a topic of sure interest to many American Jr. and Sr. high students, for whom the unit is intended. The unit could be well utilized in discussing the concept of feudalism, and would provide an interesting example of a non-western country for comparison and contrast. The unit is designed to be covered in three days, and looks at the geography of Japan, the Tokugawa class structure, and slide shows (on CD-Rom) of castles and castle towns. A reproducible chart comparing European and Japanese "feudal" systems will help students compare the two situations, while a castle town "maze" that students need to find their way through and three short selections from people representing the different social classes offer rich, interactive activities in which students can engage in discovery and discussion.