Tora No Maki: Lessons for Teaching about Contemporary Japan: I, II and III

Lesson Plans and Handouts. Eclectic and very practical teaching plans written by teachers who went to Japan on 3 week trips.
Year of Publication
National Council for Social Studies
Citation Key
Curriculum Unit
Average: 4 (2 votes)


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A Valuable Resource for teaching about Japanese Culture

Field of Interest/Specialty: Japanese
Posted On: 12/23/2017

Shaler Area Middle School / High School
Japanese Teacher 8th-10th Grade
As a Japanese teacher, one of the biggest challenges is providing students with an honest and authentic look of Japanese culture that is often not represented in the popular culture that students are exposed to in their lives outside of the classroom. This challenge is made less daunting with the Tora no Maki series, which compiles cultural lessons about Japan for students of all grade levels, and it’s a fantastic resource for Japanese teachers. Lessons topics range from school life in Japan, to Japan’s stock exchange and everything in between. On top of that, each lesson has detailed procedures, objectives, and suggested assessments that make these lessons a breeze to implement in the classroom.
As far as this series goes, I can only think of two flaws -- its age and its organization. Published in the 90’s, some of these lesson feel outdated and reference events that students of today were not even alive for. Thankfully, there are many more lessons that are still relevant for today’s Japan. Second, these lessons are not meant to be a cohesive curriculum, nor are they organized by subject, so one lesson may focus on Japanese economics and the next on games played by Japanese children. Teachers will need to examine their own units, and search through the volumes to find lessons that match their needs.
That said, I absolutely recommend this series to anyone who is teaching about Japan or Japanese culture in their classroom. Any teacher will be able to find a few lessons that will work regardless of the grade or content that they teach.

Contemporary Japan

Field of Interest/Specialty: English/History
Posted On: 05/31/2010

Carla Garfield
Grade Level: 6
Subject: English
School: Sewickley Academy
Curriculum Unit: Tora no Maki II: Lessons for Teaching About Contemporary Japan
I have lots of respect for The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and for Eric Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education and the curriculum aids they produce, so I was inclined favorably toward this unit before I even read it. But having never taught about Japan at all, let alone contemporary Japan, and being a neophyte to the study of Japan, I’m not sure I make the best reviewer, but I am imagining that there are many other teachers in my position.
The unit was conceived in a partnership with the Keizai Koho Center Fellowships Program, which promotes understanding of Japan. The lesson plans created by this venture are created for elementary, middle and high school teachers and are so labeled, which is very helpful. Many of the lessons are easily adapted to a higher or lower audience. The lessons are crafted to fit into the NCSS Curriculum Standards strands, which is also helpful, because throughout the country, many school systems’ curricula are based on the NCSS standards and strands.
Each lesson is written in the following standard lesson plan format:
• NCSS Standards – Thematic Strands
• Introduction – Purpose/Rationale
• Recommended Grade Level/Course Placement
• Objectives
• Time Allotment
• Resources Needed
• Procedure
• Assessment
• Extension and Enrichment
and often Appendices
The earliest lesson involves creation of a classroom structure, culture, and environment based on the concept of “kaizen” or continuous daily improvement, which could be very effective, especially for the younger classrooms, as it would create a whole new “Japanese” environment – living it, rather than just learning about it. The plans include having students make a daruma figure for their teams, creating jobs, writing slogans, etc.
I appreciated the fact that economic activities were also included, such as a New York and Tokyo Stock Exchange comparison and company comparisons. Throughout the unit, students utilize Bloom’s taxonomies as they compare, analyze, synthesize, predict, and observe. There’s even a lesson for planting a garden and for cooking.
This curriculum unit was published in 1997, and because of that, I think that some of the information about the culture is probably outdated, but I’m just not sure. For example, on page 89, it says, “Most Japanese women quit work once they get married and volunteer or do part-time work after the kids are a little older.” I don’t know if that’s still true – I have heard that Japanese women are becoming less likely to marry at all and are marrying later. I’ve also heard that the structure of marriage is changing, though on page 89, a quote from a Japanese wife says, “My main concern is that many husbands stay at work all the time and have no connection to their wives and children.” An update of this unit would be very helpful ; otherwise, teachers will need to find more current materials to supplement the plan.
Overall, this is a thorough, well written unit with a broad scope and solid foundations. Teachers who choose to use it will not be able to use all of the material – the unit is packed with suggestions for activities and extensions – but will have much to choose from that seems valuable.