Japan: Geography, Music and Culture Unit (PreK; Grade 2)

The theme of our music class these next two or three weeks is Japan.  Each week we sang the continent song together.  This week, we pulled out a new kind of map, a Montessori flag map.  We learned where Japan was located and placed the flags we knew on the map.  Then everybody piled outside to do a scavenger hunt for Japanese flags. (from Japanese Flag printables)

We then looked at the photos and listened to the beautiful music that our Japanese friend suggested to us.  This is from his hometown:
Furusato (his home town):

Last week we talked about the story of the Daruma Dolls. This is more or less what I shared with the kids (you can find something more accurate than this here!) According to the legend, Bodhidharma (the founder of Zen Buddhism) went into a deep meditation for nine years. In order to stay awake, he cut off his eyelids and threw them onto the ground whereupon they became tea plants.  He sat and sat and thought and thought.  After some years, his legs atrophied and fell off!  More time passed as he meditated. Then his arms fell off.  So the Daruma dolls you see have no  no eyelids, arms or legs. These days, artist hand paint  Daruma dolls and sell them at the temple.   When you make a goal, wish or New Year’s resolution, you color in the left eye.  When you have achieved your goal or the wish comes true, you color in the right eye.

Here are some photos of the Daruma Dolls:

I got a lot of my information on this Daruma activity from this website:
Lesson plans on Japan K-3 and here is the Template for the daruma doll that the kids made above.
Daruma Game (from here)

**You say the poem and two people sit across from one another. One person has to try to make the other serious, contemplative person laugh.
Daruma-san, Daruma-san
Nira Miko Shimasho
Waratara Dame Yo
Ichi Ni San Shi Go

(Mr. Daruma, Mr. Daruma
Let us stare at each other
You had better not laugh!)
After talking with our friend from Japan and seeing the interesting things he allowed us to borrow, the kids were excited to learn more about Japan.  LD begged to do more crafts AND a lapbook on Japan.  So guess what I did (quickly, quickly??)  I put together an impromptu unit on Japan! 

MtFujiFanWe Made Fans with a Japan Theme:  Mount Fuji is the most famous and revered mountain in Japan.  It is admired for its height, shape, and beauty, and has featured in Japanese poems and paintings since ancient times. (according to the British Museum)

We looked at these examples of Mt. Fuji in Japanese art and then the kids made their own fans:

–       http://www.japancalligraphy.eu/sumi-e/fuji.htm

print from the Brisith Museum

Here we are working on Koi kites.  I got a lot of great ideas from the crafty classroom.

Families with boys hang koi kites out on ‘boys day’ one for each boy.  The largest kite is hung on top representing the oldest boy. The koi (or carp) represents courage or perseverance. The koi has to struggle and makes its way upstream and each family hangs the kite in hopes that their sons will grow up brave and strong. (for more information and craft ideas go to activity village )

You can use streamers, but I couldn’t find ours and had lots of left-over ribbon from another project.

Our friend recommended a few you-tube videos for us to listen to.  Next week, we’ll listen to the Cherry Blossom piece and dance around with streamers/ribbons.
Songs: All of these songs are the ones we [my friend from Japan] traditionally sing at schools mainly for the lower grade levels:

Sakura (cherry blossom):
Aka-tombo (red dragonfly):
Shiki no uta (song of four seasons):

We haven’t yet done origami, but plan to use some of the ideas from here  http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/origami_dog.htm

Here’s a nice coloring page:
Children Around the World: Japan

And here are a few more websites that our friend suggested to us for our unit on Japan.
Kids web Japan: a very good Japanese resource:


Web Japan: The parent site for the Kids Web Japan.  Wider spectrum of information is available.


Origami Club: an amazing site for the origami lovers, teachers, and parents for K-12. Tons of downloadable diagrams and step-by-step 3D Interactive directions.


Our friend let us borrow his Kendama.  You can do simple tricks, catching it on one of the bowls or on the spike at the top.  There are some pretty amazing tricks people do if you look through you-tube for “extreme kendama”!

Simple kendama tricks can be seen here:

LD has been working away and has now been able to catch the ball on the biggest and medium bowls.

In the meantime, we’ll keep working on our lapbooks and will share them at some point in the next couple of weeks. We’ve used lots of lapbook activities from lapbook lessons. And there are more Japan unit ideas here.
Japanese numbers 1-10

4 Responses

  1. Daruma itself says:

    So innovative… Love that daruma song, too! Keep up the good work!

  2. Daruma itself says:

    So innovative… Love that daruma song, too! Keep up the good work!

  1. April 8, 2014

    […] You can study a specific country and learn all about their history, culture and music like when we studied Japan,  India, […]

  2. April 8, 2014

    […] You can study a specific country and learn all about their history, culture and music like when we studied Japan,  India, […]

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