World Travelers: Japan

World Travelers: Japan
Grades K-5

My goal with this series is to bridge cultural gaps in children's literacy. The best part about it is that I learn a lot about the countries in the process, and even the parents get involved with asking questions. Sometimes I bring in a special guest or two that has lived or visited that specific country and they tell about their experiences and share items from there. The more this program develops, the better it gets!

Each child that attends gets a passport. I created a template to save ink, then filled in the space with the airplane and the quote with stamps. The inside pages are from this template, and each time a child comes to the program, they get a special stamp on the inside. If they "travel" to so many of the locations, they get a prize!

I checked out this CD from the library from the soloists of the Ensemble Nipponia. It includes traditional vocal and instrumental music featuring traditional Japanese instruments such as the shakuhachi, biwa, koto, and shamisen (a few of these we demonstrated during the presentation). You can find a copy and more info on this CD on Amazon.

Through the Ozarks Chapter of the Missouri Writer's Guild I met a new friend, Majetta. Majetta, her husband, and her daughter spent several years living in Japan and agreed to come in and present. What an amazing time we had! The presentation was only supposed to last 15-20 minutes, but people were so interested it turned into 45 minutes! I couldn't have asked for more. 
They brought authentic paraphernalia to share with kids and families, some of which included Kokeshi dolls, a Shamisen (stringed instrument), Taiko drums, a Japanese drivers license, and rice paper eggs that each attendee took home with them as a souvenir. I had also provided free chopsticks for everyone. It was an enjoyable and educational experience for both children and adults!

Each child received a page of questions and had to find the answers hidden around the room. I've asked what they remember from last time, and they relayed some facts back to me! I was impressed. Here are some random facts I used:
1. The Japanese name for Japan is "Nihon" or "Nippon" which means "sun origin".

2. Japan belongs to the continent of Asia. Japan is an island nation surrounded by the Sea of Japan to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West.

3. Japan is made up of 6,852 islands.

4. The highest point in Japan is Mount Fuji, which stands at 3,776 meters (12,388 feet).

5. As of July 2012, there are over 127 million people living in Japan, which is the tenth largest population in the world.

6. Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and also the largest city. Other major cities include Osaka, Nagoya, and Sapporo.

7. Japanese if the official language of Japan.

8. Japan sits along the "Pacific Ring of Fire," so it has many volcanoes and experiences many earthquakes. In 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 hit Japan and created a tsunami which resulted in much devastation.

9. Almost three quarters of Japan's land is either forest or mountains and is difficult to be made into farms, industrial, or residential areas.

10. Ancient warriors of Japan were known as Samurai. They were very skilled fighters and swordsmen. Their main weapon was the Katana, a sharp sword with a slight curve to it.

11. Due to gases produced by power plants, Japan sometimes suffers from acid rain.

12. Japan is an industrialized nation, producting some of the most technologically advanced motor vehicles, electronics, and machine tools.

13. Some of the most well-known companies in the world are Japanese, such as Toyota, Honda, Sony, Nintendo, Canon, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Sharp.

14. Japanese cuisine has become popular around the world. Some well-known dishes are sushi, sashimi, and tempura.

15. Sumo is recognized as the national sport of Japan, although the most popular spectator sport is baseball.

Each station has a description of the history and uniqueness of the specific craft they are making. I also provide examples as well.

Koinobori (Flying Carp) Kite
In Japanese culture, the carp symbolizes courage and strength because of its ability to swim up a waterfall. Originally, the banners were used by samurai warriors on the battlefield. Now, they are used for Children's Day and family order, being flown above houses from biggest "fish" to the smallest. 

Printable carp found at Activity Village 
(Flat) wooden skewers to create a handle or "pole"

Kids were flying kites around the Children's department all day!

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai
I chose to integrate the infamous Great Wave Off Kanagawa in this simple art project. I also offered questions for them to consider: What is the first thing you notice? This is the focal point. What shapes do you see? What colors? Is there movement in the piece? How does it make you feel? Have you been to the ocean? What was it like? What time of day and season do you think is it? Does this painting look realistic or imagined? Try smearing the chalk with your fingers, what kind of effect do you see?

Brown and blue construction paper
White, purple, and blue chalk

Just draw your waves, color the sky, then cut and paste your waves to the brown paper.

Mt. Fuji Diorama
I printed this out at Canon Creative Park, but when I went back to find it, it wasn't there. So hopefully it isn't gone forever...but there are still plenty of really cool, educational crafts on there!

Japan Inspired Sensory Bin
Rice, origami, chopsticks...anything I wanted to fit into the program somehow could go in here. I had a lot of kids play with this for a long time. I actually got some complaints when it was time to put it away!

Otedama Games
Another great find from Activity Village! If you want to make traditional bean bags for these games, head on over there to find out how, but I just used some bean bags we already had in the office. To find different games you can play, go here.

RECEPTION: Wow! This was probably the best program in this series so far. The excitement and interest between both parents and children was thriving and I received a lot of great feedback. The program is originally set for 1 hour, but I had people stay for 2! I felt that it was very successful and I'm really happy with how everything turned out.

Check out my list of books related to Japan HERE.

Follow My Japan Board on Pinterest.

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