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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Cultural History of Japan...

Cultural History of Japan...

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Dear Colleagues, Since our national Commercial Media "News" thrives on the "Crisis of the Week"... we have already forgotten about the Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Radioactivity Catastrophe, and we have moved on to and past the War in Libya, and on to and past the U.S. Government's Political and Economic 'Shutdown'... So for those of you who wish to continue the study of the Cultural History of Japan (and/or provide this resource to your students for PBL activities) here is a wonderful link from the Brooklyn Museum Archives of Art: "Hiroshige's 100 Views of Edo" (renamed "Tokyo" in 1868) depicting the life and times of the world's largest city (1 million+ people...)toward the end of the Shogunate Era, just before Admiral Perry's arrival began the "Opening of Japan" to the Western World of commerce and industry... http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/research/edo/view/ This is the introductory text included with the first picture: "Edo was the city where the artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) was born, lived, and died, and it is the place depicted in the majority of his landscape prints. Edo (renamed Tokyo in 1868) was the largest city in the world by the eighteenth century, with a population of more than one million people. Established first as a castle town in 1590, Edo became the de facto political capital of Japan in 1603. For the next two and a half centuries the country would be ruled by a lineage of feudal overlords (shoguns) and regional military lords (daimyo). Required to live in Edo on alternate years, the daimyo, with their families, household servants, and samurai, or military retainers, accounted for about half of the city's population. The remaining citizenry were mostly the many merchants and artisans (known as chōnin, or townspeople) who provided for the material needs of the city, as well as a substantial contingent of Buddhist and Shinto priests. In this prospering commercial center, economic power resided with the wealthy townspeople. Artistic patronage and production no longer belonged only to the ruling elite but reflected diverse tastes and values. A new urban culture developed, valuing the cultivation of leisure that was celebrated in annual festivals, famous local sites, the theater, and pleasure quarters. The rich urban experience and the landscape of the time were documented by ukiyo-e, or "pictures of the floating world," including woodblock prints like Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. Since they could be purchased inexpensively—one print cost the same as a bowl of noodles—refined images became accessible to a wide audience." Concise superlative text with concise superlative art, makes this online resource about the Cultural History of Japan a magnificent Interdisciplinary Discovery Learning Unit / PBL Activity... Sincerely, Allen Berg

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Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear Colleagues,

As many of you know, I use Art to teach most every subject...
So after first posting a "Tsunami Wave Physics" Powerpoint Presentation, for Eric Brunsell's excellent comprehensive blog "Teaching Resources for the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami", I switched gears from all of the STEM focus and now present this next resource that documents a major Historical and Cultural Era of Japan: The Edo Period when the City of Tokyo was then called Edo, and the Life and Art of Hokusai Katsushika (1760 - 1849) came to international prominence with his masterpiece collection of woodblock prints titled "36 Views of Mount Fuji".

All of this material is freely available at Wikipedia.org

And coincidentally, the first picture in this series is "The Great Wave of Kanagawa" his trademark graphic and most popular print published worldwide...

He created these "36 Views of Mount Fuji" during a span when he was 64-72 years old, reaching his artistic peak late in life and continuing masterful artwork well into his 80's...

Also be sure to click on the very bottom of the wikipedia page that has "Rafael Santos' short biographical sketch of Hokusai"

These woodblock carved prints have volumes of history, geography, culture, tradecraft, social customs, clothing styles, and aesthetic majesty...without the clutter of academic texts.

Pure and Simple, here is one Japanese Man's Life and Art that has attained legendary and iconic stature worldwide...

Enjoy your visual journey and discoveries of Historical Japanese Culture...with your students...

Arigato Gozaimasu

Allen Berg

ps: of course viewing and appreciating Kanji, Japanese Calligraphy, is another wonderful way to step-into the Japanese world of Language and Art...

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear Colleagues,

I read this book years ago and it still resonates in my soul...
Katherine Patterson is a superb writer (Newberry Medal Winner) with
a style to capture the reader immediately in the 12th Century feudal Samurai Japan, with a homeless peasant teenager ready to embark on a dangerous journey to find his true identity and establish his place in the Big City Turmoil of the Boisterous Tokyo... a memorable book...

1.Sign of the Chrysanthemum -HS English teacher wonderful book review at amazon.com
"A heart-warming, captivating read.", December 2, 2004
Reviewed by Jane Frances
This review is from: The Sign of the Chrysanthemum (Harper Trophy Book) (Paperback)

I really enjoyed this book and read it in about two hours (it is a short book). I am a Chinese lady teaching 12th grade English and I am sure all my students will enjoy this book, and also any grades from 9th onwards, because of its universal themes of search for identity, how it encapsulates the adventurous spirit of Feudal Japan, and its simple language which manages to be so evocative at the same time. For all those who didn't enjoy reading or teaching the book, may I suggest that you let your students watch some extremely popular Japanese Animation series (dozens of youtube videos) about Feudal Japan like "Rurouni Kenshin" and "Inuyasha" before reading this book. Katherine Paterson's book reads exactly like a great Anime series and I could picture the whole thing in my mind, background music and scenery included, and it was beautiful. So beautiful. Anyone with even a vague knowledge of feudal era Anime, or Japanese Culture and History of the Heian period will realise how accurately Paterson has portrayed the Japanese ideals of 'honour' and 'family'. She also deliberately tones down her writing style to match the simple sentence structures and restrained style of many East Asian writers, and this would be useful to know when comparing this book stylistically with her other works.

2.Sign of the Chrysanthemum - Excellent Chapter-by-Chapter Questions and Vocabulary:
from the UCLA Department of Education...

3. Sign of the Chrysanthemum: Google Book: Chapter One-- The actual excellent engaging text to read this author's brilliance of setting the adolescent universal theme of "searching for one's identity", here in the world of feudal Samurai 12th century Japan, but relevant to all of us here and now...
Katherine Paterson - Newberry Medal Recipient

Get ready for Adventure and adolescent soul-searching... :-)

Allen Berg

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear Colleagues,

The previous message by a HS English Teacher suggests that viewing Japanese Anime Videos (freely available on youtube etc.) is an excellent fun and engaging way to introduce and/or complement the teaching of the Newberry award winning novel, The Sign of the Chrysanthemum by Katherine Paterson. I agree and have seen several episodes of the very popular video series (produced by Sony) "Rurouni Kenshin" about a young swordsman from Samurai Era Japan.

It's sort of like Disney Channel but with a Japanese context and dubbed in English, very well done; here is Episode 1 Part 1 (the first 10 minute section) appropriate for K-12 students...


Allen Berg

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear Colleagues,

Here is a link to a brief summary text with excellent photographs of traditional Japanese musical instruments:


And here are some youtube video links to watch and hear the music:

Be prepared this first music video is not "cherry blossoms and flutes", but rather a 3 minute taiko drum class workout to show you what your new "school band" class can be... drumming is powerful and contagious:
taiko drum groups are now popular all across the United States...(especially in California :-)
Do you want to get your school energized, motivated, and athletic
(Teachers and Students) here you go: bang bang bang...


to be continued, with other styles of Japanese music...


Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Answer: Give the Biggest Drum to the Principal! :-)

Here is a "Beginners Taiko Drum Student Group" video at youtube:

(You don't start out as an expert, but you start out with fun!
Note that screaming students are encouraged, and socially musically acceptable... how's that for letting-off steam in the school gymnasium... and girls get to bang on the drums too: Taiko Drumming is Gender Equitable :-)


Allen Berg

ps: Question:
"How much does it cost to create a Taiko Drum Class at your School?"

Very Cheap! You can use the "Home Depot Discount Method": small red plastic buckets and large black plastic trash cans turned upside down for a Complete Class-Size Taiko Drum "Orchestra"...

See the following youtube video posted at our Edutopia Arts Group:

Drummer Allen

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