ASSIGNMENT #3: THEMATIC LESSON
Theme: The Samurai
Level: (pre-) Intermediate (17 years old)
At the very beginning of the class, as warm-up and an introduction to the theme, students are asked some questions about the samurai. After the teacher gives them time to think, they are to explain their opinions individually.
“Have you ever heard the word samurai?”
“What do you know about the samurai?”
“Do you know the history of the samurai?”
Students are to listen to a passage which is transcribed below and answer the questions orally. At first they just listen. Then the questions are written on the board by the teacher. And students are expected to listen to the passage again and answer the questions. (The listening material, the text and the questions can be found here: http://thinkonline.smarttutor.com/reading-comprehension-samurai-the-way-of-the-warrior/, listening between 00:13-02:04)
If necessary, unfamiliar vocabulary is discussed for better comprehension.
After the listening, students are given a detailed article about the samurai. They are asked to read it silently. After that, one of the students read it aloud. Then they are expected to fulfill the following exercises.
If necessary, unfamiliar vocabulary is discussed for better comprehension.
Lastly, students are given the instruction below. After they finish their writing, they are to read their paragraphs to the class.
“Suppose you were to take a short trip to medieval Japan in a time machine. Would you want to live as a vassal, a lord, a samurai warrior, or a shogun? Write a small paragraph explaining your choice.”
Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
A samurai is a highly skilled Japanese warrior. The word ‘samurai’ means one who serves. A samurai warrior had many duties, but his most important duty was to serve his master, called his ‘daimyo.’ The daimyo were the local rulers in Japan.
The samurai first came to power in Japan during the 12th century. They were members of the privileged upper class and had authority over common citizens and ordinary soldiers. Their lives were ruled by a strict code of duty, honor and sacrifice called ‘Bushido,’ which means ‘way of the warrior.’
The samurai were like a police force. They wore armor and carried two swords: a long, curved sword, called a katana, and a short one, called a wakizashi. If any soldier or common citizen disobeyed or offended a samurai, by law, the samurai had the right to take his life.
The training of the samurai in martial arts began at the early age of five. They were most often taught by their fathers or uncles. Most grew up to have families of their own. Many were farmers and many were well-educated in history and literature, especially poetry.
In 1876, the Japanese emperor banned the samurai from wearing swords. Although the samurai no longer exist, descendants of samurai families in Japan today are still highly respected. The teachings of the martial arts carry on their code of honor and discipline. Today, the samurai are a popular subject for books and can be seen in many martial arts movies.
1- When did the Samurai first come to power?
2- What are the names of the two swords carried by the Samurai?
3- At what age did martial arts training begin?
4- What did the Japanese emperor do in 1876?
1- The samurai first came to power in Japan during the 12th century.
2- A long, curved sword, called a katana, and a short one, called a wakizashi.
3- At the early age of five.
4- In 1876, the Japanese emperor banned the samurai from wearing swords.
A samurai is “one who serves.” In ancient times, the term described lowly servants supplied to the households of elderly people by the Japanese government. Later it became one of several terms used for members of the warrior class that developed in the provinces of Japan during the tenth century. Although the word bushi (“military gentry”) appears most often in old official records, the term samurai has become widely known among people outside Japan. Today the Japanese themselves also use this word when they refer to the fighting men of their country before modern times.
The samurai first appeared in the eastern provinces of Japan—that is, in the Kanto plain that contains the modern city of Tokyo. In the tenth century, the central government consisted of court officials in the service of the emperor in Kyoto, then the capital city. The samurai arose because these officials paid little attention to affairs in the provinces except for making sure that they received the income from their agricultural estates. Without effective oversight from the Kyoto court, men in the provinces took up arms to become a professional military class.
In that period, the Kanto was a frontier area, rich in farmland and especially in need of men to maintain order as the territory developed. The samurai in the Kanto and elsewhere organized themselves into bands whose members were joined together as lords and vassals (followers under a lord’s protection), much like the knights of medieval Europe.
Although Japan is far from Europe and had no contact with Europeans until the mid-sixteenth century, the Japanese developed a system of organizing society remarkably similar to that of medieval Europe. This system, known as feudalism, took root in Japan with the founding of its first military government, or shogunate (government headed by a shogun, or “great general”), in 1185. As in Europe, feudalism in Japan was based almost entirely on agriculture. Land divided into estates, or manors, was worked by peasants called serfs who had to remain on the land and could not move about freely. Feudalism also featured a ruling warrior or military class made up of lords and their vassals.
In samurai society, a vassal was supposed to give absolute, unquestioning loyalty to his lord and even be prepared to die for him in battle. In fact, the relationship between a lord and vassal went both ways: In return for performing military service, a vassal expected rewards and protection from his lord. The idea of the loyal, self-sacrificing vassal was often ignored. Many vassals especially in the tumultuous fifteenth and sixteenth centuries betrayed or rebelled against their lords.
The samurai continued to rule Japan until the beginning of the modern period in 1868. During the time of the last military government, the shogunate of the Tokugawa family (1600–1867), Japan remained almost entirely at peace. Deprived of their profession of warfare, many samurai lived idly on payments provided by their lords. Others entered government service or professions such as teaching. As a substitute for actual fighting, the samurai of the Tokugawa period developed the martial arts still practiced by many people in Japan and elsewhere.
Members of the samurai class overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate and brought Japan into the Western-dominated modern world in the late nineteenth century. Although samurai status was officially dissolved in the 1870s, many people of samurai background continued to provide leadership in modernizing Japan. Moreover, samurai values remained deeply ingrained in the behavior of many Japanese at least through World War II.
warrior in feudal Japan
administrative divisions of a country
developing, often still uncivilized or lawless region of a country
military governors of Japan who, until 1868, had absolute rule
full of disturbance and upheaval; unsettled (a tumult is a disturbance)
A. Words in Context
Use words from the word box to complete the paragraph below. Use each word only once.
The situation in the various (1) _______________ of sixteenth-century Japan could be described only as dangerous and (2) _______________. All month long a (3) _______________ had ridden through the land to announce that the (4)
_______________ was going to visit to check on each area’s defenses. There were rumors that hostile forces were gathering on the (5) _______________, and the leaders were taking no chances.
B. Foreign Words
Fill in the best word from the list below. If necessary, check the meanings of the words in the article or in the dictionary.
samurai shogun shogunate
1. The great leader was the most powerful _______________ in Japan’s history.
2. The _______________, or government, was in an uproar when its leader died.
3. In films set in feudal Japan, the _______________ is often similar to the hero of an American western.
C. Circle the letter of the correct response to each item below.
1. Which would you not include in a summary of “The Samurai”?
A) The term samurai changed its meaning over time.
B) The city of Tokyo is in the Kanto plain.
C) Samurai society was organized by class.
D) The Tokugawa family ruled Japan from 1603–1868.
2. The main idea of “The Samurai” is best stated as—
A) A samurai is “one who serves”
B) Many vassals lost their lives in the service of their lords
C) The samurai tradition has a long and interesting history
D) It was unjust to treat some people cruelly
3. In an outline, which information would not go under the heading “Tokugawa rule”?
A) Japan was at peace.
B) Samurai values lasted through World War II.
C) Martial arts was developed.
D) Samurai lived on payments provided by the lords.