Grade: 7th Title of Lesson Plan and Course

Download 15.91 Kb.
Size15.91 Kb.
A Study of Japan

Grade: 7th

Title of Lesson Plan and Course: Militarism in Late Twelfth Century Japan

7.31 Analyze the rise of a military society in the late twelfth century and the role of the shogun and samurai in that society.

Presented by: Jenny Shorten, Evangelical Christian School, Memphis, TN

Class Periods: Five 45 minute periods


  • Students will determine what led to the end of the Heian period.

  • Students will define and the key terms about the shogun, daimyo, and the samurai.

  • Students will analyze the samurai code of conduct and the lasting mark it left on Japanese culture.

Essential Questions:

  • What were the values, social customs, and traditions prescribed by the lord-vassal system consisting of shogun, daimyo, and samurai?

  • What is the lasting influence of the warrior code in the twentieth century?

  • How did a military society emerge in the late twelfth century and what was the role of the samurai in that society?


  1. Discuss the following background information:

The middle of the Heian Period, from 900 to 1050, marks the Fujiwara Era, in which the aristocratic elite flourished. This era marked a golden age of courtly decorum and culture. It was during this time period that some of the most well-known classical pieces of literature were produced. The Tale of Genji was created during this time period and reflects the courtly values of the ages. The formality and indirectness present in courtly manners is something that is also still present in modern Japanese culture, both in the ways in which the language is used and also in the interaction of respect and humility between the genders.

As the Heian period came to a close, the era of courtly rule began to quickly decline into lawlessness, conflict and eventually war to overtake the monarchy. The ending of this period marks the transition from ancient Japan to a more organized militaristic and political force during the Middle Ages of Japan, which would last from the 1300s up to the 1600s.

The title Sei-i Taishogun, which means 'a military commander, who fights barbarians,' first appeared during the Heian period. The shogun was appointed by the emperor to eliminate those who resisted the government. When the shogun developed enough power, they became the practical rulers of Japan, and controlled the actions of the emperor. An era when Japan was controlled by a shogun is called a shogunate.

The first true shogunate was the Kamakura Shogunate (1192-1333), during which the Minamoto family essentially ruled Japan from the city of Kamakura. While the emperor and his advisors officially ruled Japan, the real power was Minamoto and his armies. Minamoto no Yoritomo, the patriarch of the Minamota clan, was officially awarded the title of shogun in 1192.

Minamoto established a system of awarding his supporters with property, which let them develop their own wealth. Starting in the 12th century, land-owning noble lords surrounded themselves with elite warriors as they fought each other for power in the very militaristic society of the 12th and 13th centuries. Those elite warriors were the samurai.

  1. Ask students what they know about the samurai. The knowledge we have generally comes from movies. Show students some excerpts from The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise and some humorous samurai clips on YouTube.

  1. Introduce key terms:

  • Samurai: The powerful warrior class in Japan.

  • Code of Conduct: Rules of behavior that samurai obeyed.

GI - morality, righteousness, Justice

YUU – bravery, courage, heroism

JIN – virtue, benevolence, humanity, charity

REI – gratitude

MOKATO –sincerity, honesty, integrity, fidelity

MEIYO – honor

CHUUGI – loyalty, devotion

  • Shogun: The head of the military government of Japan in the era of the samurai. Power shifted from the emperor to the shogun. The shogun would reward samurai with office positions and land in exchange to serve and protect the shogun.

  • Daimyo: A local lord in Japan in the era of the samurai. Daimyos were given samurai for their service, and the samurai expected to be rewarded for their service.

  • Martial Arts: Styles of fighting or self-defense, such as modern-day judo and karate, that mostly began in Asia

  • Military Training:

    • Archery: shoot until it is second-nature

    • Fencing: swordsmanship

    • Martial arts: fighting without weapons

  • Mental Training:

    • Self-control: overcome emotions that interfere with fighting (not afraid to die).

    • Always alert and prepared to fight.

  • Students of Culture:

    • Calligraphy (the art of beautiful writing)

    • Poetry writing (haiku poems)

    • Tea ceremony

  • Spiritual Strength:

    • Amida Buddhism: All people could reach Pure Land (paradise) by relying on the mercy of Amida Buddha.

    • Zen Buddhism: More popular with samurai because of its emphasis on effort an discipline through meditation.

  • Code of Bushido: This code prized honor, loyalty, and the fearlessness n the face of death. The price for failing to live up to the Code of Bushido was seppuku, or ritual suicide.

  1. Divide students into groups of 3 – 6 and tell them that they are going to produce a documentary on the life of a samurai warrior. You will first have to explain what documentaries are and how they are created. Show them excerpts from the following Slide Share on how to make a documentary:

Show students how they can obtain primary source documents in order to enhance their documentaries. These can come from class textbooks or online. See below for a list of resources. A fun activity they can also do is design a military banner for the samurai in their documentary. Samurai group identity was displayed in public processions and battles using a banner. They can create their own banner and decorate it with their own crest.

The documentary must contain the following:

  • Daimyo – Who is the Daimyo for your samurai? A daimyo was a leader, mentor, and trainer of a samurai who the samurai would protect in exchange for money, land, and gifts. Daimyo taught their samurai to be so loyal to them that he would gladly die for him. If a daimyo was murdered, a samurai might avenge his death.

  • Bushido- What has the daimyo taught your samurai about Bushido? What are the values of Bushido? What does it mean to follow the Code of Bushido? Samurai were expected to value loyalty and personal honor even more than their own lives. The code of Bushido was the way in which a samurai lived his or her life. It called on samurai to be honest, fair, and fearless in the face of death.

  • Armor and Weapons- Show the armor and weapons of your samurai. Without a shadow of doubt, the most infamous of all samurai weapons is the samurai sword. A razor sharp tool of death which struck fear into the hearts of the enemy, and the life out of its victims. The armor of a samurai was especially designed to be as light and as free-moving as possible, which put the samurai at a great advantage over opponents wearing rigid suits of armor as their ability to move quickly and freely wasn’t impinged.

  • Military Training- What military training did your samurai get? Archery and sword training were a main part of their lives. Archery is shooting with a bow and arrows. Samurai practiced until they could shoot accurately without even thinking. They learned to breathe properly and to shoot at their enemies while riding on a horse. Fencing is fighting with a sword. Samurai had to force an enemy to make the first move, how to stay out of range of the enemy’s sword, and how to fight in tight spaces or against more than one opponent. He practiced until he could fence without even thinking about it.

  • Mental Training - What are the greatest challenges for your samurai in mental training? Samurai had to learn self-control so they could overcome emotions that might interfere with fighting. They had to not be afraid of dying. They had to learn to always be alert and prepared to fight. To learn how to deal with pain and suffering, samurai went for days without eating, marched barefoot in the snow for a long time, and sat still for long times without complaining. To overcome the fear of death, they were told to think that they were already dead.

  • Cultural Training- What part did cultural training play in the life of your samurai? This training included writing with Hiragana Letters, haiku poems, and the Tea Ceremony. All samurai had to go through the tea ceremony. The ceremony fostered a spirit of calm and peacefulness, and also served as an important way to form political alliances among other samurai. It was like of form of social networking.

  • Spiritual Training- How was your samurai trained spiritually? Samurai achieved enlightenment in Zen Buddhism through meditation. They meditated for hours. They had to give up every day, logical thinking. Amida Buddhism says that all people could reach paradise by just saying the Amida’s name over and over again. Zen Buddhism requires effort and discipline.


Formative – watch students in group discussion and reporting from discussions to assess their engagement with the learning outcomes.

Summative – Assess Samurai Documentary and alert students to possible test questions.


Humorous Samurai clip: Samurai

The Last Samurai - Best Clips & Soundtracks

Samurai Photographs of the Nineteenth Century

How to make a documentary: Documentary Making 101


Fujisawa, Shuhei and trans. Gavin Frew. 2006. Bamboo Sword & Other Samurai Tales. Tokyo: Kodansha International.

Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. 1983. v.9. New York: Kodansha.

Kure, Mitsuo. 2002. Samurai: An Illustrated History. Boston: Tuttle Pub.

Miyamori, Asataro. 2006. Katsuno’s Revenge and Other Tales of the Samurai. New York: Dover Pub.

Ratti, Oscar. 1973. Secrets of the Samurai: A Survey of the Martial Arts of Feudal Japan. Rutland: C.E. Tuttle Co.

Sato, Hiroaki. 1995. Legends of the Samurai. Woodstock: Overlook Press.

Shiba, Ryotara. 2004. Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu. Tokyoko: Kodansha International.

Turnbull, Stephen R. 2008. The Samurai Swordsman: Master of War. North Clarendon: Tuttle Pub.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page