Japan is a country full of exciting history and intriguing culture. There is no better time then now to start a unit study on Japan. "Shogatsu", or Japanese New Year will be here soon! Interestingly, Japan celebrates the new year on the traditional New Years Day- January first. Most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3, and families typically gather to spend the days together. In Japan years are traditionally viewed as completely separate, with each new year providing a fresh start. Therefore, all duties are to be completed by the end of the year. "Bonenkai Parties" are held with the purpose of leaving the old year's worries and troubles behind. These are referred to by some Japanese as "Forgetting Parties". Throwing a party is just the beginning of a unit study on Japan. Below you will find ideas for all subjects, and these can be tailored to grades 1-6 as needed.
Cooking: Learn how to make or just enjoy eating "Soba". On New Year's Eve,
"Toshikoshi Soba" (buckwheat noodles), symbolizing longevity, are served. If you have a pasta maker use this as an opportunity to dust it off and enjoy
creating this tasty dish. If you don't have a pasta maker check your local grocery store for these noodles. They can often be found in the ethnic foods area. There is a great site to refer to called "Global Gourmet" where you can find the recipe and picture directions for making the noodles homemade if you wish. A simple book the whole family can enjoy is "Easy Japanese Cooking: Noodle Comfort" by Kentaro Kobayashi. There are many types of noodle dishes to prepare at home, and the recipes are clearly written with beautiful pictures.
Reading: "Night of the Ninjas" (Magic Tree House Series #5) by Mary Pope Osborne is a timely book for a Japanese unit study. Utilize the unfamiliar vocabulary words your child might encounter as a segway to Language Arts. ABC Teach has some fun and free Language themed puzzles to print out for this book too! (Links on bottom) Other informative and great books for your homeschoolers include "I Live in Tokyo" by Mari Takabayashi,"Japanese Celebrations: Cherry Blossoms,Lanterns and Stars!" by Betty Reynolds, & "Japanese Celebrations: Cherry Blossoms, Festivals and Flying Carp by Tazuko Inui. The last book mentioned is neat because it includes a pronunciation guide, English & Japanese glossary & instructional and cultural notes.
Language Arts: Study the art of Haiku poetry! There are no rhyming words in
Haiku, and each 3-line verse has only 17 syllables or less. The first three lines are arranged so that the first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five syllables. This is called the "5-7-5 rule". Haiku poetry is a verse written to express a thought, feeling or mood. If you need further resources a wonderful teaching tool is the book "The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku" by William J. Higginson. Have your homeschooler create a seasonal book of his or her own with Haiku poetry to share with others. or, have your child write a Haiku and draw or paint a picture of it.
Math: Strategy games are not only commonplace for many children in Japan, but they are also great fun! Have a "Strategy Games" session with your homeschoolers, maybe even inviting friends from a homeschool group. Choose
Sudoku themed games, which are popular in Japan, to teach puzzle solving skills.
Hopefully the ideas above will be the start of an interesting journey studying Japan. Sayonara!