Using Literature to Teach Japan Internet Guide

Links verified July 2005

Intended to supplement our Japan Digest of the same name, this Internet Guide presents annotated links to lesson plans based on several works of literature mentioned in the Digest. It also offers links of interest to students, links to sites about haiku and tanka, and links to organizations.

Lesson Plans

The Tale of Genji [Audio/Video/Text]
This video unit examines this literary masterpiece of the Heian period. Literary salons, women as authors, and the impact of The Tale of Genji are discussed by the featured speakers: Columbia University professors Haruo Shirane and Paul Varley, and Asia Society President Emeritus Robert Oxnam.

Teaching the Yûgao Chapter of The Tale of Genji
The "Yûgao" chapter reveals how courtship took place and what role poetry plays in that process; hints at class issues, as we view Yûgao's embarrassment at having Genji hear the sounds of her neighbor's conducting their daily routine; and gives some idea of the position in which women appeared to be placed in the period.

Oklahoma Consortium for Teaching About Asia's Lesson Plan on The Tale of Genji
A 12th Grade Literary Survey lesson plan. Objectives: exposure to excerpt of Japanese classic The Tale of Genji; identification of literary irony; identification of theme; and ability to recognize elements of Japanese culture and thought in Genji

Creating Scrolls Based on the illustrated Tale of Genji
After exploring both formal and narrative elements in a hand painted scroll dating from the Japanese Edo period that depicts the tale, students create their own hand painted scrolls using their own stories about contemporary "aristocrats". The lesson culminates with a celebration of students' projects in an exhibition.

The Tale of the Heike
Introduction to and excerpts from The Tale of the Heike, a war tale from the twelfth century. Discussion questions are included. Many other lesson plans and curriculum materials can be found on the Asia for Educator's site (

Knight/Samurai and Lord/Daimyo: Should We Compare Europe and Japan?
These units share several goals: (1) to introduce Japanese materials into world history courses, (2) to compare cultures while teaching about feudalism, (3) to use literature to teach the history of a significant period in Japanese history, and (4) to enhance teaching directed toward achievement of the world history standards.

Black Ships & Samurai
Features some 200 Japanese and American graphics depicting the 1853-1854 mission by Commodore Matthew Perry that led to the opening of Japan to the outside world. Provides an extensive archive of historical graphics that teachers and students can download and use to present their own interpretations and presentations.

Japanese Folktales
Students learn about Japanese culture through folk literature, create a kamishibai (paper play), and put on a puppet show. Extension ideas are provided.

Teaching So Far From the Bamboo Grove

This 22-page lesson includes pre-reading, active reading, and responding activities.

Teacher's Guide to Kamishibai
Offers a brief summary of the kamishibai story, "The Ogre Who Sank to the Bottom of the Sea," the main thematic ideas and some open ended questions you might want to use to extend the experience after the children have heard and enjoyed the story several times.

Teacher's Guide for Shizuko's Daughter
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Includes a plot summary, questions for discussion, journal topics, questions for literary exploration, and related activities

After exploring nature and reading haiku by Issa, students write their own haiku. Extension ideas also provided. Adaptable to grade levels other than 4-6.

For Students

Folk Legends of Japan (Kids Web)
Read the stories from "once upon a time in Japan" that every Japanese kid grows up listening to. This site takes you on a journey to a fairy-tale world of boy heroes, terrible ogres, animal antics, and more.

The Flowering of Japanese Literature (Washington State University) (link to home page) (direct link to page on Japanese literature)
A resource for students to extract overall background but with enough detail so that students can approach sophisticated and creative assignments on the culture or history of ancient Japan.

The Japanese Literature Home Page
Meant to serve as a general source for information in English on Japanese literature. With minor exceptions, all content is in English even when discussing Japanese texts.

Japanese Literature
A brief encyclopedia article that discusses the history of Japanese literature, its forms, and significant authors and works. Provides external links.

The Tale of Genji
This site aims to promote a wider understanding and appreciation of The Tale of Genji. It also serves as a kind of travel guide to the world of Genji by presenting numerous photographs of places featured in the novel.


American Tanka
Founded in 1996, American Tanka is currently the only journal in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to presenting contemporary English-language tanka. Published yearly.

Children's Haiku Garden
Presents many children's haiku versus, each with an illustration. Children from Japan, the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada are represented.


The Haiku Society of America
Features include membership information, a list of officers and regional coordinators, minutes of HSA meetings from 1998 through the present, archives of award-winning haiku and senryu from HSA-sponsored contests, and Resources for Teachers.


Japanese Literature Resources Page (Creighton University)
Offers links to online resources, links to other web sites, a list of recommended books, audiovisual resources, and recommended background texts for 12 authors (including the author of The Tale of Genji).

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
Written by students of Dr. Jeffrey Barlow of Pacific University, this site includes pages on the culture during Heian Japan and the culture of Japan now, 10 of the main characters, a book review of Genji The Shining Prince, a short biography on Lady Murasaki Shikibu, and a summary.

Compiled by Roger Sensenbaugh

Internet Guides are made possible through the generous support of the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

The use of trade, firm, or corporation names in this publication (or page) is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the National Clearinghouse for U.S.-Japan Studies.