Source: Screen capture of the Asian Art Museum’s video on The Tale of the Heike at https://tinyurl.com/y9or75e5.
Instructors first should familiarize themselves with the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco’s lesson “Samurai Warrior Codes: Comparing Perspectives from the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Edo Periods,” which includes a lesson description, PowerPoint, and student handouts. Once students have learned more about the samurai, provide the museum’s handout for students.
If you feel that students will need more guidance on using artwork, I strongly suggest including “Battles at Ichi-no-tani Mountain and Yashima, from Tale of the Heike.” This separate three- page document features online art with short accompanying narratives and questions that richly augment the illustration on page 4 of "portraying the ideal warrior" in the abridged lesson below.
Class No. 4: Code of conduct for the samurai
Estimated time: fifty minutes
The Asian Art Museum and the University of California at Berkley have provided a “Samurai in Medieval Japan” lesson. I developed a modified abridged version of this lesson that only includes the primary source excerpts. Instructors might wish to examine the complete lesson. My handout directly addresses Tennessee standards, but it is probably useful for many instructors in other locales who do not have time to use the much longer lesson.
First, distribute the four-page document titled “Hōjō Sōun‘s Twenty-One Articles (Code of Conduct for Samurai)” to the class, also available here.
The first page of the handout provides brief biographical information on the samurai author Hōjō Sōun (1432–1519 CE). The next two short paragraphs on page 1 clearly define the two most critical components of the education of a samurai: bun encompasses literary arts and culture; bu 武 focuses upon warrior skills, especially skilled use of the sword.
Page 2 includes the same excerpts, along with an accompanying chart where, working with a partner, students are asked to paraphrase each excerpt and also note any questions or conclusions they have about the excerpt.
Page 3 is where students demonstrate what they know and have learned about the samurai.
Although student responses will vary, instructors will want to make sure students understand the most essential bun and bu behaviors samurai were expected to exhibit. Handout 3, which appears on page 4 of this document, is a teacher key with examples of correct student responses and conclusions.
Possible extension or homework (time determined by the teacher)
Instructors might prefer to have students create a “foldable” (or other) that demonstrates the changes in Japanese society and highlights life of a samurai. Make sure to address whether or not the samurai life as identified earlier matches the description provided in the text. Students should consider addressing the differences between the “real” and “imagined” life of a samurai.
For extension on the samurai, you should consider using “The Age of the Samurai: 1185–1868” (Asia for Educators). This annotated timeline describes the various characteristics of Kamakura, Ashikaga, and Tokugawa warrior governments.
The Tale of the Heike recounts the struggle for power between the Taira (or Heike) and Minamoto (or Genji) houses in the late twelfth century. With the Tairas’ defeat in 1185 and the establishment of a new warrior government by the victorious Minamoto, the medieval age began. From this war tale, we can learn much about life in Japan during this transitional period and about warrior culture. Use excerpted passages from the famous tale. Teachers should make copies of this to provide to students for reading and discussion (Asia for Educators).
References and resources
http://web-japan.org/jvt/en/streaming/mp4/jvt_12-13_no2_1_en_256k_mp4.html: This is a link to the “Kamakura—Home of Samurai Culture” video by Web Japan.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/NImB4S_Y3J0?rel=0: Here is a video on Kamakura by the NHK, posted on YouTube.
https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1zvTbcOq8bRriAOnPkWpgEXdBLPJAqyLb&ll=35.31905616126723%2C139.53592650000007&z=12: This is a link to the Google Map of the Kamakura period, which contains markers for various temples and other points of interest.
http://www.city.kamakura.kanagawa.jp/sekaiisan/documents/jh_booklet_e02.pdf: This booklet on the Kamakura period by the city of Kamakura is posted on their official website.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/YE1MwI69ooU?rel=0%22: This is a video on The Tale of the Heike by the Asian Art Museum on YouTube.
https://education.asianart.org/resources/samurai-warrior-codes-comparing-perspectives-from-the-kamakura-muromachi-and-edo-periods/: This is a middle school lesson on the Asian Art Museum’s “Education” website called “Samurai Warrior Codes: Comparing Perspectives from the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Edo Periods.”
https://new.utc.edu/sites/default/files/2020-12/medievaljapanlesson.pdf: This is a link to the student lesson “Medieval Japan, Samurai: Real and Imagined” on the Asian Art Museum’s “Education” website.
https://education.asianart.org/resources/tale-of-the-heike/: This is a link to artwork of the Battles at Ichi-no-tani Mountain and Yashima, from Tale of the Heike on the Asian Art Museum’s “Education” website.
http://ucbhssp.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/hssplessons/Samurai in Medieval Japan_middle school.docx: Here is a link to a medieval Japan seventh-grade lesson plan from the Asian Art Museum and UC Berkeley’s “History–Social Science Project.”
http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/japan_1000ce_samurai.htm: This is a link to the Asia for Educators “Guide to Samurai Governments, 1185–1868.”
http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/japan_1000ce_heike.htm: This is a link to the Asia for Educators excerpts from The Tale of the Heike.
https://www.asianstudies.org/publications/eaa/archives/can-samurai-teach-critical-thinking-primary-sources-in-the-classroom/: This is a link to Ethan Segal, “Can Samurai Teach Critical Thinking?,” Education About Asia 15, no. 3 (2010): 5–8.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/h_rhvsV9Z7E?rel=0: This presentation is called “Using Samurai to Teach Critical Thinking” by Ethan Segal, from the University of Colorado program of the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia.
Bushido and the Samurai: http://www.japanpitt.pitt.edu/essays-and-articles/history/bushid%C5%8D-and-samurai: Martha Chaiklin’s “Bushido and the Samurai” from Japan: Places, Images, Times & Transformations by the University of Pittsburgh is available here.
https://learninglab.si.edu/collections/bushido-bun-and-bu-life-as-a-samurai/FFRP0MAp1BdoPjiL: Kate Harris’s “Bushido, Bun, and Bu: Life as a Samurai” on the Smithsonian Institute website is available here.
https://www.colorado.edu/ptea-curriculum/sites/default/files/attached-files/medieval-handout-m2.pdf: This is a link to the handout on samurai life in medieval Japan by the University of Colorado.
http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/tps/1000ce_jp.htm#kama: This link contains numerous resources on Japan from Asia for Educators.
http://education.asianart.org/explore-resources/samurai: This link contains numerous resources from the Asian Art Museum’s “Education” website.
https://www.coreknowledge.org/free-resource/ckhg-unit-08-feudal-japan/: For students with lower reading levels, check out the Core Knowledge resources on Japanese feudalism.