Join us for a trip around the world as we “virtually” learn about different countries, cultures, foods, music and famous landmarks with crafts and activities. Each week we will post about a different country with tons of great activities to engage with children of all ages. This week we will be learning about Japan. Join us on an adventure around the world with Japanese crafts and activities for kids! This unit is perfect for homeschool families, travel-loving families, and teachers.
Grab this fun passport kit as an add-on to our global adventures. The kit includes a “passport”, stamps, stickers and other items to get kids excited about their adventure. You’ll see our passport used throughout the lessons.
Save this Japan Lesson Plan for the future.
- Interesting Facts about Japan
- Books for Kids to Learn about Japan
- Japan Map Activity
- Japan Flag Activity
- Japanese Recipes
- Japanese Folktales
- Japanese Music
- Japanese Animals
- Famous Landmarks
- Japanese Crafts & Activities
- Japanese Karate
- Family-Friendly Japanese Movies
- Learn Japenese Phrases/Words
- Learn more about Japan with Little Passports: World Edition
- Field Trip: Japanese Style
- Plan your trip!
Want to travel to more countries? Check out all of my previous travel units by clicking on the name of the country.
Be sure to read through all the activities, gather or purchase any needed supplies (most are what you have around the house) and then decide which activities you’d like to cover each day. Each activity has suggestions on how to modify it for younger and older children, but feel free to get creative and share your experience with us.
If you like a schedule, here is a suggested 3-day “schedule” to complete all the activities. It makes a great schedule for a Japan homeschool unit.
- Read Books About Japan
- Locate Japan on the Map and do the map activity
- Create a Japanese flag
- Listen to Japanese music
- Learn some Japanese phrases
- Make your own sushi for lunch
- Learn about famous landmarks and do the earthquake STEM activity
- Have fun with Japanese Crafts
- Test out your Karate Skills
- Watch Spirited Away
- Read some Japanese Folktales
- Enjoy a Japanese dinner complete with noodles, soup, dumplings, and dessert.
- Plan a Field Trip
Interesting Facts about Japan
- Japanese is the official language of Japan.
- Japan is part of the continent of Asia. Japan is an island nation surrounded by the Sea of Japan to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West.
- Japan is made up of 6,852 islands.
- Ancient warriors of Japan were known as Samurai. They were very skilled fighters and swordsmen.
- Some of the most well-known companies in the world are Japanese such as Toyota, Honda, Sony, Nintendo, Canon, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Sharp.
- Sumo is recognized as the national sport of Japan, although the most popular spectator sport is baseball.
Books for Kids to Learn about Japan
We found quite a few great books for kids about Japan. We’ve included a few options that you can either purchase on Amazon via the links or you can reserve them at the library for a low-cost option. Grab a few options, even if the reading level is too high for your child, they can still look at the pictures and maps or have an adult read the book to younger children.
Do your kids enjoy watching YouTube? I know my son is always finding fun little videos. Here is a great one about Japan. We liked the neat puzzle aspect of building the map. It is narrated by the father, but two little girls help with facts about Japan and it makes a great introduction.
It also pairs perfectly with the map activity.
Japan Map Activity
Japan is a country located in Asia. The Japanese name for Japan is “Nihon” or “Nippon” which means “sun origin”. Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and also the largest city. Other major cities include Osaka, Nagoya, and Sapporo. Japan sits along the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, so it has many volcanoes and experiences many earthquakes.
If you have a globe, help your child(ren) locate Japan on the map. If you have the passport kit from Amazon, it comes with a fun colorful map that you can hang up.
- Ask your child what they know about Japan
- Write down any questions your child has about Japan
Print the map below (click on the image for a PDF) and have your child color the land GREEN and the water BLUE.
Preschool Kids: Color the map
Elementary Ages: Talk about the various regions. Ask questions about the map:
- What is the Capital City of Japan? Highlight the capital on the map with a star and write Toyko.
- The highest point in Japan in Mount Fuji, which stands at 3,776m (12,388ft), find it’s location and highlight it on the map with a mountain shape. Add the name “Mount Fuji”.
Japan Flag Activity
The Japanese flag is a white background with a red circle in the center. The circle represents the sun. The Japanese flag is called Hinomaru in Japanese, which means “circle of the sun.” In English, it is sometimes referred to as the “rising sun” because Japan is the first country in the world to see the sunrise.
Make a flag of Japan. The flag is quite simple.
For preschoolers, practice cutting and gluing with the instructions below.
Older kids can choose to paint or hand draw and color.
For this craft, all you need are: (if you need supplies, click on the links)
- pair of scissors (kids)
- glue stick
- 1 sheet of red construction paper or cardstock
- 1 sheet of white paper (preferably cardstock)
- A flag of Japan to refer to
Step 1. Find a cup that matches the size of the circle for the center of the flag.
Step 2. Trace the shape of the cup (circle) onto the red construction paper.
Step 3. Cut out the red circle (great practice for kids)
Step 4. Glue the red circle in the center of the white paper.
Voila! Your child has created the flag for Japan. Hang it up somewhere or find a stick/dowel and attach it.
Grab the kids and make your very own sushi! Even if the kids don’t like fish, you can make avocado rolls or add in chicken, carrots, and cucumbers, the options are endless.
Ideas for items to include in the Sushi
- BBQ Chicken
Kids will love helping to make sushi. Get creative with different items to put inside the sushi.
Step 1: Place one cup of uncooked rice in 3 cups of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked (following the cooking instructions). It’s best if you use sushi rice.
Step 2: Rinse the rice thoroughly, but be careful to keep the form of the rice, I rinsed the cooked rice twice in cold water. Then put the rice into the fridge to cool before using.
Step 3: Prepare all the ingredients you’ve chosen and have them ready to use. Chop all items into small pieces and place them into bowls.
Step 4: Add 2 tbs of mirin to the cool rice; thoroughly mix with a spoon.
Step 5: Take a seaweed sheet and place it over the bamboo mat. Position the mat so that it is easy to reach.
Step 6: Take a scoop of the rice (about 1/4 of a cup) and place it closest to you on the seaweed sheet and flatten into a rectangle shape, leaving about an inch of the seaweed sheet clear of rice at the top.
Step 7: Take your filling and place it across the center of the rice. Try to line it up down the center.
Step 8: Then gently pick up the end of the bamboo mat closest to you and start rolling away from your body as tightly as possible.
Step 9: Make sure you leave about 1 inch at the far end of your roll without rice/filling. When you have finished rolling, dip your fingers into the water and wet the strip of seaweed on the end to close and seal the sushi.
Step 10: With a sharp knife (adult supervision), chop the sushi into bite-sized pieces.
Step 11: Pour a bit of soy sauce to dip in your sushi and enjoy it!
Not quite sure you are ready to tackle making your own sushi? Visit a Japanese Restaurant to try new foods (or order take out). Some of our favorite Japanese foods include:
- Ramen (soup)
- Japanese Curry
- Zaru Soba (Noodles)
- Kitsune Udon (Soup)
- Gyoza (Dumplings)
Ready to cook a delicious traditional Japanese dinner? Here are a few of our favorite recipes.
- Oyakodon (Japanese Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl) – traditional Japanese meal consisting of chicken sauteed and then cooked in a Japanese broth, and then finished with egg and served over rice.
- Sukiyaki– a Japanese dish that is prepared and served in the nabemono style. It consists of meat which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin.
- Teriyaki Chicken Bonburi– a Japanese rice bowl dish and a more exciting way to serve chicken and vegetables, especially when cooked in a delicious teriyaki sauce.
- Japanese Chicken Curry– Tender pieces of chicken, carrots, and potatoes cooked in a rich savory curry sauce.
Japanese folktales and fairytales are influenced and inspired by their religious beliefs, Shinto and Buddhism.
The characteristics of the stories vary, but like other famous storytellers, the folktales from Japan feature themes like kindness, magic, and greed. Japanese folklore also includes supernatural stories featuring creatures, spirits, and monsters, many of which have characteristics of nature.
Here are some of our favorite stories for children that you can read online:
Looking to add to your library collection? Here are some other books below.
Listen to traditional Japanese music while you complete the activities. Ask Alexa to play “Traditional Japanese Music“, or check out this youtube video with scenes from Japan and an hour’s worth of music.
Japan has a wide variety of wildlife. There are many animals that are native to Japan and are not found anywhere else in the world. The red-crowned crane (Japanese Crane) is a large crane known is as a symbol of luck and longevity in some parts of the world. The Japanese crane is among the rarest East Asian cranes. During the winter months, the cranes perform a distinctive mating dance – a graceful and seemingly choreographed ritual that never fails to impress visitors.
The Ussuri brown bear is one of the largest black bears in all of Asia. The majority of their diet is vegetarian based.
Japanese Macaque Monkeys (snow monkeys) are one of Japan’s most popular animals. The monkeys of Jigokudani in Yudanaka Onsen are particularly famous for bathing in the hot spring waters to keep warm, but you can also spot macaques in most mountainous parts of Japan where human development is minimal.
Japan has many beautiful temples, palaces, castles and UNESCO sites.
Mount Fuji is one of the most popular landmarks and it is an iconic landmark in Japan. Mount Fuji has been the inspiration for may poems, paintings and beckons climbers to reach its peak.
Himeji Castle (White Egret Castle) is a medieval landmark known for its pristine white beauty and its resemblance to the Japanese Crane. It is also the filming location for The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise.
Tokyo Imperial Palace and Castle are home to the Emperor and Empress of Japan. It is a spectacular site to visit the Cherry Blossoms in early Spring.
Japan is located along the ring of fire, which is an area that surrounds the pacific ocean where the majority of earthquakes and volcanoes are located. Build a building and then test it for its ability to tackle an earthquake is a fun STEM activity and it can be done in multiple ways.
STEM Earthquake Building Activity
Questions to ask before starting the project.
- What are earthquakes?
- How can we build something to withstand an earthquake?
- Make predictions on what might happen to a building when an earthquake happens?
For Pre-K students, you can build a building using basic blocks or Duplo’s. Have the child build on a cookie sheet so they can shake the cookie sheet to simulate an earthquake. Ask questions as they build to help them understand the basic design and strength of the building.
- How can you strengthen the building?
- What makes one building stronger than another?
- Is the base of the building the most important part? Should it be smaller or larger?
We didn’t have basic building blocks, so we used tangrams. It was easy to demonstrate how the buildings would fall because there was nothing to hold the blocks together.
We decided to try Lego’s next. It was much harder to knock down the building because the bricks interlocked together. We decided to make a treehouse with skinny legs to show it was easy to knock down a building that didn’t have a wide base support.
For older students, you can get a bit more creative. Give each child a pile of mini marshmallows and toothpicks. They must construct a “building” that is at least 10″ high using the materials that they have.
Have the student think of a design, make a prediction, test the “building” and then write down what happened.
Place the buildings on a cookie sheet. I’ve seen teachers add jello to the bottom of the tray to add a jiggling effect, but we didn’t have jello supplies, so our tray is empty.
During this project, you can make predictions about what might happen to the various buildings. Will they withstand the earthquake or no? What are the weak points?
My son discovered that having a wide and strong base was important. What did your child discover?
Japanese Crafts & Activities
There are so many fun crafts that you can do to learn more about Japan. I’ll share some of our favorites below. If you find more activities that you love, please share them with me and I’ll add them to this list.
1.Coloring Pages – Click the link for tons of great coloring pages
2. Make a watercolor background with cherry blossoms
- Watercolor paper
- Acrylic Paint – Brown, light and dark pink
- Paint Brush
- Cotton Balls
Step 1: Paint a blue background on watercolor paper with watercolors.
Step 2: Let your background dry.
Step 3: Once your background is dry, paint the shape of a tree branch.
Step 4: While your branch is drying, prepare your clothespins and cotton balls for painting. You can also prepare the pink paint (or mix white and red if you don’t have pink).
Step 5: Dip the cotton balls in the dark pink paint and stamp “cherry blossoms” next to the branches.
Step 6: Dip the cotton balls in the light pink paint and stamp “cherry blossoms” near the dark pink spots. It’s okay if you overlap a bit.
Voila.. you have a beautiful painting of cherry blossoms, perfect during the Spring season.
3. Japanese Fish Kites
Japanese koinobori or carp kites are special kites that are made in the shape of a fish called a koi. The koi is highly revered in Japan as a symbol of strength. The flags are often flown during a Japanese holiday called Children’s Day.
Step 1: Select a sheet of construction paper to be the background. Select your paint colors and start painting a design.
Step 2: While your painting is drying, choose colors of crepe paper to make the tail. Cut them into 12″ strips. Lay the streamers onto a strip of packaging tape.
Step 3: Draw circles on black and white paper to form the eyes. We used the bottom of the paint to make black circles and a cup to make the larger white circles. Then glue the eyes together.
Step 4: Your painting should be dry. Attach the streamers to the bottom of the paper.
Step 5: Roll up your paper into a cylinder and tape the seam closed. Then glue on the eyes and a small strip of crepe paper to each side for their fins.
Step 6: Cut a piece of string to run through the inside of your fish and voila! Kids enjoy running around with their fish trailing behind them.
Karate is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429 to 1879). It developed from the indigenous Ryukyuan martial arts under the influence of Kung Fu. Karate is now known as a sport with punches, kicks, knee strikes, elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques.
Karate is meant to develop a well-balanced person in both mind and body by training in fighting techniques. Traditional Karate is meant to prevent any violent attach before actual fighting occurs.
Grab all the members in your family, invite some friends or if you have a small family like ours, mom and dad get to play too!
Follow this fun youtube tutorial to learn some new karate moves. You can also sign up for a free intro karate class at your local karate location.
Check out some action shots below of our Karate skills practice. The video wasn’t the best, but we still had fun.
Family-Friendly Japanese Movies
It wasn’t easy to find a Japanese film that was good for kids. Spirited Away (rated PG)is quite popular, but hard to find for rent on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon without having to purchase the movie. The movie also dives into some topics that might be difficult for children to understand, such as the spirit world and metamorphosis.
If your children are 5+, there are a few films that they might find interesting including My Neighbor Totoro (rated G). It is a whimsical story about two girls who have adventures with the wondrous forest spirits who live near their mother’s hospital.
The last recommended film would be Ponyo. The story is loosely based on the story of the Little Mermaid. It follows the adventures of a fish (Ponyo) who wants to be a girl. This is the only film rated G and might work for younger children.
You should be able to find the movies on Amazon, Netflix or Hulu. If you’d like to buy the DVD, click the photos below.
Learn Japenese Phrases/Words
Learn more about Japan by practicing a few Japanese words. Japenese is a language made up of characters and is one of the oldest languages in the world. The video below will teach you 25 of the most common phrases.
Learn more about Japan with Little Passports: World Edition
My 5-year-old is a huge fan of Little Passports, a monthly subscription service for kids focused on global learning. They have two versions, Early Explorers is meant for ages 3-5 years of age and it focuses on various themes such as music, oceans, and dinosaurs.
World Edition is meant for children 6-10 years of age and it focuses on a different country each month. One of the countries that is included in the series is Japan, which is a perfect pairing with this week’s lessons.
After the first month (when kids receive their world map and suitcase), your child will receive souvenirs, activity sheets, photos, stickers for their map and suitcase, and access to more activities online.
Field Trip: Japanese Style
Expand your learning with a visit to a Japanese Garden, see the Cherry Blossoms in early spring or attend a Japanese festival in your area. Check out the top recommended Japanese festivals in the US.
Plan your trip!
If you loved learning about Japan and are looking to plan a trip, check out these great resources from our family travel blogger friends. They’ve got all the best insider tips and tricks.
- Not sure where to even start? Check out this Japan Itinerary for first-time visitors.
- Looking to visit Toyko (the capital city)? Don’t miss this 2-day trip idea and where to stay. Plus don’t miss all these wonderful day trips that you can take from Toyko to extend your time in the city.
- Check out some of the best areas in Kyoto to visit with this 7-day itinerary.
I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a virtual trip to Japan with your kids. Learning about new countries and cultures can be a fun experience for both children and adults. I created this travel blog for families to inspire others to travel and create memories with their family.
Don’t miss our first Virtual trip to Greece, Virtual Trip to France, Virtual Trip to China, Virtual trip to Switzerland, Virtual trip to Brazil and Virtual trip to England. Click the link to head to that post.
Please share your fun activities with me on Facebook or Instagram. Looking to plan an adventure with kids, but not sure where to start? Check out my top posts on my homepage to discover more of our favorite places to travel with kids around the globe.
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