Cunning Plan 186: teaching Samurai Japan in Key Stage 3

Teaching History feature

By Joseph Player, published 6th April 2022

Cunning Plan... for teaching Samurai Japan in Key Stage 3

Like many history departments we have been seeking to develop schemes of work that are more outward-looking, and, as the National Curriculum describes, ‘enable pupils to know and understand significant aspects of world history’. 

To my mind, Samurai Japan offers students the opportunity to explore a time and place that is completely fascinating and unique. It gives students a chance to challenge interpretations (maybe samurai were not as honourable as popular television shows would have us believe), grapple with an array of sources from ancient monks’ chants to outright bizarre ukiyo-e illustrations, and, looking beyond the history curriculum, to enjoy an introduction to a vitally important country and culture. Between treacherous warlords, geisha dresses, and the intricacies of the brutal seppuku ceremony, we got to take students on a journey to a period that is complex, challenging, lively, at times gruesome, and tremendous fun. 

Samurai Japan also gave us a way to explore the big concepts. For example, cause and consequence...

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