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New History Textbook for Middle School Students


New History Textbook for Middle School Students (Revised Edition)

What Does It Mean To Learn History?
The history lived by our ancestors
Learning history means to find out what the people
of the past thought about the events of their time,
the problems they encountered, and how they resolved them.
If you trace back each generation of your forefathers, you will discover that the people who have lived in the Japanese Isles since ancient times are the common ancestors of all the people in your classroom. Learning history means to learn about the past lived by our shared ancestors.
The traditions of Japanese history
Every country in the world has its own particular history. Japan is blessed with a rich natural environment and has nurtured unique traditions. In ancient times, Japan learned from the civilization arising in China while still maintaining its own distinctive characteristics and forging its own path.
Even during the modern period, as the great powers of the West were attempting to swallow up Asia, Japan kept its own traditions alive and sought to harmonize them with Western civilization. By doing so, Japan succeeded at building a modern nation and preserving its independence. Our forefathers, through their unflagging efforts, created a Japan more prosperous and secure than all but a few of the world’s nations.
Seeing Japan through your forefathers’ eyes
An important part of learning history is to study the problems encountered by our forefathers in each historical period and to attempt to imagine these problems as if they were our own. In that case, learning history becomes not simply a process of memorizing facts, but rather, a process of understanding the dreams and the suffering of the real people behind those facts. If we can learn to see Japan through our forefathers’ eyes, we can become the beneficiaries of their wisdom and courage.

Understanding History

Section 1 – Expressing historical dates and periodizing history

Giving names to periods of time
We pass through time in terms of days, months, and years. Time seems to extend endlessly into the past and to continue endlessly into the future. Amidst this flow of time into both past and future, this year, for instance, is called Heisei 28, according to its Japanese era name, or called 2016 AD, according to the Western calendar. We also learn history by giving names to certain periods of time.

What would happen if there were no fixed rules for naming periods of time? For example, let’s say that yesterday was your birthday and you want to communicate that to other people. In that case, you might say, “Yesterday was my birthday.” The next day, to express the same idea, you could say, “The day before yesterday was my birthday.” Then, one more day later, you could say, “My birthday was three days ago.”

However, in this manner it becomes more and more difficult to express just how many days ago your birthday took place as the original day grows increasingly distant. Therefore, if your birthday was on, say, April 10, it is much easier to understand if you just say, “My birthday was on April 10.” “April 10″ is a unique name that is assigned to a day of the year.

Even so, “April 10″ is a day that reoccurs each year, and it still does not tell us in which year you were born. Therefore, if you were born on, say, April 10, 2003, adding in the year called 2003, then you are referring to a specific day. In other words, April 10, 2003, is the name that is assigned to a unique date.

Era name
Japan and China have used era names, which were determined by the emperor, to designate certain years. Japan used era names for the first time in the year 645 AD, which marked the beginning of a major reform aimed at creating a polity centered around the Japanese emperor. Because this period was named “Taika”, that year was called Taika 1, followed by Taika 2, Taika 3, and so forth. Starting in 650, the era name changed to Hakuchi. Thus, Taika 6 overlaps with Hakuchi 1 and was the last year of the Taika period.

The Western calendar
In modern Japan, we use both era names and the Western calendar that has been adopted in many countries throughout the world. The Western calendar takes the year that Jesus Christ was reputed to have been born, called 1 AD, as its point of reference. Years from Jesus’ birth and onwards are marked with the initials AD,

whereas the years prior to Jesus’ birth are marked with the initials BC. However, the actual year of Jesus’ birth is currently believed to have been around 4 BC.

If we express years according to the Western calendar, then Kenkyu 3, the year in which Minamoto Yoritomo founded the Kamakura shogunate, becomes 1192 AD, which, one can see, is 824 years prior to the current year of 2016 AD or Heisei 28. Because the Western calendar is in widespread use around the world, it is useful for facilitating communication between various peoples.

Nevertheless, the Western calendar encounters a problem when one tries to express the year 0 AD. The concept of “zero” did not exist at the time the calendar was fixed, so there is no 0 AD. Every one hundred years on the Western calendar is grouped into a “century”, which means that the period from 2001 to 2100, for example, is the twenty-first century.

Sexagenary cycle
The East Asian nations of China, Korea, and Japan have used the sexagenary cycle to express years since ancient times. The name of each year is expressed by combining one of the ten calendar signs with one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac in their proper order. By doing this, sixty combinations can be formed, which are used to convey year, month, day, time, and even direction. Thus, in Japan, one’s sixtieth birthday is called kanreki, which means “return of the calendar”, indicating that a person has lived through all sixty years, or a full rotation, of the sexagenary cycle. Historical events named after years of the sexagenary cycle include the Jinshin War, the Boshin War, the Imo Mutiny, and the Kapsin Coup.

Ranked list of the sexagenary cycle
(with pronunciation in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean)
-kapcha 2=乙丑
-ǔlch’uk 3=丙寅
-pyǒngin 4=丁卯
-chǒngmyo 5=戊辰
-kisa 7=庚午
-kyǒngo 8=辛未
-sinmi 9=壬申
-imsin 10=癸酉
-kapsul 12=乙亥
-ǔrhae 13=丙子
-pyǒngja 14=丁丑
-chǒngch’uk 15=戊寅
-kimyo 17=庚辰
-kyǒngjin 18=辛巳
-sinsa 19=壬午
-imo 20=癸未
-kapsin 22=乙酉
-ǔryu 23=丙戌
-pyǒngsul 24=丁亥
-chǒnghae 25=戊子
-kich’uk 27=庚寅
-kyǒngin 28=辛卯
-sinmyo 29=壬辰
-imjin 30=癸巳
-kabo 32=乙未
-ǔlmi 33=丙申
-pyǒngsin 34=丁酉
-chǒngyu 35=戊戌
-kihae 37=庚子
-kyǒngja 38=辛丑
-sinch’uk 39=壬寅
-imin 40=癸卯
-kapchin 42=乙巳
-ǔlsa 43=丙午
-pyǒngo 44=丁未
-chǒngmi 45=戊申
-kiyu 47=庚戌
-kyǒngsul 48=辛亥
-sinhae 49=壬子
-imja 50=癸丑
-kabin 52=乙卯
-ǔlmyo 53=丙辰
-pyǒngjin 54=丁巳
-chǒngsa 55=戊午
-kimi 57=庚申
-kyǒngsin 58=辛酉
-sinyu 59=壬戌
-imsul 60=癸亥

The structure of calendars
We can understand what point in time a person is talking about by naming certain periods within the endless flow of time according to a common set of rules. Just as an address can tell us about the spatial location of a person, so too can a named period of time tell us about the chronological position of an event.

Calendars are used to express the names of periods of time. Calendars split the flow of time into units called years, months, and days in order to specify a position in time.

A day represents the time it takes for the Earth to complete one rotation on its axis. A month represents the time it takes the moon to complete one revolution around the Earth. A year represents the time it takes the Earth to complete one revolution around the sun.

Calendars come in three types. There is the lunar calendar that allocates the days to each month in accordance with the phases of the moon, the solar calendar that places great importance on the annual revolution of the Earth around the sun and the changes of the seasons, and the lunisolar calendar that combines elements of both.

Making these sorts of calendars is extremely complicated work and, for this reason, calendar-making has historically been one of the important roles of political and religious officials.

In the lunar calendar, the new moon marks the first day of each month and the full moon marks the fifteenth day. Thus, one can know what day it is by observing the shape of the moon and one can know the general time of day by observing the location of the moon in the sky. These are two of the convenient features of the lunar calendar.

It takes the moon 29.5 days to revolve around the Earth, and for this reason, the lunar calendar alternates between 29-day months and 30-day months in order to adjust for the difference.

However, it takes 365 days for the Earth to rotate around the sun, and even the repetition of twelve months of 29 or 30 days that is used in the lunar calendar adds up to only 354 days. Consequently, after the passage of a few years, the seasons are no longer linked to the months and soon enough the middle of winter will fall in the eighth month. This in turn makes it difficult to schedule the times when farmers should sow or reap their crops.

To deal with this problem, another type of calendar was devised that still bases the length of each month on the phases of the moon, but reduces the lag between the months and the seasons by adding a “leap month” once every three years. For example, after the fourth month, a “leap April” might be added. This is known as the lunisolar calendar, and it was the calendar used in Japan until the end of the Edo period.

The Meiji government decided to replace Japan’s lunisolar calendar with the solar calendar on December 3, 1872, a date that immediately became January 1, 1873, under the new calendar. Because of the adoption of the solar calendar, the dates of the calendar and the phases of the moon were no longer in unison.

Periodizing time: Even if we give a name to each year, we cannot understand the meaning of history simply by lining up events in neat chronological order. We can get a bird’s eye view on the course of history by dividing the ongoing flow of time into various periods based on different historical perspectives.

A variety of periodizations
Let’s classify the various ways in which history can be periodized.

If few written sources survive and our knowledge is limited to archeological evidence, we can divide periods of time on the basis of the variety of tools used, like the Paleolithic period, or on the basis of structures, like the Kofun period.

After written records become abundant, we divide periods of time on the basis of the location of the seat of government.

At the start of the Meiji period in 1868, it was decided that the era name would only be changed at the time a new emperor ascended to the throne, a system known as “one reign, one era”. Consequently, from that point we have divided periods of time on the basis of the length of the reign of each emperor: Meiji, Taisho, and Showa.

Periods of Japanese history Basis of periodization
Paleolithic period, Jomon period, Yayoi period, Kofun period Structures and tools used
Asuka period, Nara period, Heian period, Kamakura period, Muromachi period, Azuchi-Momoyama period, Edo period Location of the seat of government
Meiji period, Taisho period, Showa period, Heisei period The era name for the time of an emperor’s reign
Northern and Southern Courts period, Warring States period A special characteristic of the period

Broad periodizations of time
The method of periodizing based on the location of the seat of government or the reign of an emperor is often too precise. Therefore, a different system of periodization can be used to understand the course of history in broader terms.

According to the national middle school curriculum set by the Ministry of Education, history is divided into five periods: the ancient period, medieval period, premodern period, modern period, and postwar period. Because the modern period includes many subjects that need to be learned, this textbook’s coverage of “Modern Japan and the World” is divided into two chapters, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.

On the page at the end of each chapter entitled “Chapter Summary”, we will explain topics like the special characteristics of each broad period of time and the ways in which they can be split into more precise periods.

Section 2 – Researching the history of…

Choosing a topic
Let’s say that the class of Hiroki, a Japanese middle school student, was researching the history of a certain subject. What sort of possible subjects could he and his classmates study?

*The history of food *The history of calendars
*The history of clothing *The history of books
*The history of clocks

Hiroki and his classmates came up with a variety of ideas. Then, one of Hiroki’s classmates, Kyuto, who loves baseball, blurted out, “The history of baseball!” At first all his classmates burst into laughter, but as they checked around the classroom, there were others who also wanted to learn more about the same topic. With that, the “History of Baseball Research Group” was born.

Let’s research the history of baseball!
Step 1 – Preparation

(1.) Select a notebook
Firstly, get a notebook exclusively devoted to the topic of your research, and write “The History of Baseball” on the cover.

*NOTE: You should find as thin a notebook as possible. A thicker notebook will often turn out to be just a waste. A small notebook will be more convenient to carry with you, whereas a larger notebook is a good place in which to paste clippings. It is important that you choose a notebook suitable to the topic.

(2.) Make a list of questions
You and your classmates should jointly pitch in some ideas for things that you want to know and to research, or things of which you are unsure, relating to the topic. Then write them in your notebook in the form of questions. Let’s also number them sequentially.

Question List
(1.) When was baseball invented?
(2.) Was it really Masaoka Shiki who translated the word “baseball” into Japanese as “yakyu”?
(3.) When and how did the National High School Baseball Championship begin?
(4.) When and how did professional baseball begin?
(5.) Who came up with the modern-day rules of baseball and when were they decided upon?
(6.) When did Japanese players start to play in the Major Leagues?
(7.) Who was the first foreigner recruited to play for Nippon Professional Baseball?
(8.) Why are there regions and countries where baseball is not popular as well as regions and countries where it is popular?
(9.) Why is it that soccer coaches wear a suit in the field, but baseball coaches wear the same uniform as the rest of the team?

*NOTE: As your research progresses, you will come up with new questions. You may wish to reserve the first two pages of your notebook in advance as your “Question List”.

Step 2 – Research Summary

(3.) Make a research summary
Research an overview of your topic using encyclopedias, historical dictionaries, the Internet, and other sources.

There will be many varieties of encyclopedias at the library, so try checking all of them. Jot down in your notebook all the information that seems important or that interests you, while leaving out anything that you already know or that has little to do with the topic.

Each of the different types of encyclopedias that you consult will contain slightly different information even on the same topics. By consulting all of them, you can acquire a more detailed knowledge of the topic.

*NOTE: When you find a passage of text that you like, it will be useful later if you copy it down entirely rather than summarizing it. However, it is also important that you record the name of the book in which you found the material and its author as your source.

The Internet is also a convenient tool for making a research summary. If you search under the keywords “baseball” and “history”, or “history of baseball”, you can find articles on the topic instantly. Take notes on the important information you find.

*NOTE: The Internet is handy, but take care in using it because you may encounter some inaccurate information.

(4.) Create a chronology
After you finish making a summary of your research, make a chronology in order to get a clear view of the whole course of events. You can make the chronology either by writing down the events in your notebook while leaving suitable space between them for more entries, or by first entering in the years sequentially and filling the events in after.

(5.) Periodize the chronology
Once you have completed your chronology, let’s try dividing the events of the history of baseball into periods. Think carefully about which events were important and focus on those ones that represented major turning points or milestones. Periodizations may vary depending on which events each person believes to be the most important or meaningful.

In addition, Hiroki and his research group decided that the scope of their research on the history of baseball would center on Japan, while also dealing with baseball’s origins.

*NOTE: Your periodization should start off rough and be refined later as you gather more information and ideas. Give names to each of the periods you establish.

Step 3 – In-depth research

(6.) Check the written literature
At the library, check the written literature covering your topic, including books, periodicals, dissertations, and data. Here are a few of the interesting books about baseball that Hiroki and his research group found.

*Sayama Kazuo. Nihon Yakyu Wa Naze Besuboru Wo Koeta No Ka: “Feanesu” To “Bushido” [How Did Japanese Baseball Surpass American Baseball?: "Fairness" Versus "Samurai Spirit"]. Sairyusha.
*Hiraide Takashi. Besuboru no Shigaku [The Poetics of Baseball]. Chikuma Shobo.

Hiroki’s History of Baseball Research Group decided to divide up the task of reading these books between each of the group’s members.

(7.) Undertake fieldwork
At the library, we research the written literature on a topic, whereas fieldwork means going directly to places of historical interest including museums, archives, art galleries, shrines, temples, and archeological sites in order to do research on the scene.

One way of doing fieldwork is to conduct an interview, which means to meet with someone and listen to what they have to say. Doing fieldwork can be a real joy and a source of fascinating research material.

For their fieldwork on baseball, Hiroki and his research group visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which is located near the Tokyo Dome.

Step 4 – Report your findings
The report of the History of Baseball Research Group was due on the date of ____________.

The History of Baseball

(1.) The origins of baseball in Britain and the United States

18th Century: In Britain, a game that laid the foundations of modern baseball began to be played using a stone with string wound around it. The game was often played whenever the inhabitants of a town gathered together for a town meeting to discuss local administration. For this reason, it was called “town ball”.
*One of the veteran players who held the team together also served as its coach. A legacy of this is the fact that baseball coaches still wear the same uniform as the other players.
1845: In New York City, USA, a man named Alexander Cartwright, who had organized a team of volunteer firefighters, began to play town ball in order to strengthen the unity of the team members and give them needed exercise. Because the rules by which the game was played varied widely, Cartwright devised a standard set of rules for use in matches. These constituted a model for the modern rules of baseball.
1861-65: Because of the American Civil War, which took place during the final years of Japan’s Tokugawa shogunate, the baseball played in the northern United States spread to the south and became a nationwide sport.

(2.) The era of student baseball

1872: The American Horace Wilson taught baseball at the school that later became First Higher School, now called the University of Tokyo. Baseball spread from there to the whole country.
1894: Chuma Kanoe, a member of the First Higher School Baseball Team, translated the word baseball into Japanese as “yakyu”.

*Baseball initially gained popularity across Japan under the name of “batting tag”. It is not true that Masaoka Shiki, the father of modern haiku poetry, was the first to translate the word “baseball” into Japanese. This misconception derives from the fact that Masaoka wrote under the pen name of “Noboru”, his childhood name, which he incidentally spelt with the same Japanese characters as the ones used to spell the word “yakyu”. Still, Masaoka was responsible for the original translations of many other baseball-related terms, including the Japanese words for “batter”, “runner”, and “walk”. In 2002, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
1915: The National Secondary School Championship Baseball Tournament, now known as the Summer Koshien, was held for the first time.

(3.) The era of professional baseball

1934: A Major League team of elite players, including Babe Ruth, visited Japan. The Japanese team that they played against formed the core of the new Great Japan Tokyo Baseball Club, now called the Yomiuri Giants.
1936: Professional baseball started in Japan through the establishment by seven corporate-owned baseball teams of the Japan Professional Baseball Association.
1943: Student baseball was suspended because of the war. The next year, professional baseball was also suspended.
*During the war, when English was prohibited as an enemy language, Japanese baseball games replaced Anglicisms like “wan sutoraiku tsu boru” [one strike two balls] with native Japanese words.
1946: Student baseball, nonprofessional baseball, and professional baseball all resumed.
1950: The two-league system, composed of the Central League and the Pacific League, was established.
1953: Baseball matches were broadcast live on TV for the first time.
1973: The Yomiuri Giants won the Japan Series for a ninth consecutive time. Leading players included Oh Sadaharu and Nagashima Shigeo.

(4.) The era of the Japanese Major Leaguers

1995: Nomo Hideo, a pitcher for the Dodgers, became rookie of the year in the National League.
2009: Matsui Hideki, a player for the Yankees, was declared MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the World Series.
2009: Ichiro, a player for the Mariners, became the first person in the Major Leagues to have nine consecutive 200-hit seasons.
2013: Ichiro accumulated a combined total of 4,000 hits in both the United States and Japan.

Try using the steps and techniques shown above to research other topics.

Section 3 – Understanding an era through its historical figures

Making a biographical fact card
Let’s do some warm-up exercises to refresh your memory of the historical figures that you learned about in elementary school and take a step towards learning at middle school level. Look at the list of the forty-two main historical figures that were introduced in elementary school and select one who interests you or who you would like to study again. Make a biographical fact card about him or her, and then write a short essay.

The forty-two main historical figures learned in elementary school
Ancient period Himiko, Prince Shotoku, Ono no Imoko, Prince Naka no Oe, Nakatomi no Kamatari, Emperor Shomu, Gyoki, Ganjin, Fujiwara no Michinaga, Murasaki Shikibu, Sei Shonagon
Medieval period Taira no Kiyomori, Minamoto no Yoritomo, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, Hojo Tokimune, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, Sesshu
Premodern period Francis Xavier, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Tokugawa Iemitsu, Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige, Motoori Norinaga, Sugita Genpaku, Ino Tadataka
Modern period Matthew Perry, Katsu Kaishu, Saigo Takamori, Okubo Toshimichi, Kido Takayoshi, Emperor Meiji, Fukuzawa Yukichi, Okuma Shigenobu, Itagaki Taisuke, Ito Hirobumi, Mutsu Munemitsu, Togo Heihachiro, Komura Jutaro, Noguchi Hideyo

Writing a mini-biography in 100 words
Write a 100-word biography on one of the people you learned about in elementary school.

How to make a biographical fact card
(1.) It would be better to make a relatively large sized card of about B6 (12.5 cm. by 7.6 cm.) size.
(2.) First, write the name of the historical figure, including the pronunciation if necessary.
(3.) Next write the years of his or her birth and death within brackets.
(4.) In the upper-right corner, draw a likeness of the historical figure or else paste in a picture or photograph.
(5.) Write the text of the biography, aiming for 100 words.

(6.) Indent the first line in each paragraph or passage.

(7.) Insert any additional information or other notes after an asterisk sign.

From the forty-two choices, Hiroki selected Ganjin.

Hiroki’s fact card
Insert illustration

Ganjin (688-763)

Ganjin was a learned monk who introduced the highly disciplined Ritsu sect of Buddhism to Japan. In 742, he decided to make the dangerous voyage to Japan after being implored to do so by Japanese monks studying in China. On five occasions, he failed to reach Japan by sea, but even after he had gone blind he continued to try, and finally reached the Japanese city of Nara twelve years later in 754. By then, he was already sixty-seven years old.
For ten years, he expounded Buddha’s teachings in Japan and trained monks. He built Toshodai Temple in Nara and was elevated to the status of Daiwajo, the highest rank in the Buddhist clergy.

*Recently, some historians have suggested that Ganjin only went blind in his final years.

Writing a more detailed 400-word biography
Now let’s increase the number of words to 400 and go beyond the elementary school curriculum. This time, you will be free to select any historical figure who interests you.

The student Michiyo was interested in Tsuda Umeko, Japan’s first overseas schoolchild who returned home from abroad. In order to write a 400-word biography, you will need to go read books at the library.

Michiyo’s Report on Tsuda Umeko (1864-1929), the First Japanese Woman to Study Abroad

Tsuda Umeko was a Japanese educator active during the Meiji and Taisho periods who founded Tsuda College. In 1871, the Iwakura Mission left the port of Yokohama bound for the United States. There were a total of over one hundred people on board, including forty-six diplomatic envoys and forty-three international students. Five of those international students were Japan’s first female international students, including a girl named Tsuda Umeko who at that time was not quite seven years of age. Upon her small shoulders rested the immense task of becoming a model woman for the new Japan.

Umeko stayed with an American family in the suburbs of Washington DC and was brought up under their loving care. In addition to the English language, she studied a wide range of other fields, including French, mathematics, physics, and music, and she achieved outstanding grades.

She lived in the United States up to the age of seventeen, and then came back to Japan with the dream of founding a school for women there. However, she struggled because of the gap between the education she received in the United States and her Japanese education. Umeko went to the United States for a second time in order to further broaden her education, and then returned home. In 1900, she opened the Women’s Institute for English Studies, a private school providing one-on-one guidance to female students. The Women’s Institute for English Studies did not merely teach English, but rather, was revolutionary for attempting to provide women with a broad, cosmopolitan education and to instill them with a spirit of self-reliance.

Umeko understood English better than Japanese, and she even wrote all her lecture notes in English. And yet, she also warned that “Japan’s good qualities must never be abandoned”, and she wore traditional Japanese clothing to formal events such as graduation ceremonies. When Umeko met with US President Theodore

Roosevelt, the First Lady asked her, “What are the most important of Japan’s traditions?” Umeko responded, “Our loyalty and spirit of self-sacrifice.” Umeko’s answer deeply moved President Roosevelt, who was an admirer of Japan’s bushido spirit.

Researching a historical figure to understand the spirit of the times

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the spirit of past eras and how they are connected to the present day, let’s split into groups and try composing a full-fledged research project on a historical figure.

Let’s say that one group decided to research the life of Tanaka Hisashige, also known as Gadget Giemon, who was active during the waning years of the Edo period and the subsequent Meiji period. The members of this group also collected relevant photos and other material. The following is a model for their research presentation.

Research Presentation: The Life of Tanaka Hisashige, Pioneer Japanese Manufacturer

(1.) Early life

Tanaka Hisashige (1799-1881) was an inventor active during the waning years of the Edo period and the subsequent Meiji period who was widely known under the moniker “Gadget Giemon”. He was born in 1799 in the town of Kurume, then a part of Chikugo Province. His father was a tortoiseshell craftsman, and the young Hisashige, known by his childhood name of Giemon, grew up observing his father’s expert craftsmanship in action.

At the age of eight, Giemon showed an inkstone case that he had made to his friends at the private elementary school he attended. He asked them to open it, but none of them were able to. He then showed them that it could be opened easily by pulling a string attached to a mechanism within the case. Throughout his long life, he would never lose his mischievous love of pranks. For Giemon, surprising and amusing other people was what made life worth living.

(2.) Mechanical dolls

In the final decades of the Edo period, mechanical dolls, known as karakuri ningyo in Japanese, were the hottest new form of popular entertainment. The dolls were animated by springs, but they moved as if they were really alive and could even perform complex tasks like serving tea to customers. These mechanical dolls fascinated Giemon, who began inventing his own. During a festival at Gokoku Shrine in Kurume, he put on shows featuring the mechanical dolls which were a big hit.

At the age of fourteen, Giemon passed on the family business to his younger brother and travelled to Osaka, Kyoto, and Edo to give shows. That is how he became known nationwide as “Gadget Giemon”, or Karakuri Giemon in Japanese.

(3.) Creating a steam engine

Giemon had become famous as a showman in the mechanical doll business, but he wanted to invent things that would be useful to a greater number of people. He created a lamp that used compressed air to refuel itself automatically and a perpetual clock adjusted to the temporal hour system of timekeeping used in premodern Japan.

In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry arrived at the village of Uraga and forced Japan to open up to the outside world. However, one year before that, Giemon had already built a model steamship simply by observing a Russian steamship and checking its blueprint. Saga Domain, which was given responsibility for national defense by the Tokugawa shogunate, recruited Giemon following Perry’s arrival and asked him to construct another steam engine in Saga. In 1855, in the presence of the lord of Saga, Giemon successfully tested a model steam locomotive that could run on a railway track and a model steamship that could sail over water. Future Japanese prime minister Okuma Shigenobu was also observing the test and came to the decision, “Now let’s build the real thing, not just a model.”

(4.) A pioneer Japanese manufacturer

Even by the dawn of the Meiji period, Giemon’s passion for invention had not cooled. The Tanaka Factory, which he founded, developed into the modern-day Toshiba Corporation.

Japan’s tradition of manufacturing, which allowed Japan to succeed as an industrial nation, lies in the technology of the Edo period. The Japanese were once said to be a people lacking in creativity, but now Japanese inventions dominate global industries.

List of Tanaka Hisashige’s Inventions
Year (Tanaka’s age) Invention
1807 (8) Unopenable inkstone case
1820s Mechanical archer doll, mechanical tea serving doll
1834 (35) Pocket candle stand
1837 (38) Self-refueling oil lamp
1850 (51) Astronomical clock
1851 (52) Perpetual clock
1852 (53) Model steamship
1855 (56) Model steamship and steam locomotive
1863 (64) Armstrong gun
1871 (72) Keyless lock
1878 (79) Telephone (prototype)
Others: Ice-making machine, screw-cutting gauge, bicycle, rice-cleaning machine, camera, water pump, improved furnace, elliptical cutting lathe, cigarette-cutting machine, soy sauce extractor, oil extractor, time signal transmitter, etc…

Writing a well-structured biography: A biography should consist of an introduction, a body that builds up to the essay’s key points, and a conclusion, in the exact same way that a story has an exposition, a plot that rises to a climax, and a denouement. The exposition should be the start of your biography, which will gradually climb to the climax, or the height of the action. In the denouement, you can include any final remarks and anecdotes. If you save your historical figure’s greatest accomplishments for the climax, your biography will be more interesting and easier to understand.

Section 4 – Researching the history of a region

Let’s research the history of Shibuya! – Choosing a topic
Nao is a student at a Japanese middle school located in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward. Her class will be split into groups, each one of which will select a research topic relating to the history of Shibuya. Nao and her classmates began to contribute various ideas, based on the following checklist, about what sorts of historical objects, traditions, and sites they knew of within the area of Shibuya.

Ancient sites of habitation? Abandoned castles?
Shrines or temples? Tombstones or stone monuments?
Jizo statues? Photographs or paintings?
Antique maps? Old place names? Festivals?
Legends? Damage from air raids or wars?

Following this discussion, the class formed six research groups, each in charge of investigating one of the following topics.

(1.) The Jomon Research Group will investigate the restored Jomon period dwelling at Yoyogi Hachiman Shrine. Following the discovery of the remains of a post, archeologists and local middle school students worked together to study and restore the dwelling.

(2.) The Shibuya Castle Research Group will investigate the castle ruins located near Konno Hachiman Shrine. The Shibuya clan resided in the castle since around the end of the Heian period, but it burned down during a battle in 1524.

(3.) The Onden Research Group will investigate the woodblock print of a waterwheel in Onden. This illustration was made around the year 1830 by the famous Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai as part of his famous series of prints, Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji. It is said to depict a part of Shibuya, but the exact location is unclear.

(4.) The Fuji Hillock Research Group will investigate the Fuji hillock at Komori Hachiman Shrine. It was created in 1789 at a time when Mt. Fuji was venerated as a sacred mountain, though not just anyone was allowed to climb it. For this reason, small hillocks were created near Mt. Fuji as a representation of it. There are said to have been over sixty such sites in Tokyo.

(5.) The Koshin Hillock Research Group will research Koshin Hillock in Sendagaya. An era name dating to a year in the Edo period is written on it. On one night in the year of Koshin on the sexagenary cycle, the people of the region gathered together for a festival.

(6.) The Air Raid Research Group will investigate the Yamanote Air Raid Memorial in Omotesando. On May 25, 1945, this city where the memorial stands was reduced to ashes by an American air raid, and a great number of people were killed.

Let’s use a picture to study the history of a region!
Step 1 – Asking questions

Nao joined the “Onden Research Group” investigating Hokusai’s woodblock print. Nao and her group first took a careful look at the picture, and then collectively came up with the following list of questions and other points of interest that they noticed.

-Where is the river that appears in the woodblock print?
-The words “waterwheel at Onden” are written directly on the illustration.
-What are the people doing with the waterwheel?
-Though I have never heard of a place called “Onden” before, it might be called something different now.

Step 2 – Doing research at the library

When Nao and her group went to the library, they found maps dating to the Edo and Meiji periods. When they checked the location of modern-day Shibuya, they found a place called “Onden” written on the map in Japanese katakana characters!

What they learned at the library
Books like The History of Shibuya Ward and Map of the Cultural Treasures of Shibuya Ward provided Nao and her group with good, readable overviews of the history of Shibuya.

-Peasants and rice merchants used to come to the banks of the Shibuya River in order to use the waterwheel to clean rice and mill grains.
-In medieval times, the local samurai from Iga Province were granted residences and land in Onden and Harajuku. After the death of Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu put all the Iga samurai under his patronage and made them subordinates of Hattori Hanzo.

-The Tokugawa Shogunate strengthened its defenses on the main roads in order to protect Edo from foreign invasion. Koshu Highway in particular was designated as an emergency escape route for the shogun. The center of the defenses was Edo Castle’s Hanzo Gate, protected by Hattori Hanzo. Stationed on its north side were the musketeers of Okubo, on the south side in Harajuku and Onden were the Iga samurai, and on the west side were the Hachioji Guards.

Step 3 – Doing fieldwork on location

An interview with a local grocer
Nao and her group asked a grocer at the shopping center for directions to Shibuya River. The grocer told them the following.

“Until around the year 1955, this street was a river called Shibuya River. The river was covered over as part of Shibuya’s preparations for the opening of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Even now, its water flows underneath the ground. It’s a subterranean river. Are you familiar with the song Spring Brook that was made during the Taisho period? That song was about a branch of the Shibuya River. It was a smoothly flowing brook, just like the song says, before it was buried. Today, it is commemorated on a stone monument.”

What they learned on location
-Though the old place name has changed, it continues to appear in the names of some bus stops and shopping centers.
-The river was covered, but it continues to flow underground as a subterranean river.
-When Nao and her group walked through Shibuya while carefully observing their surroundings, they noticed vestiges of where the river once was, such as sloping terrain on both sides of it. As they went up the gentle slope leading to Shibuya Station, they realized that Shibuya was once a valley.
-As they compared the terrain with the old maps, they found that the shrines and temples were in the same locations as before and thus could be used as landmarks to verify their position.

Step 4 – Report your findings

The report of the Onden Research Group in the class studying the history of Shibuya was due on the date of ____________.

The illustration of the waterwheel at Onden appears to depict a familiar site, but in modern-day Shibuya, row after row of high-rise buildings have largely blocked Mt. Fuji from view.

First off, we tried looking for Onden on a map from the Edo period. We found a place called Onden that is today right in front of a shrine between the packed streets of Harajuku and the area around Omotesando. The place name of Onden, which has been written with both Japanese katakana and a variety of Chinese characters, unfortunately disappeared from maps in the year 1965. However, it survives in the names of Onden Shrine, Onden Bridge, and Onden Shopping Center.

(2.) Where was the waterwheel?

Immediately, we headed out to the shrine and asked the people there various questions in the hopes of discovering, for starters, the location of the river depicted on the old maps. The waterwheel was located on Shibuya River, which, we discovered, was in Ura Harajuku.

When the promenade at Ura Harajuku was mentioned to us, we recognized it immediately as the place where we used to play often as children. The river was flowing right underneath our feet!

(3.) Hattori the ninja!

From listening to the local people, we also learned that Onden was the home of the Iga samurai who were famous as ninjas. Tokugawa Ieyasu positioned the Iga samurai around Koshu Highway in order to protect Edo Castle. Koshu Highway was planned as an escape route for the shogun in case Edo Castle was attacked. For this reason, only Koshu Highway was permitted to run directly through Hanzo Gate, which was defended by the Iga samurai Hattori Hanzo. The shogunate’s defense plans, which also included the settling of musketeers in Okubo north of the highway, were amazingly meticulous.

As children, we saw for ourselves the narrow roads and dead end alleys that crisscross Ura Harajuku like a maze. Several people at the shopping center informed us that these were created deliberately to facilitate the defense of Edo Castle in case of an enemy attack. We would like to find more information to corroborate this.

(4.) Spring Brook was in Shibuya

Shibuya River was, in fact, the inspiration for the famous song Spring Brook. Try asking your parents or grandparents about this song. They will know the lyrics that start with, “The spring brook flows smoothly”, and could probably sing it together.

We were told that the song was composed by a man named Takano Tatsuyuki who lived in Yoyogi during the Taisho period. Perhaps the lyrics simply flowed into his mind just as smoothly as that brook he watched travel through the lowlands of Aoyama, Yoyogi, Harajuku, and Shibuya Station.

(5.) Conclusion

When we checked old maps from the Edo and Meiji periods up to the Showa period, we found place names like Harajuku Village, Onden Village, and Takeshita. Although Harajuku Village and Takeshita no longer exist, the names still survive as the nationally famous Harajuku District and Takeshita Street. By contrast, the name of Onden has almost completely disappeared. It may be convenient to forget the past, but we believe that the best way of honoring our ancestors is to investigate the history sleeping beneath our feet, to learn the names of the regions and natural environments they inhabited, and to hand this knowledge down to future generations.

Try using the steps and techniques shown above to research your own home region.