How can I understand Japan under the
In this chapter, you have learnt a lot about Japan under the Shoguns. Now is the time to put your
new knowledge and understanding together for the capstone project to show what you know and
what you think. In the world of construction, a capstone is an element which finishes off an arch or
tops off a building or wall. That is what the capstone project will offer you too; a chance to top off
and bring together your learning in interesting, critical, and creative ways. You can complete this
project yourself, or your teacher can make it a class task or a homework task.
Show what you know
Below are the big topic questions you’ve looked at in this chapter. To show what you know, pick one
of these options:
● Option 1: Write down a brief answer to each question below. At first, try to recall as much as
you can without checking the text. Then go back and see how much you remembered.
● Option 2: Pick the three questions you find most interesting and write a longer answer. For
these longer answers you can check the chapter and add more detailed information.
1. Why learn about the history of Japan?
2. What was life like before the shoguns?
3. Why did the shoguns take control?
4. How was Japanese society organised?
5. What was the role of women in medieval Japan?
6. How did the samurai help keep control in feudal Japan?
7. How were castle towns designed?
8. How did Hideyoshi rise to lead Japan?
9. How does Japanese art and culture reflect beliefs?
10. Why did Japan isolate itself from the world?
11. How did the emperor take back control from the shoguns?
Section 2: Show your thinking: Under what influences do societies change?
Japanese society underwent enormous changes in its long history. In this activity, you will judge how
societies change, using Japan as a ‘case study’. A case-study is a research method in which you use
one particular event, country, person, or ‘case’ in detail as an example of a broader issue.
Individually or in groups, investigate four periods in Japan’s history. Use the information in this
chapter as your guide, but do more research where needed.
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Record your information in a short report which you will share with your class. Include illustrations
and maps where possible. The four periods are:
1. Heian period in Japan: flourishing of art and literature 794—1185 CE (see H4.2 - H4.3)
2. Kamakura period and Muromachi period: Japan under military and shogun control 1185—
1573 CE (see H4.3 - H4.7)
3. Edo period: shogun controls an isolated Japan 1603—1867 CE (see H4.4 and H4.10))
4. The Meiji Restoration 1868—1914 CE (see H4.11)
For each period, answer the following questions:
● What were the key features and events of this period?
● How did Japan change during this period?
● What were the key factors and influences which caused the change? (Were they internal
[domestic] or external [international] factors? Which political, economic, or social factors
caused the change?)
After you have finished your report, exchange it with others or present it to the class so that you
everyone learns about the other periods.
Reflection: Under what influences do societies change?
● As a class, decide which period saw the most change to Japanese society.
● What were the main factors that caused that change? Which internal or external factors
were most important? Under what influences do societies change?
● All societies change, but sometimes change happens faster in a shorter period. Why do you
think that is?
● Can you think of recent examples of events which caused societies to change? What are
examples of slow and steady changes to societies? And which events have caused rapid
change? Are there some things in society which don’t change?
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