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Tokaido 東海道 General Introduction
Why Tokaido?

The unit teaches students history of the Edo period in Japan (1600-1868), one of the most fascinating times in Japanese history. After two centuries of bloody wars, a feudal lord (shogun) took over the country, and the new centralized government built a highly organized feudal system that ushered in two hundreds and seventy years of peace. In the nineteenth century, this system collapsed, and Japan re-opened its door to the world after two hundred years of seclusion.

Tokaido or “Eastern Sea Road” refers to the major highway connecting Kyoto, the residence of the emperor, and Edo (Tokyo), where the shogun lived. Tokaido was a stage where historical events took place and culture blossomed in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. The fifty-three post stations along the road were subjects frequently represented in the arts and literature, as in ukiyoe (literally, “pictures of floating world”), Japanese woodblock prints that depicted how people traveled, worked, and lived during the period. Tokaido is also a symbol of Japan’s development. The route of the ancient eastern sea road, where feudal lords once traveled by palanquin, is now traversed by the bullet trains. The historical persistence of this throughway in Japanese history, arts, and culture make Tokaido a portal for modern-day students to understand the Edo era and the political and economical development of Japan. It also brings geography into lessons.


Objectives Students will be able to...
  History Standards:
  • demonstrate understanding of key historical realities of the Edo period
  • compare and contrast coetaneous periods of Japanese history to U.S. history
  • present an aspect of social transformation from past to present (e.g., transportation, technology, occupations, social systems)
  Second Language Standards
  • describe scenery and nature
  • narrate past events and incidents
  • express aspects

Unit 1: Tokugawa Japan 徳川幕府
  The first unit introduces students to key historical realities of the Edo period. Students put Edo history into perspective by comparing coetaneous periods of Japanese history to U.S. history.
Unit 2: Tokaido Travelers 東海道の旅人たち
  The second unit allows students to access history through the art of the period. They study ukiyoe, illustrating the variety of social classes and activities typical of travelers on Tokaido, thereby deepening their understanding of the society and social system in the period. Students personalize the material by developing a Web site comparing the lives of people in the Edo period to their own.
Unit 3 : Kaempfer’s Journey ケンペルの見た日本
  Unit 3 invites students to meet travelers on Tokaido through literary texts, arts, and popular culture. Students read the eyewitness journal of a German doctor, Engelbert Kaempfer, who traveled the road, accompanying feudal lords in their processions to Edo. As a final group project, students make a kamishibai (picture-story show) based on an ukiyoe. Students present what they’ve learned by using new vocabulary from this unit, describing scenery, and narrating a past event.

Teacher Contributed Materials
  By Sandy Garcia, Forrest Grove High School, Oregon

1. Presentation of Gokaido ( PowerPoint )

2. Presentation of Edo period ( PowerPoint )
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