GEOGRAPHY OF JAPAN

Iris D. Zucker
Marble Hill High School for International Studies
Bronx, New York City

Introduction:

The lesson presented is designed to expose ninth grade students in both, English Language Arts and English as a Second Language classes, to the geography of Japan. The lesson serves as an introduction to any interdisciplinary unit or project on Japan. Through this lesson, students can identify geographical features and can analyze how they play an important role in the culture of Japan. If used as part of an introductory lesson, the students can relate these geographical features to any area of study of the country, and can further expand on how they affect life in Japan.

This lesson has been developed for the Japan 2002 Project, sponsored by the American Forum for Global Education. The goal of the project is to disseminate information about Japan and Asia to schools and communities throughout the nation.

I. Objectives:
Through this lesson students will be able to:
- Describe geographic features of different regions in Japan;
- Make comparisons of size, location and population density in Japan;
- Explore the physical features of the country;
- Explain how different variables influence the climate of Japan;
- Analyze how geography impact on the culture of Japan;
- Use an atlas to locate and label the names of major islands, bodies of water, cities, and prefectures of Japan.
- Predict what effects Japan's geographic locations have on people.

II. Aim: How has geography affected Japan's history and people?

III. Procedure:
1. Prior Knowledge Activity

- Have students make a list of things, names, places or words they know describing Japan.
- Create a graphic organizer on a chart or chalkboard
- Record words elicited from students.
- Categorize the words according to the following:
People, Politics, Religion, Culture, Place, Food, Geography, Education, Economy
- Use the words recorded in the graphic organizer as an introduction to Japan.

2. Show Japan on a Map.
- Ask questions regarding size, location, neighboring countries and special features.
- By looking at the map, ask questions regarding natural characteristics such as the mountainous terrain, surrounding bodies of water, the size, and location.
- Using the above characteristics, ask students to predict how they might affect life in Japan.

3. Provide students with the reading assignment ("Geographical Background," see attached).
4. Have students work in groups to identify the geographical features mentioned in the excerpt.
5. Provide a worksheet using the questions below to individually assess comprehension of the reading material.

- Why are there no long or large rivers in Japan?
- Why does Japan have little arable land?
- Why is most farmland located near the coasts of Japan?
- What is the largest island in Japan? Describe.
- What two kinds of natural disasters have threatened Japan over the centuries?
- Which of the four major islands is least densely populated?
- Where are areas of high population density generally located?
- Why is fish such a popular source of food in Japan?
- Why does Japan have little land for farming?
- Why are there no long or large rivers in Japan?

IV. Materials
- Classroom set of World Atlas books
- Map of Japan
- Geographical Background Handout
- Worksheets and Outline Maps

V. Vocabulary
(For ESL Beginning level) Find the words and identify them according to their context in the geographical excerpt:

Tsushima Hokkaido Kyushu Japan Alps
Nagasaki Hiroshima Okhotsk Kuroshio
Honshu Mount Fuji Osaka Sapporo
Yokohama Seismology Prefectures Shikoku
Tokyo Kyoto Matsumaya Shimagum
Kurile


VI. Application and Summary
Use a map worksheet to outline and label the following:

Cities: Bodies of Water: Mountain: Countries: Islands:

Tokyo Sea of Japan Mt. Fuji Japan Hokkaido
Yokohama Pacific Ocean the former Soviet Union Honshu
Osaka Inland Sea People's Republic of China Kyushu
Nagoya East China Sea North Korea Shikoku
Kyoto Sea of Okhotsk South Korea Okinawa
Sapporo Kuriles
Kobe
Hiroshima


VII. Follow-Up Activity
Ask students to write a theme exploring one of the following topics:
1) Factors that make it difficult for Japan to have extensive agriculture
2) Overpopulation in the urban areas
3) Problems if population rapidly increases
4) The importance of the sea to the Japanese economy

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