Lesson Plan: The Samurai’s New Shoes
Juryo Mitsumasa, Haruta Katsumitsu, and others, Japan
This lesson exposes students to the significance of the samurai in Japanese historical culture. Students will study the different features of the samurai Suit of Armor, brainstorm what materials were used to create each element, and compare the suit to what the teacher is wearing. The students will then use this knowledge to design shoes for the samurai, focusing on the materials available and artisans needed.
21st Century Learning Skills Addressed:
- Critical Thinking and Reasoning
- Information Literacy
2009 Colorado Academic Standards Primary Area Addressed:
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Envision and Critique to Reflect
- Invent and Discover to Create
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
Additional 2009 Colorado Academic Standards Addressed:
- Oral Expression and Listening
- Writing and Composition
- Research and Reasoning
Length of Lesson
The materials and skills required to create the Suit of Armor vary. In designing their own shoes for this Suit of Armor, students must reference the suit and think about what materials might have been available at the time. This activity develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and expands students’ understanding of the world, other cultures, and the art forms they use.
Students will be able to:
- identify and describe the significance of at least three elements on the Suit of Armor;
- explain why different artisans were required for creating the suit;
- apply their understanding about the samurai armor to a unique design for the samurai’s shoes; and
- draw and label at least two views of their own student-designed samurai shoe.
- Paper or journals for each student to write down thoughts and/or sketch out their ideas
- Assorted coloring utensils, including crayons, colored pencils, and markers
- One or two 9 x 12 inch sheets of paper for each student
- About the Art sheet on the Suit of Armor (found at the end of the lesson plan) or student access to this part of Creativity Resource online
- One color copy of the suit for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Show the students the Japanese Suit of Armor. Using the About the Art sheet, share information and details about how the suit would have been used and who would have used it.
- Explain to the students that this suit was made to serve more than one purpose. How would this suit protect somebody if it was worn in a battle? How could the samurai suit be used in other ways (such as for ceremonial purposes, parades, etc.)?
- Using the About the Art sheet, walk through each element of the Suit of Armor and talk about why it may have been important.
- Highlight the idea that constructing samurai suits of armor required many different skilled artisans (such as metalsmiths, leather workers, and fabric weavers). Have the students look at the clothes you are wearing today. You may want to plan an outfit ahead. For example, you may want to wear leather shoes, metal jewelry, a woven sweater, a dyed scarf, or a stitched/patchwork jacket. How many different skilled people created parts of your outfit? Have the students point out each article of clothing or accessory and brainstorm the type of artisan who might have made it. Why are different artisans needed to make each part of your outfit? Each part of the samurai Suit of Armor? What parts of your outfit remind them of the Suit of Armor?
- After looking extensively at each part of your outfit and the Suit of Armor, brainstorm with the students what samurai shoes might have looked like. What materials might have been used to make samurai shoes? Based on the rest of the suit, what materials would have been available? What decorations might have appeared on them? Why might a samurai need to wear shoes? How would function affect design?
- Have the students draw sketches of their vision of samurai shoes. Students should draw two or three views of these shoes—front, back, or side—using a variety of coloring utensils.
- Make sure the students concentrate on what materials would be used to construct their shoe, and encourage them to draw their shoes accordingly. For example, if students think leather shoes would work best for a samurai, have them think about the various colors of leather. Also have them keep in mind the specific skills that might be necessary to make their shoes (such as curing hides for leather, carving wood, melting iron, punching holes for laces, weaving laces, etc.).
- Have the students label their shoe drawings, listing the materials they are made from and the artisans (or skills) required for each part of the shoe. The younger grades could brainstorm about these things and share their ideas with the class in a large group show-and-tell discussion.