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If you are new around here, this year we are working our way through Around the World with Picture Books from Beautiful Feet Books for science, history, geography, and art. After we finish each country, I’m sharing a blog post of our favorite books, crafts, activities, videos, and more.

The first country we completed was China and you can find the blog post on everything we did HERE. We completed our second country of Japan the past two weeks and had a great time learning so many different things. Our main topics of interest we studied more closely were red crowned cranes, ninjas and samurai (my boys request), and kimonos.

Introducing the Country

Just like we did for China, to begin and introduce the country to my kids, we first found Japan on our world map and moved our airplane cut-out. We painted a replica of the Japanese flag (printable from Traveling the World from the Waldock Way.) We then paint or color the country and label its main features and cities. We look through and read the pages on Japan from Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and DK Countries of the World. At the bottom they also add the current popular, capital, and language spoken. For this country we also used the book Geography from A-Z to learn about how Japan is an archipelago. My kids love reading about a child from each country from the book Children Just Like Me.


Each week we did 4 lessons from Around the World with Picture Books; only one lesson per day. This curriculum guides you on what picture books to read, discussion questions, and additional information. From this guide, our favorite books on Japan were The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks and A Pair of Red Clogs. They weren’t too fond of the story The Funny Little Woman, because it has some creepy monster characters, so just a heads up if you have sensitive children.

We added many additional books to go with our specific topics of interest that I will share below.

Read Alouds

Our read aloud for this month was Magic Tree House: Night of the Ninjas. The kids liked it and it was a very quick read. My 3rd grader also read Hachiko Waits as her independent reader. I read it as well so we could discuss it together. It was such a great book; definitely a sad, but happy ending. There is also a movie based on the book too, you could watch.

Red Crowned Crane

We read many picture books about cranes, not just the red crowned crane. Our favorite story was The Crane Girl about a Japanese folk tale. The Boy in the Garden is the same folk tale told in a different way, so you wouldn’t have to read both if you didn’t want to. Luck is a great story about the migration of the cranes.

After reading some stories, we also watched videos on YouTube of the red crowned crane. The ones from BBC are great and short. We then did THIS crane art tutorial from Art for Kids Hub and colored it to look like a red crowned crane. On their drawing they wrote one or two facts they learned about the red crowned crane.

Since origami originated in Japan, we also made paper cranes using THIS video tutorial. It was my children’s idea to use white paper and color its features to look like the red crowned crane.

Ninjas and Samurai’s

My boys have been begging to learn about ninjas since they found out Japan was next, so of course that is what we did, and we had a lot of fun with it.

We read LOTS of fun books about ninjas, and there are many more out there. Our favorites were the series of books based on fairytales by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, but with ninjas! (The Three Ninja Pigs, Hensel & Gretel Ninja Chicks, and Ninja Red Riding Hood) The stories were funny and rhymed beautifully, making it fun to read. Hello Ninja was also a great book and we discovered it was made into a show on Netflix, so we watched a few episodes.

Of course we had to learn some ninja moves, and loved THIS series of videos on YouTube from channel DojoGo!

THIS was a great book to read together throughout the week all about the difference between ninjas and samurai. We then completed a venn diagram in their notebooks on the similarities and differences of each. THIS is also a very informative video you can watch on YouTube.

We made this simple ninja craft out of circles. We used one page of white card stock and one colored construction paper (any color.) We used a bowl to trace a large circle on both pages. Cut out the circles and then cut a section out of the middle of the construction paper, about 2 inches wide. We glued the colored paper pieces to the card stock circle, added eyes, and cut the “ties” for the head piece from the excess construction paper. Last part was to cut 2 small holes in the bottom of the circle (I did this part) so they can put their fingers through them to use as the ninja’s legs. They though this craft was hilarious and was simple to make.


Our final topic we studied about was the Japanese Kimono. We loved reading Suki’s Kimono and researching the history of the kimono online. We used the Japanese Mini Unit from Juice Box Homeschool to make these paper dolls and kimonos out of coffee filters. It was another great, simple craft to complete together. In the mini unit we also learned many different Japanese phrases and wrote them in our notebooks. This unit has many other craft ideas, word searches, and more that is perfect to add to your Japan study!


As we were working our way through some of the lessons in Around the Picture Books, I added some simple activities to go with them.

When we learned about some of the animals in Japan and read about the mandarin duck, we also labeled its parts in our notebook.

We also painted cherry blossom trees using Q-tips for the petals and blossoms. We looked up some more information about the blossoms in the book DK Trees, Leaves, Flowers, and Seeds. This also led us to look up some photos on Google of the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival (it’s beautiful!) and read about it in the Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World.

Of course, we had sushi for dinner one night as well. We ordered it in and worked together to create a traditional place setting on the floor for us to dine. My kids are pretty picky eaters, but I was impressed that they tried some miso soup and a simple California roll. I made them some cucumber slices to go with it and they had fun trying to use chopsticks to eat.

Although we did not get to it as much as I was hoping, we did read a bit about the Silk Road and did this handicraft from Little World Wanderers, making our own textile using the Japanese technique of Shibori.

Thank you for reading about all the things we learned about as we traveled to Japan! I hope you got some inspiration to use for your world studies. Next we are moving on to Thailand and I will have a blog post to come when we finish.

If you need some help in planning these Around the World studies, I have a highlight on my Instagram (ATW Planning) sharing this curriculum and my process. I will also be sharing more soon on how I plan 6 weeks in advance, each week at a time, and how I gather all the resources needed.

Wishing you a blessed week!

13 Replies to “Around the World: Japan Unit Study”

  1. This is incredible! Thank you so much for sharing!
    So you said you did 4 lessons per week, how did you divide it? Like, did you focus a lesson on Geography and another on history and so forth?
    Thanks again, I am very inclined to follow in your footsteps for my first grader next year.

    1. You’re welcome!! Yes we only do school 4 days a week so 4 lessons roughly, some divided into 2 days. The first day is when we do the map labeling and flag. Then each day after we focus on a new topic, usually the order in which I share them on my blog posts 😊 (if there are more projects for a particular topic I’ll do it over 2 days)

  2. Hi, what is the book you have pictured that has cranes in it? I have a LOT of animal/bird books and encyclopedias and was so surprised none of them have information about cranes!

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