Year 8 Shogunate Japan

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion – Kinkaku-ji  a temple and villa dating back to the 14th Century and  the 3rd Shogun of Ashikaga.  (taken by HGTL Sept 1998)

This has been the most challenging topic I have had to resource recently.  Many  textbooks have excellent chapters on this era in Japan but there doesn’t seem to be an excess of digital information (unlike another Yr 8 topic – Medieval Europe).  I have particularly found the environmental (dot point 3) difficult.

Aug 2012 – It appears that this is my most popular guide.  Would love to know who is using it and how?  Please consider a comment or an email (see about/contact). This might help me decide my next guide (currently working on Ancient China for Yr 7). Thanks!

Australian Curriculum  – Shogunate Japan (c.794 – 1867)

  • The way of life in Shogunate Japan, including social, cultural, economic and political features (including the feudal system and the increasing power of the shogun) (ACDSEH012)
  • The role of the Tokugawa Shogunate in establishing a feudal system (based on daimyo and samurai) and in increasing foreign trade (ACDSEH063)
  • The use of environmental resources in Shogunate Japan and the forestry and land use policies of the Tokugawa Shogunate (ACDSEH064)
  • The significance of modernisation and westernisation in the decline of the shogunate, including the adoption of Western arms and technology (ACDSEH065)

General Information

The first place many kids will go is Wikipedia.  In the case of Shogunate Japan the information is quite good and well referenced. However, it is quite text dense. May I suggest the often forgotten school or local library databases (encyclopedias) . To use effectively, generate a set of keywords or terms, such as:  Japan – history, samurai, Japanese warriors, damaiyo house codes, Bushido, feudal,  military elite, shogun (military ruler), shogunate, Tokugawa,  and look these up and you will get hits such as

Shogunate. (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

I can’t provide links to such sites as they are “by subscription” but here are some hints

Look up specific topics for the best information eg Samurai, Shogun, Meiji, Japan History – NB Britannica is better than World Book for this topic

Follow these steps – Modern World History>Japan:Modern History>Japan:Meiji Restoration      OR  Ancient and Medieval History> Japan: Medieval> Japan, Medieval: Tokugawa Shogunate

See topics such as Tokugawa Shogunate, Meiji Restoration, Samurai

Search for specific topics like Tokugawa Shogunate, Meiji Japan

Textbook chapters:

Links to Shogunate Japan chapters in two popular Australian texts: (note  – uncorrected page proofs)

Way of Life in Shogunate Japan, Feudal System and the role of Tokugawa

  • Fill in Feudal System Chart – this is a basic chart that would be good with an IWB or smartboard

This is an excellent PBS Series called Empires – Japan, Memoirs of a Secret Empire and an accompanying website.  This site has all a novice on this era could want.  More specifically there are sections on different types of people such as shogunsamurai, craftsmen etc, a timeline and a glossary.  The video and website would be my starting point for most classes.

The Will of the Shogun Uploaded to Youtube by  on Mar 30, 2009

During the reign of the Tokugawa Shoguns, Japan’s emperor reigned in Kyoto whilst the Shogun lived and ruled the country from Edo (known today as Tokyo). This site will take you on an interactive tour of Edo, and looks at what life was like there in the 18th century. In this site, when you move the mouse over the images, sometimes pop-up boxes will appear with further information. If you can’t see all the text in the box, go to the “View” menu, then to “Text Size” and select a smaller size.

This website attempts to briefly explore the military aspects of Japan’s history from the Early through Pre-Modern periods. It focuses on the Samurai but there is a good deal here about more general Japanese history. As of April 2012 it seems to only go up to 1200 AD (unless I am navigating it incorrectly) Includes biographies of famous samurais, translations of original daimyo house codes, and samurai culture. Quite text rich  –  for more able students

A PDF from Colorado University that focusses on primary sources as a way to learn about samurai and daimyo life in medieval Japan (1185-1603).

A short overview of the samurai with a sidebar that links to museum objects.

More tourist type information and LOTS of ads, but easy to understand and visually appealing

Impact of the West

Very useful for primary source images and brief history but hard to navigate

Units of Work

Note: parts of the above guide have been influenced by a Libguide I constructed whilst working at my previous school. This guide and others are readily available in the public domain and can be located through typing Shogunate Japan into the libguide community site.



14 thoughts on “Year 8 Shogunate Japan

  1. Thanks for these links.
    As a first year teacher, I have found Shogunate Japan extra tricky to plan for.
    I also found the PBS doco a great help.
    Another doco I used was Kublai Khan’s Lost Fleet. It focuses on The Divine Wind/Mongol invasion.
    Thanks again

    Posted by Kat | June 2, 2012, 9:26 pm
  2. Thank you for the idea. I can’t say I have heard of the film but I have found a link to it. At what stage of the unit would you use it? I imagine it fits within the increasing power of the shoguns/role of samurai in society?

    Posted by hgtl | June 7, 2012, 4:47 pm
  3. AGREE about environmental resource outcome. One of our students found this pdf chapter on Forestry in Feudal Japan BUT nothing else so far.

    Posted by Brett Gore | August 12, 2012, 7:45 pm
  4. I am new to secondary and this has been the best help! Thank you to all for sharing.

    Posted by Lisa O'Donoghue | April 18, 2013, 2:22 pm
  5. thank you for this valuable information, it is great that there is so much, I have been spending hours on the internet finding different resources so as to give students a wider perspective and not just from one source.

    Posted by maria | May 14, 2013, 11:58 am
  6. The programs are available on youtube for anyone who’s school doesn’t have real player (old technology) – The way of the samaurai; the will of the shogun and the return of the barbarians. Oh and thanks for this information. Big help!

    Posted by Nicole | August 1, 2013, 3:54 pm
  7. Thank you for creating this fabulous resource package. This will make classrooms around the country rich in the variety of material they can use. It will certainly make my classroom more exciting.

    Posted by Victoria | October 4, 2013, 10:22 am
  8. A very comprehensrive and useful resource – thank you.

    Posted by Madeleine | January 22, 2014, 3:10 pm
  9. I am new to teaching History and have found this website invaluable in giving me links to the knowledge I need to be able to teach this area. Thank you.

    Posted by Peter | June 1, 2014, 3:50 pm
  10. Thank you for putting together these resources. I appreciate the sharing of so many valuable materials.

    Posted by Danielle | July 2, 2014, 3:52 pm
  11. thank you for these websites. it really helps. 🙂

    Posted by Maria | March 2, 2016, 11:13 am
  12. I stumbles across this website after struggling to find some sort of lesson plan/unit sequence and this has been a god send! Thank you so much, it’s still relevant four years later and a great help to a pre-service teacher finding his way on placement 🙂

    Posted by Will | April 10, 2018, 6:28 pm


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