Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Development of Feudalism in Japan and its Presence in Japan Today

The Development of Feudalism in Japan and its Presence in Japan Today

Standards: 7.5 Students analyze the geographic, economic, religious, and social structure of the civilizations of Medieval Japan

Students will understand the development of feudalism and the lasting evidence of feudalism in Japan today.

Introduction/Anticipatory Set:
• Show students PowerPoint slides of various feudal castles in Japan
• Students will answer the following questions as a “Bell Work” activity or “Warm-up” activity at the beginning of class.
o What are the castles made of?
o What are some details you notice in the structure of the castle?
o What surrounds the castle?
o Is this similar to or different from other castles you have seen in pictures or movies?
o Why do you think these castles were built this way?
• Students may complete this individually or in a group setting. Notes can be taken on paper, on individual whiteboards, on post-it notes to be shared, or using an online tool such as Google Classroom.
• Allow time for students to discuss answers to the questions. Sharing their ideas and listening to ideas from other students will provide more background knowledge for students to begin this lesson with.

Focused Reading:
• Students will read The Development of Feudalism in Japan together. In order to increase engagement and comprehension the following procedure will be followed:
o Number each paragraph in the reading
o First Reading
Ask students to scan the reading one time looking at the title, headings, vocabulary words and definitions, and images.
Ask students what the reading is about. At this point they will only have a vague idea; however, it is important to ask students to think about the process of skimming they just completed.
o Second Reading
The second reading is can be completed in a variety of ways.
• Choral Reading (Teacher and students read together)
• Snake Reading (Students take turns reading sentences or paragraphs as they “snake” through the room)
• Stop and Go Reading (The teacher or a student reads. At various times the teacher or student stops and the rest of the class choral reads the next word. This helps to keep students engaged even when they are not the main readers)
• At the end of the reading ask students to turn and talk to their partner about the material. Ask students to share their thoughts or opinions aloud or on the whiteboard.
o Final Reading
Students will use their pens/highlighters to carefully examine the reading. They will do the following:
• Underline important ideas
• Circle words they do not know
• Question marks next to words they do not understand
• Write a quick “summary” of each paragraph in the margin. This summary does not have to be a complete sentence. It can be a short phrase that helps students remember the main idea of the paragraph.
• If time permits, ask students to share with a partner why they circled, underlined, or put question marks next to words or phrases. This helps develop students’ metacognitive skills. You can have students complete a Collaborative Annotation Chart when first learning the skills of annotation.

Reading Comprehension Activity:
• Students will complete the Feudalism in Japan Problem Solution Chart.
o Students should use evidence from the text to support their “solutions” to the problems presented.
o Any specified vocabulary should be included in their answers.
• This activity can be completed individually, in partners, or in groups.
• Answers can be reviewed/presented in various ways as well. Each group can present one response, students can move around the room and share answers, answers can be written on the board, etc.

Connection to Japan Today:
• Students will be assigned a historical site in Japan related to feudalism
• Students will research the site, its role in the development, preservation, or ______ or feudalism in Japan. They will also describe the importance of this location today.
• Students will complete a research project based on their findings. See attached form for directions.

The Development of Feudalism in Japan Reading can be modified to fit the reading levels of your students.
The Development of Japan Problem-Solution Chart can include sentence starters to help students with an IEP and ELL students.
Visuals are encouraged to go along with the reading. It helps students comprehend and connect with the material.
The research project can be modified to fit the needs of individual students.

Students can compare and contrast feudalism in Japan and feudalism in Europe. They can complete a similar activity describing the lasting evidence of feudalism in Europe today.

Reading modified from Holt Medieval to Early Modern Times

  • Chelsea Maxwell
  • Los Alisos Intermediate School
Grade Level
  • Middle School: 6, 7, 8
Time Frame
  • 3-4 60-minute periods

If you have any questions about this lesson plan, or if you wish to contact the author, please email us at