Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts America’s Wild West vs. Japan’s Wild North: Comparing and Contrasting Methods of Expansionism and Settler Colonialism

America’s Wild West vs. Japan’s Wild North: Comparing and Contrasting Methods of Expansionism and Settler Colonialism

C3 Social Studies Standards
D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
D2.His.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.
D2.His.4.9-12. Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
D2.His.6.9-12. Analyze the ways in which the perspectives of those writing history shaped the history that they produced.
D2.His.16.9-12. Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.
D4.1.9-12. Construct arguments using precise and knowledgeable claims, with evidence from multiple sources, while acknowledging counterclaims and evidentiary weaknesses.

AP US History Standards
Key Concept 4.2 — Innovations in technology, agriculture, and commerce powerfully accelerated the American economy, precipitating profound changes to U.S. society and to national and regional identities.
I. New transportation systems and technologies dramatically expanded manufacturing and agricultural production.
III. Economic development shaped settlement and trade patterns, helping to unify the nation while also encouraging the growth of different regions.
Key Concept 4.3 — The U.S. interest in increasing foreign trade and expanding its national borders shaped the nation’s foreign policy and spurred government and private initiatives.
I. Struggling to create an independent global presence, the United States sought to claim territory throughout the North American continent and promote foreign trade.
Key Concept 5.1 — The United States became more connected with the world, pursued an expansionist foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, and emerged as the destination for many migrants from other countries.
I. Popular enthusiasm for U.S. expansion, bolstered by economic and security interests, resulted in the acquisition of new territories, substantial migration westward, and new overseas initiatives.
Key Concept 6.1 — Technological advances, large-scale production methods, and the opening of new markets encouraged the rise of industrial capitalism in the United States.
I. Large-scale industrial production—accompanied by massive technological change, expanding international communication networks, and pro-growth government policies—generated rapid economic development and business consolidation.
Key Concept 6.2 — The migrations that accompanied industrialization transformed both urban and rural areas of the United States and caused dramatic social and cultural change.
II. Larger numbers of migrants moved to the West in search of land and economic opportunity, frequently provoking competition and violent conflict.

1. Students will be able to place American expansionism in a larger global context.
2. Students will be able to discern the differences between empire, imperialism, colonialism, and settler colonialism.
3. Students will be able to compare and contrast the ways in which the U.S. and Japan engaged in settler colonialism.
4. Students will be able to develop an argument discussing the ways in which Japan was influenced by the United States in its development of Hokkaido in the late 1800s.

1. Review the five definitions of expansion. Discuss examples from world history that fit those definitions. Be sure that these examples also include Japan. Then, discuss how the US fits the definition of settler colonialism based on policies enacted during the period of Westward Expansion. Explain that even though we do not usually think of Japan as a nation that engaged in settler colonialism, they were inspired by Western nations such as the US in the ways in which they developed and settled Hokkaido.
2. Explain that the goal of the lesson is to be able to identify similarities and differences between settlement in Japan and the American West. As a warm up think-pair-share activity, pass out the map of the Hokkaido historical village and/or project photos of buildings from the village. Give students a moment to individually write down any thoughts they have as they view the map and photos. Then, have students partner up and discuss what they noticed about the images. Finally, ask for volunteers to share with the class the ways in which the photos were similar and different to images of the American settler lifestyle.
3. Divide the group into 5 focus area groups: Development, Treatment of Natives/Indigenous Peoples, Ideology and Missionary Zeal, Economic Benefits, and Agricultural Techniques. Each group should read their assigned excerpts from their focus area packet and summarize their findings on the graphic organizer.
4. Then, the group will make a large venn diagram on a poster or butcher paper and will compare and contrast ways in which the United States and Japan experienced developments in their focus area from1840-1900. The students should have at least 3-4 specific pieces of information within each part of the venn diagram.
5. When all groups are finished, students will present their venn diagrams to the class. During the presentations, all other focus area groups should record the highlights of the presentation into the graphic organizer.
6. Students will use the graphic organizer to address the following LEQ prompt for homework: How did ideals and developments from American expansion influence foreign nations? Predict what issues and challenges the U.S. may face in the 1900s as a result of these expansionist tendencies.
All resources for this lesson, including handouts, are available via Google Drive at this web link:

Instead of assigning groups of students to be subject experts, teachers may decide to assign one source to each group based on the reading level of the students. Students can also view a packet of sources from a variety of focus areas in order to shorten the lesson.
For non-AP students, small groups might work on developing a thesis statement that answers the prompt instead of writing an essay. The teacher may also choose to outline a potential essay with the whole class in lieu of assigning individual essays in order to reinforce procedures for historical writing.
For more advanced classes, students may be assigned the readings prior to class so that they can use the class period to work on the Venn diagrams and presentations.

Students may research another area of the world that was influenced by American ideologies regarding expansion and settlement in the 1800s. Students should be able to find one secondary source from a reputable website and create their own Venn diagram with the similarities and differences between the U.S. and the country they chose.

Chance, F.L. [Foreign Policy Research Institute]. (2018, April 3). Hokkaido cultures [YouTube]. Retrieved August 1, 2018 from

Dash, M. (2013, June 20). The Octogenarian Who Took on the Shoguns. Retrieved August 1, 2018, from

Hokkaido Museum. (n.d.). Recent History of the Ainu. Retrieved August 1, 2018, from

Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau. (2016). A journey into the history and culture of Hokkaido[Pamphlet]. Sapporo, Japan: Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau. Retrieved August 1, 2018, from

Historical Village of Hokkaido Area Map[Pamphlet]. (n.d.). Sapporo, Japan: Historical Village of Hokkaido. Retrieved August 1, 2018, from

History of Development in Hokkaido. (n.d.). Retrieved August 1, 2018, from

Iwama, K. (2009). Agriculture in Hokkaido. Sapporo, Japan: Laboratory of Crops Science, Research Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido University. Retrieved August 1, 2018, from

Oka, T. (1981, October 15). Hokkaido: Japan’s last frontier. Retrieved August 1, 2018, from

Schaefer, A. (2016). “Go west, [old] man.” Vanderbilt Historical Review,(Spring 2016). Retrieved August 1, 2018, from

Seaton, P. (2017). Japanese Empire in Hokkaido. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.013.76. Retrieved August 1, 2018, from

  • Erika Lundstedt
  • Saint Ursula Academy
Grade Level
  • High School: 10, 11, 12
  • Collage: Freshman
Time Frame
  • 60-80 minutes

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