A Year in Japan: Folktales, Songs and Art for the Classroom (2nd Edition 2012)

A book of resources for elementary school teachers who wish to teach about Japan in an authentic, fun and engaging way. It teaches about festivals, national holidays, and seasonal activities in Japan throughout the year, using folktales, traditional children’s songs and art.


“What more could I need to make the Japan that I had so quickly come to love easily accessible to my students?”

Sara Ingram, Enrichment Teacher, Old Saybrook public Schools, CT


“(This book) provides a comprehensive array of teacher-friendly materials about the arts of Japan with explicit direction so that teachers who are not familiar with Japanese lore will have no trouble bringing to their students the same games, stories, songs and crafts that children in Japan also enjoy throughout the year.”

Mary M. Kitagawa,

Author of Enter Teaching!: The Essential Guide for Teachers New to Grades 3-6

For purchase inquiry please fill out this form

This book contains 12 chapters, with each chapter representing one month. Following the Japanese school year, the chapters start with April and end with March. Each chapter includes the following sections.


1. Cultural Information Page See April Sample Page

The first page after the title page explains what the festival or holiday is about and how it is celebrated. It also gives its origin and a brief history. Key Japanese words are introduced and explained.


2. School is Cool! See April Sample Page

This section contains up-to-date information about public elementary education in Japan, including the school systems and schedules, school lunch and dress codes, special events and field trips, and Japanese writing system.


3. Music See April Sample Page

All songs were chosen from standard Japanese children's repertoire taught in elementary schools. Some of them are ancient, while others were written and composed in the early 20th century. Most songs are presented in their entirety. For longer songs, however, only the first verse is shown. In addition to traditional Japanese lyrics, each piece has original English lyrics written by Motoko Dworkin and Eshu Bumpus. The English lyrics, rather than being a direct translation, are designed to fit the melodic structure of each song.


4. Story See April Sample Page

All the stories are traditional folktales with original texts by Motoko Dworkin. These tales teach not only about the festivals and Japanese culture, but also the universality of human experiences and values such as kindness, responsibility, courage, and friendship.


5. Art See April Sample Page

Each art activity is connected to the particular theme of the festival or holiday, and can be done with materials easily accessible. Most are standard projects Japanese children do at home and in school. Ready-to-photocopy templates are included for some projects.


6. Topics for Research and Discussion See April Sample Page

This section also includes suggested readings and additional cultural information.


Motoko Dworkin

© 2021 All rights reserved