Children's Day Lesson

Children's Day Lesson

Unit Title: Celebrating Kodomo no hi (Children’s Day)

By Tara McGowan

Language Arts/ Social Studies/Visual Arts (K-8)

Unit goals/ Standards:

CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on other’s ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively

CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally

CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words


Lesson Plan One: (Grades K-8)

Day 1: (45-50 minutes) Samurai helmet-making

Day 2: (45-50 minutes) Sumō Wrestling

Lesson Plan Two:   (Grades K-8)

Day 1: (40-50 minutes) Making koinobori (carp streamers)


Essential questions:

1)      What characteristics of the samurai warrior continue to be important in Japan and valued in the rest of the world?  

2)      How are physical, spiritual, and mental strength and endurance related and how do people develop these traits?

3)      What symbols of resilience, vitality, and strength do we value in our own culture(s) today and how do they compare to the samurai?

Lesson Plan One: (Grades K-8) Helmet-making and Sumo wrestling

Day 1: (45-50 minutes)

Step one: Read kamishibai or picture book of  “The Peach Boy”

Synopsis and cultural background of stories:

Most of the stories associated with Children’s Day feature a boy super-hero. In “The Peach Boy,” the child protagonist is born out of a peach and grows into a child with super-human strength. He is aided by magical kibi dango (millet rice cakes) that, according to some versions, give him the strength of 100 men and several animal companions. They travel to Oni Island to battle and vanquish the evil oni demons.

Sharing images of samurai warriors will also help students visualize the part of the samurai armor they are making out of paper (see list of resources).

For an interesting critical perspective, students could compare this story with Raymond Nakamura’s feminist version, The Peach Girl (Pajama Press, 2014).


·        Templates for samurai crests with option to design ones own

·         Instructions for making origami kabuto (helmets)

·         Newspapers divided into sheets and cut into large squares for folding

·         Crayons for coloring crests and scissors for cutting

·         Glue to stick crests onto helmet

Day 2: (45-50 minutes)

Step one: Read picture book of the “Legend of Kintarō

Synopsis: The quintessential “nature boy,” Kintarō is often compared to Tarzan because he too was practically brought up by animals. The image of Kintarō as a super-hero infant, wearing a red baby apron with the character emblazoned on his chest and wrestling bears out in the wild has long symbolized the ideal of strapping good health and the strength and vitality of the younger generation. In the legend, Kintarō develops his super-human strength by wrestling with his animal friends up in the mountains on a daily basis and cutting down full-grown trees with his famous ax (masakari) to bring home to his mother for firewood.

Much like the “tall-tales” of the American west about Paul Bunyan, Daniel Boone, or John Henry, the Kintarō legend is based on an actual historical figure. In later life, he became Sakata no Kintoki, loyal retainer to samurai Minamoto no Yorimitsu (948-1021), but most of the stories about his adventures focus on his childhood.

Materials needed:

·         Templates for sumō wrestling paper dolls copied onto card stock or other stiff paper—the pattern for these dolls can be personalized and designed as characters in the story (usually, a rabbit, monkey, deer, bear, and Kintaro).

·         Surface, such as paper or cardboard, with a ring drawn on it large enough for the dolls to wrestle. It should be placed on a desk or small table that will shake when struck or pounded lightly on either side. When one of the paper dolls pushes the other out of the ring, the match is finished with the remaining doll the winner. If both fall out, it is a tie!

For younger and older students, this lesson could provide an opportunity for them to share or demonstrate any experiences they have with martial arts, which have taken on an important role in cultures around the globe for developing the strength and mental discipline of young people.

For middle-school students, this lesson offers the opportunity to read these stories more critically. What is the role of the oni demons in the Momotarō story? How are they depicted? Students can look at World War II cartoons that show Kintarō or Momotarō and his animal friends as the valiant Japanese army fighting the oni demons, depicted as the Allied Forces.

For a war propaganda film from 1934 that includes a whole host of folktale heroes, including the Peach Boy, fighting against an evil Mickey Mouse, see

Lesson Plan Two:   (Grades K-8) Making koinobori

Day 1: (40-50 minutes)

Step one: Learn about the significance of the carp and practice singing the koinobori song:

Step two: Make your own koinobori

Materials needed:

·         Brown paper bags (one per student)

·         Template of koinobori parts—one for each side of bag with opposite orientation
Crayons, scissors, glue

·         Chopstick and string or ribbon to attach the carp when completed (optional)

Students will color and cut out the various parts of the carp—face, fins, scales, and tail—and glue them onto the paper bag. Once complete, the paper bag can be opened to give it a three-dimensional look, and a string can be attached to the carp’s mouth.

Lesson Outcomes:

At the end of this three-day lesson plan, students will be able to explain the central idea behind the Japanese Children’s Day festival and describe through images and words how their own values and ideals about becoming strong and resilient compare to those in Japan.

Essential Skills:

Cooperative learning, group discourse, critical thinking.

Resource sited:

“Momotaro, the Peach Boy” kamishibai story adapted by Miyoko Matsutani, illustrated by Eigorō Futamata (Tokyo: Doshinsha)

(Kamishibai cards may be purchased through Kamishibai for Kids:


Ann Herring, The Dawn of Wisdom: Selections from the Japanese Collection of the Cotsen Children’s Library (Los Angeles, CA: Cotsen Occasional Press, 2000).

Florence Sakade and Yoshio Hayashi, The Peach Boy and Other Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories (Tuttle Press, 2008)

Stephanie Wada, Kano Naganobu (1775-1828), Momotaro in the Island of Ogres, (New York: George Braziller Inc., 2005).

Raymond Nakamura, Peach Girl (Pajama Press, 2014)

Florence Sakade and Yoshio Hayashi, Kintaro’s Adventures and Other Japanese Children’s Stories (Tuttle Press, 2008)

Ralph F. McCarthy, Kintaro, the Nature Boy (Kodansha Children’s Bilingual Classics, 2000)

Other resources about ninja and samurai warriors:

Tara McGowan, “Japan’s ‘Last Living Ninja’ Infiltrates the Cotsen Children’s Library in ‘The Art of Ninjutsu: Tiger Scroll.’”

Fiction and nonfiction young readers (grades K-4):

Eric A. Kimmel, Three Samurai Cats: A Story from Japan (NY: Scholastic, 2004).

Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, Ninjas and Samurai: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #5: Night of the Ninjas (Magic Tree House Fact Tracker), 2014. This book contains a useful bibliography of nonfiction books about samurai and ninja, including Hazel Richardson’s Life in Ancient Japan (Peoples of the Ancient World series), 2005, and Steven Turnbull’s Samurai Warriors (1991), Samurai Warlords (1992)

Historical fiction about samurai for older readers (grades 5-8):

David Kirk’s Child of Vengeance (2013), Sword of Honor (2016) (Random House) and Erik Christian Haugaard’s The Samurai’s Tale (2005) and The Boy and the Samurai (2005), and The Revenge of the 47 Samurai (1995)

Other resources about Children’s Day:

Betty Reynolds, Japanese Celebrations: Cherry Blossoms, Lanterns and Stars! (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2006).

Florence Sakade & Yoshisuke Kurosaki, Japanese children’s favorite stories (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publsihing, 1959).

Gail R. Benjamin, Japanese Lessons: A Year in a Japanese School Through the Eyes of an American Anthropologist and Her Children (NYU Press, 1998).

Minako Ishii. Girl’s Day/ Boy’s Day (Hawaii: Bess Press, 2007).

Rebecca Otowa, My Awesome Japan Adventure: A Diary about the Best 4 Months Ever! (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2013).

Setsu Broderick and Willamarie Moore, Japanese Traditions—Rice Cakes, Cherry Blossoms and Matsuri: A Year of Seasonal Japanese Festivities (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2010)

Willamarie Moore and Kazumi Wilds, All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2011).

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