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Books | Web Sites


For Teachers

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life, Volume 4 edited by Joyce E. Salisbury. (Greenwood Press, 2004)
A comprehensive look at the lives of ordinary people — their clothes, food, culture, customs, beliefs, etc.

In Search of the Spirit: National Treasures of Japan by Sheila Hamonaka and Ayano Ohmi. (HarperCollins, 1999)
Photographs, illustrations, and text combine to bring to life the gifted craftsmen of traditional Japan.

Japan: Its History and Culture by W. Scott Morton, 4th edition (McGraw-Hill, 2004)
A comprehensive look at Japan, from prehistory to the present.

Premodern Japan: A Historical Survey by Mikiso Hane. (Westview Press, 1990)
This book traces the history of Japan up to their contact with the West.

Samurai: 1550-1600 by Anthony J. Bryant. (Osprey Publishing, 1994)
This book explores the culture, weapons, armor, and training of the samurai warrior class.

Samurai: The Story of Japan's Great Warriors by Stephen Turnbull. (PRC Publishing, 2004)
Detailed information about the legendary warriors, with see-through sections to illustrate the text. See also other books about the samurai by the author.

For Students


Blue Fingers, A Ninja's Tale by Cheryl Aylward Whitesel. (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)
Koji is kidnapped and forced to become a ninja in 16th century Japan. For older readers.

The Boy Who Drew Cats adapted by Margaret Hodges. (Holiday House, 2002)
Based on a legend about the famous 15th century Japanese artist Sesshu Toyo, this is the story of a boy who could not stop drawing cats.

The Crane Wife by Odds Bodkin. (Gulliver, 1998)
A retelling of a Japanese folktale about a poor fisherman who gains a beautiful and talented wife. Audiotape available.

The Demon in the Teahouse by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. (Philomel, 2001)
In this suspenseful sequel to The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn, 14-year-old Seikei poses as a teahouse attendant to discover who is murdering geishas.

Kazunomiya, Prisoner of Heaven by Kathryn Lasky. (Scholastic, 2004)
The Royal Diaries series. A fictional account of Princess Kazunomiya and the constraints and intrigues of the Japanese royal court.

Kogi's Mysterious Journey adapted by Elizabeth Partridge. (Dutton, 2003)
Kogi captures a fish in order to draw it, but he finds peace and great beauty when he sets the fish free.

Sam, Samurai by Jon Scieszka. (Puffin, 2002)
While doing a homework assignment on haiku, the Trio finds themselves in 17th century Japan — and in danger.

Revenge of the Forty-seven Samurai by Erik Christian Haugaard. (Houghton Mifflin, 1995)
Jiro, a servant to one of the samurai planning to avenge an unjust death, must act as his master's spy in feudal Japan.

Sword of the Samurai: Adventure Stories from Japan by Eric A. Kimmel. (Harcourt, 1999)
Eleven stories of Japan's knights, the samurai, include action, drama, humor, and wisdom.

Tanuki's Gift by Tim Myers. (Marshall Cavendish, 2003)
A Buddhist priest and a tanuki (feared by most people) find the gift of their friendship to be more valuable than they realize.

The Valley of the Broken Cherry Trees by Lensey Namioka. (Delacorte, 1980)
Zenta and Matsuzo, two wandering ronin, decide to stop at a small inn and enjoy the spring cherry blossoms, but they soon find themselves embroiled in intrigue and mystery.


Calligraphy for Kids by Eleanor Winters. (Sterling, 2004)
Assemble the appropriate tools and follow the step-by-step instructions for making the letters for four different alphabets.

China and Japan by Paula Hammond. (Mason Crest, 2002)
Cultures and Costumes series. Shows the traditional dress for all segments of Japanese society, from the royal court to a traveling priest.

Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun by Rhoda Blumberg. (Lothrop, 1985)
When Commodore Matthew C. Perry sailed into Edo Bay in 1853, he and his men found a society that had changed little in almost 250 years.

Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak. (Atheneum, 1997)
The best-loved poet of Japan walked throughout the country observing nature and composing poems.

Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain by Deborah Kogan Ray. (Farrar, 2001)
This is a picture book biography of one of Japan's most prolific painters whose paintings of Mount Fuji are famous the world over.

I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi. (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)
Mimiko describes life in modern-day Tokyo, including daily activities, customs, holidays, and food.

Japan in the Days of the Samurai by Virginia Schomp. (Marshall Cavendish, 2002)
Describes the beginning of the samurai, their artistic achievements, their religion, how they shaped society, and their present-day legacy.

Modern Japan: A History in Documents by James L. Huffman. (Oxford University Press, 2004)
Japan's history, from the time of the shogun to the present day, is explored using primary sources.

Samurai by Paul Collins. (Chelsea House, 2002)
Photographs, drawings, maps, and timelines show the history, armor, and weapons of samurai, including the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.


Cool Melons — Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa by Matthew Gollub. (Lee & Low, 1998)
Delicate pencil and watercolor illustrations complement this poetic biography of Issa, Japan's beloved author of haiku.

One Leaf Rides the Wind: Counting in a Japanese Garden by Celeste Davidson Mannis. (Viking, 2002)
The author uses haiku poems to count objects in a traditional Japanese garden and provides facts about Japanese history and life.

Web Sites

Basho's life
A description of master Haiku poet Matsuo Basho's life and poetry.

Haiku in Western Languages
This index offers links to specific authors, and to general commentary on this form of poetry.

An Introduction to Haiku
This site explains the structure of traditional Haiku and includes the biographies and poetry of Basho, Buson, and Issa.

Japan's Secret Garden
This companion site to the PBS television show chronicles a year in the life of wildlife and people around Lake Biwa, Japan, a cycle that has continued unchanged for thousands of years.

This brief overview of the history of the samurai offers links to more information.

Samurai Culture
This site offers short descriptions of famous figures in the samurai culture, as well as links to samurai food, clothing, philosophy, and more.

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