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Women of Japan

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Language Arts And English +8 Age Levels High School (16 to 18 years old), Post-Secondary, Adults

Time- 2 class periods

Description:

Using the Project Zero Design Thinking routines  "Parts, People, Interaction", this activity provides an understanding of the system of gender power at stake in the representation of Chapter 34 of Tales of Genji - Kashiwagi catches sight of the third Princess.  It then looks at a modernization of the illustrations and offers a reflection on what the new feminine contemporary perspective brings to the interpretation of the Third princess story. 

In exploring the representations of the tales of Genji, students have the opportunity to discover tales that have become a standard for Japanese culture. They look at the first known literature piece written by a woman, who shares a rare and intimate perspective of a woman on a world governed by men.  Students compare the representation of the tales from the XVIth century with one from the XXth century to identify in what ways they have been interpreted.

Day 1:

Step 1: Have students sketch The tale of Genji, chapter 34; Kashiwagi catches sight of the third Princess

Step 2: Debrief as a whole group

Discuss what the students have noticed.  Do not show the caption to the students yet. The observational drawing is good to help students pay attention to details and unveil the artist's choices. It also encourages them to initiate a first interpretation.

Step 3: Parts, People, Interaction

Once students have discussed the painting, guide them through the routine "Parts, People, Interaction". 

"This thinking routine helps students slow down and look closely at a system ( here the system of gender power.) In doing so, young people are able to situate objects within systems and recognize the various people who participate—either directly or indirectly—within a particular system. 

Students also notice that a change in one aspect of the system may have both intended and unintended effects on another aspect of the system. When considering the parts, people, and interactions within a system, young people begin to notice the multitude of subsystems within systems. 

This thinking routine helps stimulate curiosity, raises questions, surfaces areas for further inquiry, and introduces systems thinking." (PZ)

Step 4: Read the PDF "More about Chapter 34" and go back to the questions 

Have students read the caption, go back and look at the painting and ask them to take notes on how their understanding has shifted from their initial interpretation.

Step 5: Debrief the "Parts, People and Interaction" routine as a whole group:

During the discussion, here are some specific question students may want to address:  

  • What does the illustration of Chapter 34, Kashiwagi catches sight of the third Princess says about the system of power gender in place at the Japanese court in the XIth century? 
  • To what extent the architecture in the painting play a role in facilitating the superiority of men? 
  • How does the system in place impact relationship between men and women?

Day 2:

Step 1: "See, Think, Wonder" - The third princess with her pet cat, Yamato Maki, 1987

Have them do a quick "See, Think, Wonder" to encourages them to reactivate prior knowledge, pay attention to details and reflect on the effects of the modernization of the illustration of The tales of Genji though manga. Identify the audience and the context of the illustration.

Step 2: Read the caption as a group - notice what is important.

Step 3: "Layers"

This routine will encourage students to refine their first analysis of the illustration by looking at it through different angles (Aesthetic, Mechanical, Connections, Narrative, Dynamic). It will allow them to draw upon their prior knowledge and consider the impact of modernization of art on the public. 

Students can work in small group and cover between 3 and 5 of the categories.

Step 4: Each group of students present their learning to the class