Resource: Japanese Archaeology and Cultural Heritage

For those looking for more educational resources to use in the classroom, today we’ll briefly introduce a resource developed by the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures with sponsorship from Hitachi: The Online Resource for Japanese Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (ORJACH).

ORJACH is a free, public, online tool for educators and students that introduces various aspects of early Japan, including history, environment, food culture, geography, and religious studies. This interactive site is broken down into three main modules: Food, Landscape, and Religion, though you can choose to progress either through the main grid layout (such as the unit seen to the right) or through timeline and map features.

Each of the main units has three thematic subsections, each of which include brief narrative summaries of historical background information and two separate lessons. The lessons typically include a variety of visual materials (seen below) drawn from museums, particularly archaeological and architectural features, with short descriptions of each item and helpful pronunciation guides for Japanese terms, making them very accessible.

At the end of each subsection is a student activity that includes discussion questions to help focus student analyses of the materials, and if you register for an account with ORJACH, you can also get teachers notes that are downloadable to complement each lesson.

Exploring the timeline section, you can put the lessons from across the different units into conversation with one another chronologically. These timeline entries feature a “meanwhile, elsewhere in the world” feature that helps students contextualize the developments in Japan more globally. A full timeline is also downloadable with notes, if you want a quick reference or don’t intend to work with the interactive features on the site.

With the map option, you can sort the site’s entries by one or more of the three themes or simply click through them at their various locales, getting a sense of what objects or developments occurred across what parts of the archipelago. In the main menu section there is also a handy glossary for quick references to unfamiliar terms.

While the site is geared towards a younger audience of students (for use in upper secondary or senior high school teaching in English language speaking countries), anyone who isn’t familiar with Japan’s early history will find the site useful for its introductory information and great selection of archaeological and visual materials and material culture. Be sure to check it out!

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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