MIT Visualizing Cultures

Throwing Off Asia – Lesson 08

The Birthday of the “New” Japan

Lesson eight provides a brief culminating activity for students who have completed a study of the Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War through Throwing Off Asia and one or more lessons in this curriculum. Students consider a quote and prediction from the Western writer Lafcadio Hearn, who lived in and studied Japan for many years, and select a woodblock print that would serve as the illustration of Hearn’s assessment of Japan at the end of the Sino-Japanese War.

National History Standards (Word doc)

At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be better able to:

1. Assess the outcome of the Sino-Japanese War in regard to Japan’s quest for world-power status.

2. Consider how Japan’s victory in the Sino-Japanese War affected domestic attitudes and policies as Japan moved into the 20th century.

3. Analyze print and visual primary sources.

Time Required
One class period or homework

Materials and preparation
Handout 08-A (optional)
Handout 08-B
Internet access for all students

1. Refer students to the advice of Japanese philosopher Yukichi Fukuzawa in his 1885 essay “Throwing Off Asia.” (This essay provided the title for the MIT Visualizing Cultures unit Throwing Off Asia.) Fukuzawa argued that Japan must “leave the ranks of Asian nations” if it were to achieve modernization and recognition by Western powers. Teachers may provide the quote from this essay (Handout 08-A), or project the quote on the board.
2. Present students with the following quote by Lafcadio Hearn (Handout 08-B). This quote is also in the Essay of Throwing Off Asia II.  
“The real birthday of the new Japan … began with the conquest of China. The war is ended; the future, though clouded, seems big with promise; and, however grim the obstacles to loftier and more enduring achievements, Japan has neither fears nor doubts.

Perhaps the future danger is just in this immense self-confidence.”
                                                       —Lafcadio Hearn, Kokoro, 1896*
3. Distribute Handout 08-B and review directions with students. Working individually and drawing on their learning from Throwing Off Asia and other class study, students are to select a single image from Throwing Off Asia that they think best illustrates the messages in the Hearn quote. Students will then write a culminating essay or create a poster with text boxes to explain how this image captures:

A: The transformation of Japan at the end of the Sino-Japanese War.

B: Possibilities for Japan’s future as it headed into the 20th century.

*Quoted from Hearn’s book Kokoro by Shumpei Okamoto in Impressions of the Front: Woodcuts of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-95 (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1983)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology © 2008 Visualizing Cultures