Class Ideas

Tatami and Living Thoughtfully

Author:Yoko Nishimura-Parke

Topic/Goals:Comparison、Housing、Take Action


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To learn about the Japanese tradition of living mindfully and using things with care through reading about Mr. Maeda's ideas and the challenges he faces in demonstrating the value of tatami for today and the future. To have students consider their own lifestyle choices in light of this such ideas. Read about the project to send tatami to disaster areas, and consider the importance of understanding the viewpoint of evacuee when taking action to help.

Target Senior high school level or higher
Japanese Level Advanced
What to prepare


1. Questions to help students' comprehension of the abridged article
a) Why did Mr. Maeda quit his job at the bank and inherit the tatami business?
b) Who taught him about the tatami business?
c) What is "Judo tatami, Sanshiro"? What did you learn about it from this article?
d) What motivated Mr. Maeda to develop "Judo tatami, Sanshiro."
e) Mr. Maeda says, "Not only skill, but imagination is needed to do a good job." How does he use his imagination in his work?
f) When did Mr. Maeda start the workshops for children?
g) Why and what does Mr. Maeda explain to the children at the workshop?

2. Discussion points and research
h) How does Mr. Maeda explain the concept of「ていねいにくらす」? Do you think the way you live is close to this concept? Discuss what you could do to practice the ideas contained in this concept?
i) Have you stayed overnight in a tatami room? How was it different from your own room at home?
j) Share your knowledge about tatami with your classmates.
k) Think of all the people who took part in the production of things around you; your school bag, shoes, clothes, etc. How about the food you eat, like bread or vegetables? Discuss how you feel differently toward everyday goods when you think about the people who contributed to their production and transport.
l) Research tatami. Choose the aspect of tatami that interests you, for example history, materials, pros and cons, and so on.

3. Creative tasks
m) Imagine you are in Japan. You are interested in participating in Mr. Maeda's tatami workshop. Write an email to Mr. Maeda to ask him if you can attend and also inquire about the date/time and the location of the workshop. Include the reasons why you want to participate.
n) Pair work. You want to use tatami in your room, but your parents say no because they don't know much about it. With your partner, create a dialogue between you and your parents. Your parents ask questions about tatami. You try to convince them by explaining the good qualities of tatami. Use your knowledge from the article and your research.

1. Questions to help students' comprehension of the abridged article
a) When did the「5日で5000枚のやくそく」project start?
b) What is the「5日で5000枚のやくそく」?
c) When did Mr. Maeda conceive the idea for the「5日で5000枚のやくそく」project? What did he see on TV? What did he think when he saw it?
d) How many tatami companies participate in this project?
e) Explain the way the 「5日で5000枚のやくそく」project works? What do they do in the five days?
f) Why is the project called 「5日で5000枚のやくそく」? Explain the reasoning.
g) Name two prefectures where the「5日で5000枚のやくそく」project was activated since 2014.

2. Discussion points
h) What are the project members' hopes?
i) Mr. Maeda says "a promise is a greater responsibility than a duty." Do you agree? Share your thoughts with your classmates.
j) What are the most important things to consider when we send relief goods to disaster areas? How do you think Mr. Maeda would answer that question?
k) Have you ever experienced evacuation in the case of a natural disaster, like a cyclone, flooding, bushfire, etc.? Share your experiences with your classmates. What did you find most inconvenient? What was most needed? Then discuss what you could do to help people in those cases.
Do you know anyone who has experienced evacuation in the case of a natural disaster, like a cyclone, flooding, bushfires, etc.? Find out what they found most inconvenient and what they needed most. Share your findings with your classmates. Then discuss what you can do to help people in those cases.

3. Creative tasks
l) Imagine you were in Japan when an earthquake hit the area where you were staying, and you had to spend a week in an evacuation center. Thanks to the「5日で5000枚のやくそく」project, you were able to sleep on tatami, not on the cold and hard floor of the gymnasium. Write a letter of thanks to Mr. Maeda.

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