Social Studies for Japanese students is rather interesting. Until students reach the later elementary grades (grade 5 and up) and further where they are taught history as well as current events, younger students pretty much are taught Social Studies in a microcosmic point of view of the here and now, and of their peers and current surroundings. For example, units that first graders are taught include “New Friends”, “Our School”, “School Workers”, “Summer Has Come”, “Roads to School”, “Work at Home”, “Seasons and Life”, “Since I was Born…”, and “Soon We’ll Be Second Graders”.
Surprisingly missing are units that cover National Holidays or local events and festivals from the Japanese curriculum for the young. American students, beginning with preschool and on are made known to holidays such as Martin Luther King, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s as well as lesser known days such as Earth Day.
As mentioned earlier, fifth grade is when Japanese students begin to learn about their history. They learn agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and traditional Japanese crafts, and land forms and climatic patterns to name a few subjects. All elementary school books are informal in writing and have tons of illustrations and photographs to emphasize the topic covered. Fifth grade books include full colored atlases, charts, and graphs while in later grades students tend to have more text heavy books with less graphs and illustrations.