Printable Activities Make Travel Fun


Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan, is actually an active volcano.

Japan, an island nation where more than 70 percent of the land is covered in mountains and hills, sits in the Pacific Ocean in what is called the Ring of Fire. Here massive plates of Earth's crust collide, creating volcanoes and deep sea trenches, and unleashing forces that are literally, earth-shattering: the islands are rocked by three minor earthquakes each day, or 1500 earthquakes every year. One out of every ten of the world's active volcanoes is found in Japan.

Japan has a rich cultural history stretching back tens of thousands of years. The Jomon and Ainu, two of Japan's earliest cultures, left behind some of the world's oldest pottery fragments. By 500 B.C. migrants from China and Korea introduced wet-land rice farming and metal-working.

Japan is home to the world's oldest surviving monarchy. Emperor Akihito can trace his lineage all the way back to Emperor Jimmu, who ascended the throne in 660 B.C. A legendary figure, Jimmu is regarded as the direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

Travel Fun: Mon
Before embarking on your family vacation, why not create a mon, or family crest? Mon were symbols of recognition for families and clans, or organizations such as merchant and artisan guilds. Most mon are designed in a circular pattern and feature animals or plants.

Here's the mon of the imperial family, that you can color. The mon is a yellow or gold chrysanthemum with 16 petals:

Here's another mon, used by the Tokugawa shoguns (generals), with three hollyhock leaves inside a circle:

What would your mon, or family crest look like? As you travel through Japan, how many mon can you find?

Fun Facts:

  • Name: Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku, "Land of the Rising Sun"
  • Founded: February 11, 660 BC (recognized as National Foundation Day)

  • National Anthem: Kimigayo ("The Emperor's Reign," one of the world's shortest anthems, with only 11 measures and 32 characters)
  • Capital: Tokyo
  • Head of State: Emperor
  • Head of Government: Prime Minister
  • Population: 127.5 million
  • Geography: archipelago of more than 4,000 islands. The four largest islands, Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku make up 97% of the land mass. The total area of Japan is about the size of Germany or Switzerland, or slightly smaller than California.
  • Money: yen
  • National Animals: green pheasant, koi
Koi-nobori Origami
  • March 3, Girl's Day
    Hina Matsuri is the annual Girls' Day Festival celebrated on March 3 by families in Japan and Okinawa. Girls display their collections of elaborate dolls portraying the Japanese royal court, arranged on up to 7 tiers...

  • May 5, Boy's Day
    On Boy's Day, Japanese families display beautiful carp banners outside their homes. Called koi-nobori, each streamer traditionally symbolizes a male in the household. The largest carp at the top represents the father, followed by the eldest son, while the littlest carp at the bottom represents the youngest boy...

  • Iris Festival (Shobu no Sekku). Each May, the beautiful iris, with long leaves resembling the blades of a sword, is celebrated. For centuries it was customary to place iris leaves in a boy's bath to give him a martial spirit. It is also believed that the powerful fragrance of the iris wards off evil, and in Yamashiro Onsen, Kaga-shi and Ishikawa, shrines are filled with straw bags stuffed with irises. The shrines are hoisted on the shoulders of young men and paraded around.

    Print and fold an Iris Origami
    Iris Origami
Fun Stuff:

Japanese Flag

Carp Kite

Japanese Emperor

Japanese Empress

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.

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