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Rapid Adaptation in the Meiji Period

  • Write a newspaper article describing the most significant political, social, economic and cultural changes affecting Japanese society in the Meiji period.
  • Write an editorial on the desirability of these changes.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students evaluate the effects of rapid adaptation on Japanese society during the Meiji period by writing a modern-day newspaper article and, in response, an editorial addressing the political, social, economic and cultural changes affecting Japanese society.

A. Write a newspaper article describing the most significant political, social, economic and cultural changes affecting Japanese society in the Meiji period.

Read Charter of Oath

Present students with a copy of the Charter Oath of 1868 (Background Information) and the following contextual information about this historical document:

  • it is one of the first documents written by the new Meiji leaders
  • it reveals much about the new society they hoped to create
  • it provided a basis for developing a constitution and laws.

Read the document aloud and discuss unfamiliar vocabulary or concepts; e.g., deliberative assemblies, affairs of state, discontent.

You may wish to refer to the time lines, if created, in What Changed? (Critical Challenge). Review the political, social and economic status of the Japanese during the Edo period so students can better appreciate the implications of the changes.

Identify the most significant change
Ask students to work in pairs or small groups to select the most significant change included in the Charter.

To assist students in making their selection, generate criteria for determining significant change:

  • greatly impacts well-being of the society
  • affects many people in society
  • represents a radical or novel departure from the prevailing mindset.

You may wish to adapt one of the charts and strategies in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Identify changes in society
Assign students to teams of eight students. Inform groups that they have been hired as newspaper reporters by a modern-day Tokyo newspaper. Their first assignment is to work with other team members to investigate the changes—both short-term and long-term—in Japanese society as a result of the Meiji restoration. Direct teams to assign a specific area of change to each pair of students.

Political Changes

  • constitution
  • new foreign policy
  • military—new conscription act

Economic Changes

  • agricultural
  • industry
  • trade
  • banking
  • taxation

Social Changes

  • education
  • the social hierarchy
  • the role of women
  • Aboriginal peoples

Cultural Changes

  • art
  • literature
  • traditional crafts
  • language.

Conduct research on assigned topics
Suggest that reporters use the Internet to research the following information on their assigned topic:

  • What were the changes?
  • Who was involved in the changes?
  • When did the changes occur?
  • Where did the changes occur?
  • Why did the changes happen?
  • How did the changes affect people at the time and in the long term?

If necessary, review strategies for Internet searching by choosing a suitable search engine and by using advanced search skills (use of "and" or "or" between search topics). Encourage students to gather information from multiple sources and look for diverse viewpoints on their topics; e.g., from the points of view of a courtier, Ainu, merchant, geisha.

You may want to adapt the chart Investigating the Event in Reporter’s Log (Support Material) to structure and assess student research.

Compare styles of newspaper writing
In preparation for their writing assignment, ask students to compare the differences between a news article, editorial and letter to the editor. Bring in several examples of each style of writing. Ask groups to read through two or three examples of an assigned style and identify the following features:

  • purpose
  • structure or organization
  • point of view
  • language; e.g., tone, word choice.

Invite groups to share their findings with the class. Record information about the three formats on a large chart and post for reference.

Comparing Newspaper Features


News Article


Letter to the Editor









Point of View








You may wish to supplement student-generated findings with additional information from print or electronic sources, such as the Media Awareness Network website (see References).

Report on changes
Ask students to work independently as reporters to write an effective newspaper article summarizing the key changes in their assigned area. Brainstorm the criteria for an effective article using the information on the class chart as reference. Possible criteria include:

  • informative
  • accurate
  • follows the style of a newspaper article; e.g., inverted pyramid structure, objective reporting of information
  • meets all print conventions; e.g., standard spelling, correct usage, proper punctuation.

Remind students that responsible and ethical journalists cite their sources of information, whether gathered from interviews or research. Require students to provide a bibliography for their article.

Share newspaper articles
Arrange for students to exchange their articles with other team members. Alternatively, organize an article walk by posting all the articles on the classroom wall and providing students with a response page on which they note positive features of each article.

B. Write an editorial on the desirability of these changes.

Write editorials

Ask each student to prepare an editorial response to changes resulting from rapid adaptation in one of these areas—political, economic, social or cultural.

Generate with the class criteria for an effective editorial:

  • includes clearly stated opinions
  • is thought provoking
  • is influential; e.g., encourages readers to take action
  • meets all print conventions; e.g., standard spelling, correct usage, proper punctuation.

Extension: Create a newspaper
Organize teams of students to create a newspaper on one of the four areas of change—political, economic, social or cultural. Each newspaper might contain these items:

  • news articles on the assigned area of change
  • editorials in response
  • supporting pictures.

The final product may be electronic or paper. Encourage students to build a consensus around the content when planning their newspaper. Direct groups to post and share completed newspapers.

Extension: Discuss reactions to the newspaper
Invite groups to discuss their reactions to the articles and editorials.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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