Learn About Japanese Culture 9-11 yrs

Updated Apr 13, 2023

Goal:  To learn about Girl Scouts in Japan, Japanese customs and celebrations.

Materials Required:

Indoor Zen Garden

  • A deep wooden tray, a shadow box or a picture frame (1 per youth)
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Sand from the beach or purchased from a craft or gardening store (If you are using natural sand from outside, sift through it for bugs and debris)
  • Small rocks and/ or pebbles from outside or a craft store
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Any other garden-themed decorative items you want
  • Plastic grocery bag (1 per youth)


  • White card stock or cardboard
  • Scissors
  • A Pencil
  • Markers and/or pencil crayons


Enjoy your unit’s usual Opening. Discuss Japan and Girl Scouts in Japan. What does your group already know about Japan?

Answers: Japan is a country of islands (called an archipelago) along the Pacific coast of East Asia. Whereas Italy is roughly shaped like a boot, Japan’s 6852 islands collectively make up the shape of a seahorse. (Refer to map). The capital city of Japan is Tokyo. Japan has an ancient history and many time honoured traditions to go along with it.  In Japan there is a holiday, festival or seasonal celebration for almost every month of the year. There are many people of Japanese heritage who now live in Canada.

Girl Guides of Japan was established in 1920 and became known as Girl Scouts of Japan in 1949.  Girl Scouts of Japan became full members of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in 1960. Guides are called Juniors. They also wear blue uniforms.  Look up this link online to see what their uniforms and enrollment pin look like: http://www.girlscout.or.jp/contents/wp-content/themes/girlscout/english/documen/uniform.pdf

The Japanese Junior Girl Scout motto is “be prepared.” Their law is:

  1. "I am cheerful and courageous at all times.
  2. I respect all living things.
  3. I am a friend to all, and a sister to every Girl Scout.
  4. I am courteous.
  5. I use time and resources wisely.
  6. I think and act on my own.
  7. I am responsible for what I say and do.
  8. I try to be sincere.”


Indoor Zen Garden

Japanese gardens, known as Zen gardens, are spaces designed for meditation and contemplation. Their origins date back to the very ancient beginnings of Japanese culture. Not a single aspect of a Japanese garden is natural or wild. On the contrary, they are highly stylized and controlled areas. Zen gardens primarily consist of cultivated rocks and sand, with lots of open space. Sand is meant to symbolize water in a Zen garden, while rocks symbolize mountains, islands or obstacles. Very few actual plantings exist and each plant that does is chosen and maintained according to specific artistic ideologies. For example, trees are trimmed in a particular way to create certain desired shapes.
Zen gardens are the inspiration for today’s craft. Miniature sand gardens are decorative and they also release stress as you "play in the sand" and create designs. Raking patterns in the sand around the stones is a peaceful activity; it relaxes the “gardener” by eliminating other thoughts from his or her mind.

  1. If using a picture frame, remove its glass or plastic cover. Detach the stand from the frame if it is in the way.  Re-insert the back into place.
  2. In a steady motion, line the inside perimeter of the box/ frame with hot glue to create a seal.  This will block any sand from spilling out the bottom edges.  Allow the glue to dry.
  3. In the meantime, measure and cut a 2 x 5” piece of cardboard. Cut spaces along the edge of one of the narrow sides of the rectangle so that it looks like a comb with widely spaced teeth.
  4. Pour in the sand to almost fill the box/ frame. Leave a 1/2 inch space from the top so that it doesn’t overflow.
  5. Add the rocks and other decorations to the sand.
  6. Rake the sand with the cardboard comb to create designs.
  7. Wrap in a plastic bag for safe and easy transportation home. Remember, the garden can be rearranged and remade at any time.

Printout of the shell for the Kai-awase craft. Cut it out and draw a picture on the "inside" of the shell.

Kai-awase (craft)

Kai-awase is very similar to our game of Concentration. "Kai" means "shell" and "awase" translates to "joining" or "matching." It has been played by nobles in Japan since the 12th century. A full, traditional kai-awase set contains 360 pairs of shells. The 720 individual shells all look the same on the outside, but on the inside there are beautiful hand painted images.

  1. Cut out the seashell template.  Trace around it with a pencil to make eight shells on heavy paper / thin cardboard.
  2. Take two shells at a time and draw exactly the same picture on both. It can be any image or scene you would like, perhaps to do with the Japanese theme.


Kai-awase (game)

  1. Divide into small groups of 3 or 4.
  2. Combine each group member’s shells and mix thoroughly. Make even rows of shells, placed face down.
  3. Take turns turning over two shells at a time and looking at their pictures. If the hidden pictures match, the player gets to keep the two shells and receives a second turn. However, if they don’t match, the shells must be turned over again and it is the next player’s turn. Continue until all the pairs have been found. The person with the most sets wins.


See how many traditional Japanese foods your group can name. What type of utensil was traditionally used for eating?

Answers: Sticky rice, tempura, sushi, fish and seafood, pickled/salted vegetables, udon and soba noodles, nori (seaweed), miso soup, green tea and sake are just a few examples of traditional Japanese cuisine.
Chopsticks are the traditional Japanese eating utensil


Option One: Serve dry roasted edamamne beans and/ or mixed Japanese rice crackers, available anywhere mixed nuts are sold. They have an addicting taste and crunch.

Option Two: If there is a kitchen available, make “Kashiwa Mochi” (rice flour cakes.) They are traditionally served on Children’s Day in Japan. Children’s Day is a national holiday celebrated on May 5th (the fifth day of the fifth month of the year). Rice flour cakes are a sweet and sticky treat, perfect for children!


Makes 8 portions

1 can of azuki beans (sweet red beans)

1 ½ cups of mochi or shiratamako rice flour (sweet rice flour) -substitute regular rice flour if

sweet is unavailable and add granulated white sugar
1 ¼ cup of water


  1. Empty the azuki beans into a saucepan and gently heat over a low heat on the stove until the bean paste has thickened.
  2. Whisk the rice flour and water in a microwave safe bowl or pan and cover
  3. Microwave on high for 4 minutes.
  4. Wearing oven mitts, remove the bowl from the microwave and mix the contents again. Return to the microwave for another 3 minutes.
  5. Take the azuki bean paste off the stove and allow it to cool.
  6. Remove the bowl from the microwave again. If cool enough, use your hands to knead the dough until it is soft and smooth, like bread dough.
  7. Split the dough into 8 equally sized flattened pieces.
  8. Divide the azuki beans it into 8 small pieces.

Place the bean paste in the centre of the dough ball, then wrap the dough over and create a tight seal.


Congratulate the group on learning about culture, holiday festivals and Girl Scouts in Japan. Enjoy your regular Closing.


Map of Japan

Map of Japan in relation to Canada

Right click the image and select "Save Image As" to download the picture.

Vanessa Day

This Meeting Plan was researched and written by our intern Vanessa Day.

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