This scene illustrates an episode from the chapter, “The End of the Life of Kiso Yoshinaka,” in The Tale of the Heike, a thirteenth-century recounting of the wars between two powerful clans, the Heike and the Genji (also called the Taira and the Minamoto). By the time this painting was made, important episodes from The Tale of the Heike such as this one were widely familiar and had become popular subjects for paintings.
Elementary School (K-3),Elementary School (4-5),Middle School (6-8)
Lesson or Activity
Sword making is a refined and highly scientific art that is revered in Japan. A sword guard (tsuba) is a metal guard on a samurai sword between the handgrip and the blade. It protects the hand from sliding onto the sharp edge of the blade. Sword guards vary in shape and design and were carved or molded. Use the templates or create your own shape and design a sword guard.
Students will use images of samurai armor and weaponry to learn related vocabulary. They will describe the functional and aesthetic aspects of armor through focused viewing and reading, and they will draw conclusions about the changing code of the samurai over the course of 800 years.