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Matsusaka Cotton

    Can the products created with your own hands sell in the city?  If you make profits, what is the best way to use them?  Whethertheamountof the profit is great or small, it is wonderful if themoney canbeuseful to people on the planet facing difficulties.  Students, however, do not have sufficient sewing skills and it seems difficult for them to create attractive designs.  Thus, there are several hurdles.  Nonetheless,one could feel

students’increasedenthusiasm and the broadening of each of their visionsthrough lessonswhere industrial arts and home economics opened a doorconnectingstudents’ community to the world

Teacher, This Is Impossible!

   Even to the extent that the wearing of a striped-patterned kimono by a kabuki actor is called “wearing a Matsusaka,” Matsusaka cotton had a period in which it flourished as a local industry.  The traditional techniques are still used for clothing and small items, but they do not garner much interest from students in the community.  Thus, a teacher in the subject area of industrial arts/home economics sought to use the history of the creation of Matsusaka cotton and the thoughts and efforts of people who have passed the tradition down through the generations to cultivate the meaning of having a job and a mindset to seek employment.

   The teacher had students use traditional materials, develop their own original products, and test the products in the local market.  Students’ first reaction was: “Teacher, this is impossible.”  In contrast to something students would use for themselves, students felt significant pressure at having to put a price on and sell products they themselves made.

If You Can’t Make Good Products After Trying 10 Times… 

   A store in the Okage Yokocho shopping area which has thrived since olden times in front of the gate of Ise Shrine was requested to carry the products.  The store allowed students to include their products in one of the seasonal displays “Exhibition of Small, Enjoyable Handmade Items.”  
   Students began by designing the products they wanted to make.  At first, there were many items with cute, round patterns.  However, when students realised how difficult it would be to sew these into final products, they revised their concepts into ones that were easier from a technical standpoint.  When students were told that an expert from the store would check the materials they planned to purchase, the eyes of the students seemed to become more serious.  The cooperation of this expert has been requested throughout the process from purchase of materials through product sales.  In the first year, a pocket tissue holder, book cover, coaster and four types of small, decorative bags were selected as products for sale.  Students soon came face-to-face with the difficulty of skills and creativity required as producers.  The teacher took a severe attitude of “If it’s not good, I’ll have you correct it ten times.  If it’s still not good after that, I will help you.”  The teacher allotted as many class hours as possible for students to finish.  The students were not used to this type of project and had insufficient planning skills, technical skills, and creativity.  However, the consciousness that the products would actually be sold made the students more enthusiastic and careful in their work compared to the clothes sewing lessons they had had previously.

Lesson involving the making of original products

How Do We Put a Price on It?

   In actually putting your own products up for sale, a big issue is setting prices.  The lesson provided an opportunity to discuss the elements that companies take into account when setting their prices.  Students began with labour costs and moved on to such things as shipping costs, advertising costs, rent, and investment for future activities.  Students offered many opinions that got to the heart of the price issue.  During the discussion, students understood that “if one doesn’t incorporate some profit into the price, the business will not survive.”  Further, the discussion progressed to touch on thinking about whether “the prices of products sold in the market are appropriate or not.”

   In the discussion of what students could do to influence sales, the idea of making advertisements was raised.  However, no good ideas were developed for advertising copy that would express the thoughts of the sellers.  Students concluded that the thoughts of the sellers could best be expressed by emphasising the organisation of product information and the quality of the products rather than large advertisements.

Selling products at the Okage Yokocho shopping area

With This Money Can We Change the World?

   Before any profits were made, the lessons provided an opportunity to discuss how to use profits made through the sale of the products.  First, there was even the doubt: “Will these products really sell?”  There was someone who said: “Throw a party!”  The class had read the book How to Use Money to Change the World (Publisher: Diamond-sha).  If one looks globally, even only 100 or 200 yen is precious money.  The lesson was based on the thinking that students need to understand this value and search for ways to use the money that reflect this value.  As a consumer and someone living life in the society, one should cultivate the capacity to confront problems from a global viewpoint.  The result of discussions among the students was that the money should be used to remove landmines in Cambodia.  The first year, 14,700 yen in profit was contributed to a Japanese non-profit organisation engaged in activities to remove landmines in Cambodia.  In follow-up activities, contact was made with the representative of the non-profit who visited the school to talk about the situation in Cambodia and report on the nonprofits’ activities.  Further, through the non-profit and in other ways, students participated in exchange activities with children in Cambodia and solicited contributions for the non-profit on the street.

The non-profit organisation representative receives
a thank you bouquet of flowers from Cambodian children

Are Companies Just for Earning Profits?

   Compared to the first year, increased weight in the educational content was given to financial education as the learning unit was presented in its second, third and fourth years.  One of the reasons for this is that economic activity in modern society has become more complicated and requests have been made of the schools to provide financial education because of its importance.

   Concretely, the financial education involved the creation of a fictitious company called Company Isuzu with activities of developing, producing, and selling original products and making a profit.  Within these activities, content such as corporate social responsibility (CSR), socially responsible investment (SRI), and fair trade were incorporated.  For students who at first thought “Companies are only for making profits,” the concept of CSR seemed to provide a fresh surprise.  Also, simulations of “business planning” and a “stockholders meeting” were designed to foster students’ skills in presentation and critical thinking.  The students were stimulated by being connected to the world and by experiencing corporate management.  They knew that their activities would be accompanied by concrete results, and this led them to think more deeply.  The educational content at this school, which moved from a connection to local industry to a global perspective, has been passed on, develop furthered, and has evolved.  Even among the students, it is being passed from older students to younger ones.
Even a teacher participates in soliciting
contributions on the street.

 Reading How to Use Money to Change the World
“With the Money to Buy One Can of Juice, You Can Help Someone”

“100 yen can save 5 children in Myanmar from polio, which has a high death rate….I understood that the money we use without thinking every day can provide this kind of hope to theworld.” “If you step on a landmine, you can lose your limbs, which is a horrible thing. Landmines are so scary. If we can clear a square meter for 300 yen, I think we definitely have to do it.” “100 yen does not have such a high value to me, but to people in Myanmar and Cambodia, 100 yen has enough value to save a life. I was surprised by the value of 100 yen, and in my heart I recognised that my way of using money had been mistaken.” “In Japan, we have so many material goods. Yet a doll leftover in the house from childhood can be a tool for providing dreams to a child in the hospital.”

The “Matsusaka Cotton” educational materials are used to establish goals and learning content for consumer education involving a multifaceted point of view through development of original products, product creation, product sales, ways of using profits and subsequent voluntary activities. 

Objective 1:
Education for understanding oneself and others

  Students will increase their identity as participants living in the society and work to understand others by means of experiential learning and sharing activities.
Objective 2:
Career education
  Students will learn about the local, traditional industry (Matsusaka cotton), understanding the wisdom and labour of their predecessors and sharing common feelings with them
Objective 3:
Education for cultivating skills in making clothing, education for a “recycling-based society”
  Students will learn the purposes and methods of running stitches, hem stitches, and straight stitches using a sewing machine.  By acquiring skills in mending clothing, they will participate in creative work that aims at realising a recycling-based society involving protection and conservation of nature.
Objective 4:
Education to become a “pro-sumer” (consumers connected to production) and career education

Through the production and sale of original products, students will gain experiences that mimic those in a company and that are useful for their future jobs and lives as consumers.

Objective 5:
Financial education, educationfor sustainability

Through exchange with people in the community and purchasers of their products, students will learn how profits can be used for value-added activities that will contribute to a sustainable society, consider the value of money, and understand how it feels to be one person within the system.

Objective 6:
Education for Sustainability, entrepreneurship educationfor sustainability

Students will examine company CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities and learn about fair trade products, and develop the ability to choose products that have value-added related to the aim to realise a sustainable society.

Meta-Intelligence, Identity
The first reason for selecting the subject matter was to contribute even a bit to strengthening areas that have been noted as weaknesses for junior high school students in their daily lives.  It is said that students “are well-attuned to trends and their own tastes, but are poor at meta-intelligence (the ability to analyse the ones own thoughts and actions and consider their meaning), and lacking in identity (individuality, proof of existence).”  Further, “even while being in the midst of a growing diversity in values, it is easy for students to fall into selfishness and difficult for them to think about things in terms of the system in which they belong and from the perspective of global society in order to take actions to realise a sustainable society.”  A final comment is that “their life experiences are so limited that their knowledge from school has to provide security to support their limited practical knowledge.”
A Sparkle in Children’s Eyes, A Storyline
The second reason is that in order to make children’s eyes light up and for children to develop “the power to live” within a limited number of hours, it seems more effective to develop a “storyline” that extends and develops the learning content in later learning activities rather than offering a number of one-time lessons.

The Ability to Make Decisions and To Act
The third reason is that if one is going to look at the present society from a global perspective, we need a form of consumption aimed at the realisation of a sustainable society rather than a form of consumption that prioritises individual profits.  Based on this idea, it was important to develop decision-making ability and the capacity for actions that promote citizenship in order to realise a sustainable society.


Main Learning Activities




A History of Matsusaka cotton and fostering motivation for developing original products

Hand-sewing practice – in-end knot for hand-sewing,
running stitch, out-end knot for hand sewing; three-fold kuke, hem stitch


Environmental issues

Recycle, Re-use, Reduce, Refuse
Garbage issues in Ise city and Germany

1 3

Machine sewing practice


Development and production of original products

Coaster with hand embroidery, book cover, decorative bags, pocket tissue holder, potholder, bag with aromatic candles, original shoes, dish mat, coaster with Vietnamese-style embroidery, etc. (Products will increase as years pass, advent of productions jointly developed with the company, collaboration with the industrial arts department could be seen)


Strategy to market original products (extra-curricular)
Efforts to set the price of products and to increase profits.  Determining message card placed on products and shared advertising (ad design outsourced)

2 1,4

Sales of original products
Street appeal for contributions (link with integrated studies period)


Accounting of income for sales of original products
Contribution of real profits to assist with removal of landmines in Cambodia




Concept of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)



Investigation of company CSR activities and creation of newspaper

4 6

Fair trade
Concept and structure
Product comparison and discussion within families (chocolate taste test)

Discussion concerning tea (extra-curricular)

3 6

Identity as a “pro-sumer” consumer
A consumer and participant in society who aims to realise a sustainable society



The lesson plan and learning content depends on the depth of students’ learning while also evolving and developing as the years pass. Items 9-12 were added from the 3rd year of implementation