Teaching Students About the Standing Death of Benkei


The Standing Death of Benkei is an important historical and cultural tale within Japanese culture. Teaching students about the life and legend of the warrior monk Benkei offers valuable insights into Japanese history, morals, and values. In this article, we will explore the significance of this remarkable story and provide some strategies for educators to introduce it to students in a way that engages their interest and enhances their understanding.

The Life and Legend of Benkei:

Benkei, also known as Musashibo Benkei, was an iconic figure in Japan’s Heian period (794-1185). Born in 1155, he became a warrior monk (sohei) who served the famous samurai general Minamoto no Yoshitsune. Benkei was renowned for his immense strength, martial skill, and unwavering loyalty. His portrayal in literature, such as The Tale of the Heike, captures his heroic deeds.

The Standing Death of Benkei is one of the most famous stories associated with his life. According to the legend, during the Battle of Koromo River, after fighting valiantly against overwhelming forces, Benkei stood guarding a bridge to protect his lord Yoshitsune from pursuing enemies. Despite being fatally wounded by numerous arrows and swords, he continued to hold his ground until all enemies had retreated. Only then did he succumb to his injuries and die – still standing upright on the bridge.

Teaching the Story:

Implementing various teaching methods is crucial to help students gain a deeper understanding of this historical event. Here are some suggestions for presenting the tale in an engaging manner:

1. Storytelling: Begin by narrating the legend itself to pique students’ interest. Emphasize its details – from Benkei’s birth and training as a warrior monk to his unwavering loyalty and his standing death.

2. Contextualization: Provide historical context to deepen students’ comprehension of the period. Discuss the Heian era in Japan, including the rise of the warrior class, political turmoil, and the role of religion.

3. Discussion: Foster a dialogue that prompts students to consider the values embedded within this story. These may include loyalty, courage, sacrifice, and even the consequences of warfare.

4. Literary Analysis: Introduce relevant excerpts from The Tale of the Heike or other literary sources featuring Benkei. Encourage students to analyze these texts for themes and characterization.

5. Visual Arts: Use visual aids such as artwork or films to bring Benkei’s story to life. Ask students to reflect on how these depictions align with or differ from the original tale.

6. Role Playing: Encourage students to re-enact key moments of Benkei’s life through dramatic performances or simulations. This will help solidify their understanding of his character and position in history.


Teaching about the Standing Death of Benkei can offer students a unique window into Japanese culture, history, and values through an engaging account of heroism and sacrifice. By using a range of strategies – from storytelling to visual arts – educators can inspire students to connect with this powerful tale on a deeper level, fostering critical thinking skills and promoting cultural understanding.

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