Banshu SorobanBanshu Abacus

Abacus was handed down to Otsu from the end, Chugoku of the Muromachi era via Nagasaki.
In the Azuchimomoyama era, inhabitants who fled into Otsu learn technique of abacus at the time of the Miki Castle capture of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and what return to hometown, and began production is said to be opening of Banshu Soroban. It was produced most with 3,600,000 orders in 1960, but the demand decreases by appearance of electronic calculator afterwards.

Coming first from China, the abacus was brought to Otsu from Nagasaki toward the end of the Muromachi period (1392-1573). It was during the following Momoyama period (1573-1600), when Toyotomi Hideyoshi sieged Miki castle, that the people of this small castle town fled to nearby Otsu, where some learned how to make the abacus. When they finally returned to their homeland, they began making what became the Banshu Soroban.
The peak of production here was in 1960, when 3.6 million abacuses were made. Demand has gradually fallen since then due to the appearance of the electronic calculator. The abacus, however, still has value as it provides a much more graphic way of visualizing calculations, and as such still has a place in the curriculum of many schools, where in the past principals of education were ""reading, writing and abacus"". Some also believe that using an abacus can stimulate the brain and prevent senile dementia.

Dense hardwoods such as ebony are used for the frame and boxwood and birch are used for the beads. The smooth operation of these abacuses is one of their special features but, the fineness and delicacy of the work, makes them works of art in wood.

  • Notification

    skills and techniques

    Drying is thing by the next technique or technique.

    When you are to ball materials, naturally dry in state of rough form in state of raw wood more than 1st more than six months.

    When it is to shafting, naturally dry in straight higono state in state of bamboo more than one day more than one month.

    When you are to frame materials, naturally dry in state of piece of wood materials in state of raw wood more than six months more than six months. In this case, dry more that there are piece of wood materials and piles up clogs.

    Jewelry is thing by the next technique or technique.

    Do "we sharpen mask" "broaching" and "aspect control".

    After having done "hole kuri", you use ibotarouo, and polish.

    When you use onoore for ball materials, "red, large", dye using part using red ocher and komeitan.

    Axis structure is thing by the next technique or technique.

    Shafting do "higo pull" leaving "pledget" part.

    After having done steamed advance when we use bamboo except smoke-stained bamboo for shafting, dye.

    Frame structure is thing by the next technique or technique.

    We grind "contain eyelet".

    The top surface of frame loses "for roundness".

    Ceiling of frame grinds "chestnut" using chestnut small sword.

    Means processing of frame of right and left for upper frame "circle thin"; or "scale thin"; for niyori, lower frame "scale thin", is niyorukoto.

    Polish the frames using leaf of scouring rush and mook.

    Assembling is thing by the next technique or technique.

    Frame of top and bottom grinds "you worship, and put together".

    "Stopping and "normal position point hits" corner" "turn off back stick" "stop eyes bamboo"; osurukoto.

    Raw materials

    Assume ball materials material having materials which are equal to onoore, box tree or Ilex pedunculosa or these.

    Assume shafting common Japanese bamboo.

    Assume frame materials material having materials which are equal to ebony, Japanese evergreen oak or mizume or these.


  • Work scenery

    At first you must prepare materials to make abacus. It is three materials of frame (is heated), ball (tama), axis (higo), but is made in factory according to each.

    Process 1: The making of frame materials

    We make frame with tree of ebony imported by Africa and Indonesia. We are broken in sawing factory and are considered to be board and are processed into board which we cut more finely and put together on each part.

    Process 2: The making of ball

    We use tree called hard onoorekamba mainly so that ax is said to compromise and use box tree and ebony, rose wood for high-quality article. We cut raw wood into round slices and punch in round form and we sharpen more and make form of ball.

    Video is played when we click image

    Process 3: The making of axis

    Materials are common Japanese bamboo and use smoke-stained bamboo for high-quality thing. We break small and, with bamboo as dimensions limit, process circle ihigoni and we polish and finish.

    Materials which it kept are carried to craftsman and are finally assembling.

    Video is played when we click image

    Process 4: Frame processing

    Frame processing (we make a hole in frame board)
    At first we make a hole with groove if we use automatic plane to top and bottom and frame board of right and left and clean. It is in groove where axial hole to be stuck in, hole, ceiling that back stick fits in fit in into each. We make ceiling from board for ceiling next. And we make a hole in board "needle" entering between upper frame and lower frames and make hole to put axis of bamboo through. We carve groove to the "needle" and fill up celluloid. Furthermore, we cut thin strip of bamboo and prepare axle. Finally we make "tenon" to be able to put limit together and temporarily put together.

    Process 5: Axial plug and ball case

    We insert axis in needle

    We put ball (we install ball in axis)

    Process 6: Assembling

    If ball enters, possess and assemble lower frame and right frame, ceiling, back stick.

    Process 7: Eyes bamboo dome, back stick dome, sumidomeno perforator

    We empty back stick dome, eyes bamboo (axis of bamboo) dome, sumidomeno hole into top frame, the lower frames. We play wire of aluminum if we pierce and we sandwich and finish appearing. Back stick, axis, right and left limit is held down well by doing it this way, and abacus becomes strong.

    Process 8: Polishing

    Finally we polish the frames carefully
    After having cut wire, file turns off. When the last finish filters through leaf of sandpaper and mook, we polish up. We give luster and are completion in this way.


  • Close-up

    "Abacus" which changes quality, and continues being valid from now on

    Abacus which has disappeared by the spread of electronic calculators from our circumference. However, abacus continues being valid persistently while the good point is reviewed than before. We asked Master of Traditional Crafts, Kazuhiro Miyamoto of this way 40 years about good abacus.


    It is produced 3,600,000 orders a year in the prosperity

    It "is not thought now. Miyamoto who looks back toward those days saying I begin to make abacus and made 3,600,000 orders with Ono in the fifth-year 1960. There was factory (my wife factory) of 350 in Ono-shi and was proud of the best amount of production in Japan in those days. The number continues decreasing since electronic calculator appearance of the 40, Showa generation, and factory becomes 50 now, too, and amount of production becomes before and after 450,000 orders. Miyamoto who numbers decreased, but lets face come unsawn saying it is saying "there is person buying my abacus by name in all over Japan". Including manager and accountant of calculation on the abacus classroom, because of the profession, person with contemplation orders from abacus conspicuously. Why will you still use abacus?

    Abacus of Officially designated Traditional craft products

    Industrial art object which is considered to small place: Abacus

    We were asked with "there was small hole in lower frame on abacus, but do you somewhat know?" and thought suddenly. They were eyes bamboo dome, back stick dome, sumidomeno holes, but couldn't but admire to hear the purpose. "It is hole to make a hole in bamboo axis and back stick with drill from frame board, and to insert wire of aluminum in. We add aim to narrow bamboo axis and make a hole in the middle of bamboo. Frame board and bamboo axis are fixed if we insert wire of aluminum there." It is really surprising that small hole has such a big meaning. We understood reason that abacus had good well. Miyamoto showed "eight kinds of sandpaper" (from coarse thing of eyes to small thing) and "shave grass" and "leaf of mook" to use for finish. We polish up in these carefully. It is said that we rub with natural refined wax to give luster on the way. Really careful consideration is accomplished to the very end. Miyamoto began to talk saying it was saying "we may not come". When "I did demonstration society of abacus production before in Yokohama, we gave abacus to child who came to see. Then we met the child by calculation on the abacus tournament of Kobe accidentally after having talked how many years. "Was easy to use, it was the first grade otchannosoroban; saying when was said, still use", have not been such glad; as for Miyamoto was deeply impressive, and said that was. "My policy is to make abacus which person to employ is easy to use. We do not do corner-cutting at all. We hang for the making of abacus saying we do not make if ill-conditioned, thinking is strong. It is easy to use completed abacus, and value as industrial art object is really high beautifully in this way ball nohajikigayoku.

    • Place where ball and axial adjustment condition are important

    • Miyamoto to see finish condition

    Abacus which is most suitable for education

    As well as value as industrial art object, abacus is good to the teaching materials of education. "Is the reason why the present child is poor at mental arithmetic not that do not do abacus very much?"; Miyamoto. Actually, effect is given very much when we use abacus. We stimulate brain by moving finger and make turn of head early. We achieve effect to give theory of number and meaning of figure, clear theory of decimal system. Cause concentration and patience, and become positive, and mind becomes strong; iikotozukumedearu. In information-technology age, abacus will be to show the importance more and more. Made abacus of Miyamoto waits for shi to be able to be broken to many people.

    Miyamoto of one cup of will that continues making abacus from now on

    Craftsman profile

    Kazuhiro Miyamoto

    It was born in 1940
    For this way 45 years, we go for demonstration for the abacus spread to the whole country and foreign countries


    Conversion from calculation tool to the education teaching materials

    The history of abacus is old and dates back to Mesopotamia of B.C. 3000. It is transmitted in Japan in the Muromachi era (the 1500s) by Chugoku. We have been used as calculation tool for a long time afterwards. However, abacus faced crisis of extinction under the influence of electronic calculator. Through the crisis, we still watched story to cause director, Itsuji Naito who devoted energy to the spread of abacuses.

    ◆Natural enemy electronic calculator appears

    Saying, in "(about 1960), produced 3,600,000 orders a year in the height of prosperity only in Ono-shi, and factory was 350."; Naito. However, by the terrible spread of electronic calculators of the 40, Showa generation, amount of production of abacus suddenly declined. In addition, introduction of consumption tax gave damage more, too. "Probably it is Fujiwara to read saying it will become amount of production around 450,000 orders in 2001". We surely decrease sharply, but we did not become extinct and survive persistently. Why is it?

    ◆We live as the education teaching materials

    Saying ", might disappear really when was not used as the teaching materials of elementary school."; Naito. Real demand is education teaching materials toshitegahotondo of school. Naito continued accusing as the teaching materials which could not miss abacus on development of ability of child as simple calculation tool for more than 25 years. Guidelines of the Ministry of Education influenced use as the teaching materials, but how would you move? Until the beginning of 1965, abacus class was carried out for raw three years for 4-6 years. However, we turned into the second grade of third grader and fourth grader in guidelines of 1970. Then, "education at ease" was proposed in guidelines of 1980, "abacus or electronic calculator was listed with use", and, only as for the third grader, it was class of eight hours a year. "Expression at that time was like that. Third grader had to do, but it was desirable for fourth grader to have. It was not written that we did. Naito who says, we have become only third grader after all regretfully. Next is guideline of 1992. Furthermore, anyone thought that we were reduced, but returned to the second grade of third grader and fourth grader how. Naito who is deeply impressive, and says, "we think that petition for our many years reached the Ministry of Education." Revision of the next guidelines is 2002. It is next two people telling that only two points want you to hear hope hot by all means. "We delete sentence of calculation with electronic calculator and are two points of putting sentence of calculation with abacus" with "introduction from second grader".

    ◆Effect of abacus

    "It is very effective in abacus learning concept of number (number), and developing perception of calculation. Guy called electronic calculator is surely convenient, but he/she only calculates answer simply and does not often notice even if we make a mistake. Saying high mental arithmetic ability of Japanese people is said to be grace of abacus, and want to review good point of abacus which such a modern people forgot once again; Naito. Actually, we ask activation of brain effectively, and abacus to use finger for is broken. It is said that we are effective against activation of the right brain in particular. It is demonstrated that abacus is effective to develop concentration. Effect of abacus has been accepted in foreign country. "Calculation on the abacus center in the United States" is established early in the United States in 1978, and instruction of calculation on the abacus education is accomplished targeting at public elementary and junior high schools. School which came in instruction is said more than 1,000 schools, and 100,000 estimates learn abacus until now. Calculation on the abacus competition is held in Los Angeles, San Francisco, 6 cities including New York, too. Abacus population increases in Brazil with many Japanese-people, and it is said that calculation on the abacus education is practiced in elementary and junior high school and Japanese language school, Japanese-trading company, bank. Calculation on the abacus education is accomplished in other U.K., India, Hungary, Finland, considerable country including New Zealand. Of course abacuses are exported to those countries by Japan. Possibly day reimported by foreign country may be going to come about effect of abacus. Energetic effort in Japan will be accomplished led by Naito from now on. For education of children. For the future in Japan.

    <Itsuji Naito profile>

    Banshu abacus industrial art object cooperative association director is acted as for 16 years from 1974. Meanwhile, it is successful as representative Officially designated Traditional craft products application by the designated acquisition and negotiations with the Ministry of Education. For from January to March in 2001, "the making of abacus" was carried out in six schools among city 8 Elementary School, but we assemble then and are taught and are still moved for the abacus spread energetically.

    • Advertising tower (9m in length, 4m in width) of supersized abacus

    • Calculation on the abacus tournament

    • Naito who still concentrates power on the spread of abacuses




Industrial art object name Banshu Soroban
Phonetic symbol bansyusoroban
Classification of industrial art object Writing tools and Abacus
Main product Abacus
Main production area Hyogo / Ono-shi, Kasai-shi, Miki-shi, Kakogawa-shi, Yashirocho, Kato-gun
The designation date June 2, 1976

Contact information

■local production associations

Banshu abacus industrial art object cooperative association
600, Honmachi, Ono-shi, Hyogo
TEL: 0794-62-2108
FAX: 0794-62-2109 html

Hyogo tree ball business cooperative association
563, Kubokicho, Ono-shi, Hyogo
Descent from a mountain Kenji
TEL: 0794-62-4849
FAX: 0794-62-3233

Banshu abacus manufacturing industry association
84-1, Hiyoshicho, Ono-shi, Hyogo
TEL: 0794-62-3996
FAX: 0794-62-3996

■Associated exhibit space, facility


As for the ball of abacus, ebonies use obstinate, heavy natural tree for frame from tree of hippopotamus box tree. "Scale thin"; equal; fabricated abacus comprises beauty polished up in addition to usability, ball (tama) hajikino good point by delicate traditional technique, and right comprise value as art of tree.

Soroban beads are made of birch or boxwood, while for the frame hard and heavy natural woods like ebony are used. These soroban, assembled by means of precise traditional techniques such as “urokosai“ (fish scale technique), in addition to their ease of use and the facility of working the beads, are also valuable art objects with a beautifully polished finishing.

How to make

We begin with the choice of raw wood and sharpen ball after having dried enough and saw up axis nohigohiki, frames and finish to each material. We process it into middle crosspiece, vertical and horizontal frame, back board and we put ball in the axis and cross frame and we repair distortion and fix with filler. Finally we finish for burnishing.

After the wood has been selected and carefully dried, the beads, the axis shaft and the frame are built, each being given a different finishing according to its materials. The middle crosspiece, up, down, left and right of the frame, back plate was processed on the, the beads are inserted onto the shaft, distortions are corrected and fixed in place with wood filler. The process is finally completed by polishing and glazing them.

Voice from production center

Abacus is important tool to feed calculation so that basics of education read and write, and "they are said to be abacus" from old days. In addition, activation of brain is planned by moving finger-tip, and it is said that we help prevention of aging. We do not depend only on electronic calculator for calculation, and how about using abacus increasing mental arithmetic power, memory?

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