Soroban, Japanese soroban wood abacus (counting frame) is said to be imported from China at the end of Muromachi period (around the middle of 16th century). Japanese soroban wood abacus was developed in Otsu area first, but was inherited by the residents around Miki castle, in Hyogo area, which was attacked by Oda Nobunaga and burned. People around the area escaped from the war to Otsu area, and started to learn to produceJapanese soroban wood abacus for living. Banshu Japanese soroban wood abacus production began later, when such people returned to their home.
This type of counting tool has a frame and lots of beads which are set in line by spits. The beads shows numbers and rods so that people do not have to remember. Thus, it helps people count especially large numbers. It also can help calculating addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
The main resource of Japanese soroban wood abacus is woods, such as Japanese boxwood, white birch, and ebony tree. They should be hard not to be broken, so the pieces of woods are well dried, neatly shaved, and sophisticatedly polished. The artisans’ skills are shown in the smooth movement of the beads.
Nowadays, the production of Japanese soroban wood abacus in Banshu takes 70% of the whole in Japan, however, since calculation machine and computer became more user friendly, its number of production decreased from 3.5 million (in 1960s) to 150 thousand. Still, the tool draws many attentions as for brain training. Even e-learning tool “Internet Soroban School” was developed for the first time, and now it allows you to learn soroban on the web.
Banshu Japanese soroban wood abacus was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1976.