Banshu abacus Banshu soroban
Upholding the spirit of “read, write, do math by abacus”
Diamond-shaped chamfered abacus of exquisite beauty
What is Banshu abacus ?
Banshu Soroban refers to abacuses produced in Ono City located in the center of Higashi Harima that is in the southeast of Hyogo Prefecture. Blessed with warm weather, Ono City engaged in abacus production during off-peak times of farming.
Banshu Soroban is characterized by its production process divided into several phases by part, and it became synonymous with Hyogo’s tradition craft by virtue of high productivity and prodigious techniques.
Otsu Soroban introduced from Nagasaki is believed to be the origin of the current Banshu Soroban. As a transportation hub bustling with Oumi merchants, Otsu was conveniently situated with easy access to the commercial capitals such as Osaka and Kyoto and noted for abacus production.
Banshu Soroban for everyday use at schools or shops went into volume production while developing user-friendly abacuses with colors and shapes that could draw children’s interests.
Though the recent proliferation of computers and calculators has brought about flagging demand for abacuses, Banshu Soroban remains a vital item in education at home and school.
History of the abacus harks back to the late Muromachi Period, when abacuses were introduced from China to Otsu City of Shiga Prefecture through Nagasaki Prefecture. Otsu’s convenient location to business districts, Osaka and Kyoto, prodded the abacus production, which contributed to the development of Otsu Soroban.
In 1580, Toyotomi Hideyoshi laid siege to Miki Castle in Miki City, forcing residents to escape to its neighboring city, Otsu. The residents who had acquired the techniques of making abacuses began the abacus production after they returned home in Otsu, which is deemed as the beginning of Banshu Soroban.
During the Edo Period, education was conducted widely in Terakoya (private elementary schools in Edo period) to encourage children to start learning “reading, writing and doing math by abacus.” Abacuses soared in popularity especially in business districts in keeping with the explosive spread of Terakoya, resulting in 8 abacus wholesalers and over 200 subcontractors by the end of Edo Period.
Following the Sino-Japanese War, in Ono City a newly-developed Ogawa type bead making machine was phased in, enabling mass production. Abacuses continued growing in demand with the economic growth once the School Education Law was implemented after the World War II.
Abacuses have experienced a slowdown in demand due to the widespread use of computers but still boasts full production with output of 530,000 a year.
General Production Process
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