History of Abacus in Japan

Year       Incident

1572      The abacus was first brought to Japanfrom Ming Dynasty China

1592      Lord Toshiie Maeda used an abacus during the Bunroku Civil War at the Hizen Nagoya front.  This abacus still exists.

1622      Shigetaka Mouri wrote gWarizan-shoh (Book of Division).

1627      Mitsuyoshi Yoshida wrote "Jinkoki" which is the oldest existing abacus book.

1727      The Otsu Abacus flourished around this time.

1787      Yoshigoro Murakami, the originator of the Unshu Abacus was born in Unshu Kamedake. (He died in 1876.)

              The First Period: Creation of the Unshu Abacus (An Era of Craftsmanship)

1832      Creation of the oldest existing abacus made by Yoshigoro (He was 46 years of age.)

              Josaku Takahashi was born in Yokota. (He died in 1888.) He significantly improved the Unshu abacus turning lathe.

1841      Asakichi Murakami was born in Yokota. (He died in 1888.) He was instrumental in establishing the Unshu Abacus manufacturing industry in the area.

1849      Creation of the first abacus under the name of "Masaemon" by a second generation Yoshigoro

1854      Many private elementary schools were established in the area (especially in Yokota)

              The foot lathe (created by Yoshigoro) for planing beads was improved by Josaku Takahashi into a foot lathe with a flywheel.

              The Second Period: Creation of the Unshu Abacus Manufacturing Industry

1872      Elementary school education policy implemented western style math and Japanese style math was no longer taught.

              Around this period, Asakichi Murakami created a hand-turning lathe and started to teach how to make the abacus to the public.  This contributed to a rapid increase in abacus craftspeople in Yokota.

1875      Manufacturing in Yokota Village (currently the Yokota area)

              Number of craftspeople: approximately 20

              Number of abacuses being manufactured: 3,000 (annually)  (9 abacuses monthly per craftsperson)

              Leading craftspeople: Josaku Takahashi and Asakichi Murakami

              The founder of Horie Abacus, Gihe Itohara ( 1837 - 1911) came to Yokota from Osaka around this period.

              Reishiro Sansei (1851 - 1919) brought tropical hardwoods to Yokota.

1879      A village office was established.

              The Third Period: Beginning of the sale of the Unshu Abacus.  The method of Unshu Abacus manufacturing sparked the start of manufacturing reform in Banshu.

1887      A nationwide land inspection was started throughout Japan

              Selling of the abacus was spread to Western Japan by Sashimi merchants (currently Koryo Village, Hikawa-gun, Shimane Prefecture) and the Unshu Abacus gained a good reputation.

1889      Enforcement of the Local Government Act: Establishment of many banks and companies

1890      Elementary school education policy took up use of both the abacus and written calculation in math.

              Teizo Ueda (1871 ? 1928) brought the Unshu Abacus manufacturing method to Osaka during this period.

1893      Hisajiro Matsuura (1871 - 1928, the founder of Tamasando) and Zenjiro Omoso (1863 - 1939) started dedicated abacus sales.

1902      Hino who went to Osaka from Yokota established Unshudo.

              According to statistics published by the local government of Nita-gun, Yokota village (currently the Yokota area) had 14 families producing abacuses for a total of 2,780 abacuses annually (the average of 200 abacuses per family).  An abacus cost approximately 40-sen (0.4 yen).  Also, KametakaVillage had 4 families producing abacuses for a total of 720 abacuses annually (the average of 200 abacuses per family).

1904      Use of a nationally designated math textbook (black cover) started.

1907      Yoshimatsu Fujiki (instrumental in reviving interest in the Banshu Abacus) returned to Banshu from Osaka after learning the Unshu Abacus manufacturing method.  Banshu flourished.

              The Fourth Period: Marketing of the Unshu Abacus (The marketing policy of the Osaka area is a good example)

1909      Wholesaler Seno started an abacus division

              Establishment of the Matsuura Omoso Unshu Abacus Wholesale Co.

              Establishment of several Yakumo Abacus wholesalers, such as the Tameemon Horie Yakumo Abacus Whole Sale Co.

1912      Shinichi Moriwaki started sales in Korea. (He was the first one to do so in the abacus industry.)

              The Fifth Period: Unshu craftspeople started to move to the Osaka area

1915      According to Yokota Village statistics, there were 50 families producing abacuses for a total of 25,000 abacuses annually.

1916      The Takano Bead Planing Lathe was first tried in Banshu.  (This was the start of bead manufacturing by machine)

              According to Yokota Village statistics, there were 44 families (56 men and 43 women) producing abacuses for a total of 30,000 abacuses annually, which amounted to 24,000 yen in sales.

1917      The Unshu Abacus Manufacturing Guild, an industrial guild, was established.  (Both wholesalers and craftspeople were involved)

1919      A place to teach the manufacturing method of the abacus was established by the Unshu Abacus Manufacturing Guild.

              A sawmill using water wheel power was built.

1921      Use of daytime electricity became possible and the original models of most machines that are currently used were installed.  Also, the Kanzaki Bead Planing Machine had already been invented by this time.

1928      The first abacus proficiency test and competition was held in Tokyo

1937      The Ministry of Education decided to use four beads.

              Foundation of the Unshu Abacus Commercial and Industrial Association

1938      The nationally designated elementary school math textbook (green cover) for grade 4 (vol. 2) included study of the abacus as compulsory material.

1942      Study of the abacus became compulsory in elementary school grade three math textbooks (blue cover).

              The Sixth Period: Development Period, Machine and factory production

1946      The start of production of special quality abacuses.  Seven abacus craftspeople were selected.  (They were called the Unshu 7)

1955      Establishment of various unions.  Active development of manufacturing machines.

1960      Establishment of the Unshu Abacus Cooperative Association according to the Cooperative Association Act.

1961      Registration of the "Unshu Abacus" logo

1968      The Inyo (Western Japan) Abacus Competition was started.

1982      The Unshu Abacus was officially named as the "Traditional Craft of Shimane Prefecture".
The Inyo Abacus Competition was re-named as the Western Japan Abacus Competition.

1983      Establishment of the Yokota Abacus Cooperative Association according to the Cooperative Association Act.

1985      The Unshu Abacus was officially named as a "Traditional Craft" by the Minister of International Trade and Industry.