History of the Unshu Soroban (Abacus)

Currently, the abacus is widely used by people, from elementary school students to office workers.  How has the abacus evolved to become the type of abacus we see today?

About 170 years ago, Yoshigoro Murakami, a carpenter who lived in what is currently Kamedake, Nita-gun, ShimanePrefecture, made an excellent abacus by copying an abacus made by Shohachi Shioya from Kishu.  He used carpenters tools and materials grown in the region, such as oak, plum and smoked bamboo.  Yoshigoro is the father of the Unshu Abacus.

Yoshigoro Murakami kept the manufacturing method of the abacus a family secret.  However, Josaku Takahashi and Asakichi Murakami from Yokota also started to produce the abacus after many attempts.

Asakichi Murakami improved many things. Especially, he invented the hand turned bead lathe.  He taught the public how to produce the abacus and this led to a rapid increase of abacus production.  The hand turned bead lathe made not only the planing of beads easier but also the planing of small beads possible leading to the development of small abacuses just like the ones people use in offices today.

In the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), education became available to ordinary people and together with economic growth, the Unshu office abacus gained a good reputation.

In those days, abacuses made from both ebony (tropical hardwood) and rosewood were very popular for their solid appearance yet light touch and they were sold nationwide.

Asakichi Murakami and Junbe Senda brought the Unshu Abacus manufacturing method to the Osaka area.  From there it spread to Banshu and this contributed to the establishment of the Unshu Abacus industry.

Osaka and Banshu have come to produce abacuses for educational use.  However, Unshu maintained abacus production for office use by maintaining traditional quality and keeping the reputation of being "the best in Japan".

We have many antique abacuses on display in our company.  Some of the items we are proud to display are an abacus created by Shohachi Shioya, which was inspirational in the creation of the Unshu Abacus, and an abacus created by Yoshigoro Murakami in his early days as an abacus craftsperson.