Soroban, or Japanese Abacus

This instrument sits in a wooden box painted black around the edge. It has a wooden cross piece painted white. Twenty-one parallel bamboo rods rods pass through the cross piece. Each has one bead above the cross piece and five below.
The beads are similar in shape to those on other Japanese abaci. Every column but the middle one is labeled on the cross piece with a Japanese character. The ten beads to the left of the center may represent units of volume, those to the right are units of currency.
A stamp attached to the box below the beads that shows a Japanese diety known as Daikoku sama operating an abacus. Characters printed on the stamp refer to a trademark and to Osaka. A sticker attached to the back has characters on it that may represent a price in a vendor's code. The object is marked on the back in pen “4504.” It is recorded as found in museum storage in 1959.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
bamboo (overall material)
overall: 1.8 cm x 35.6 cm x 8 cm; 23/32 in x 14 1/32 in x 3 5/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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