Soroban, or Japanese Abacus

This Japanese abacus is in the lid of a rosewood box. A wooden cross bar colored white is painted with various characters labeling various columns of the abacus. Columns 1 to 6 are labeled in units of volume used to measure rice. Columns 8 through 13 are labeled in units of Japanese currency. Column 7 is not labeled.
The beads of the abacus move on 13 parallel bamboo rods, with one bead above the cross bar and five below. The shape of the beads is like that of other Japanese abaci. The base of the box contains a large container with hardened black ink, a smaller container with red ink, additional bars of red and black ink, and a brush for drawing characters.
A paper sheet received with the abacus indicates that it was used by Dr. S. Tetsu Tamura as a schoolboy from 1885 to 1897 and presented to Cleveland Abbe in 1906.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
ca 1885
Physical Description
ink (overall material)
rosewood (overall material)
paper (overall material)
bamboo (overall material)
overall: 2.3 cm x 17 cm x 8.5 cm; 29/32 in x 6 11/16 in x 3 11/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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