Last Saturday, the adult members (i.e., 3 people) of the soroban school I am visiting took a trip down to Osaka to visit a soroban museum. It is run by an old soroban teacher who is even more enthousiastic about soroban than mine, which I found hardly possible. Although the museum is very small – it is just two rooms on the second floor above his school room – the owner says that he has more than 1000 soroban, and he collects anything that is in any way soroban related, be it ever so slightly.
The first room houses the collection of soroban. There are old ones from China and Russia (which look more than the abacuses we have in Europe), and all sorts of soroban that are either made from an interesting material or have some story to them. We saw soroban made from pearls, glass, ivory, and a very expensive one from tiger’s eye.
There was a rather beaten up soroban that survived a tsunami somewhere, was found in a rice paddy afterwards, and had its history carved into the back of it. There were beautiful soroban from China with ivory inlay in the back or in metal boxes, a brand new binary soroban. Also, two soroban with integrated pocket calculators (or is it the other way around?) made by Sharp, and three different types of soroban for blind people.On top of that, the first room houses everything that depicts a soroban in one way or the other; from paintings and noren curtains to clocks and lamps, netsuke and jewelry, and of course, toys. It was a wonderland of soroban related things, and I still think I may have missed something. The second room was more of a study with a small, traditionally Japanese work place, and a library containing exclusively books about soroban. Not just textbooks (some of which dated back to the Edo period), but even art books where at least one of the images somewhere showed a soroban. Altogether we spent about two hours in the museum, and at the risk of sounding extremely nerdy, we really enjoyed ourselves there. Afterwards the owner invited us to dinner and coffee, and of course we kept on talking about soroban all through the evening. Isn’t it nice if you have a hobby like this?