Counting to meet culture at upcoming soroban competitions
TOKYO — A symphony of sighs, gasps, cheers and clicking and zipping beads will fill the room as the kickoff event for annual soroban competitions gets underway 10 a.m. Thursday at the Sagamihara Shimin Kaikan (Sagamihara Civic Hall) located in the outskirts of Tokyo near U.S. Army Garrison Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi.
Soroban is the Japanese word for abacus—a counting device with origins dating back six millennia and still used in many Asian countries. Although several contests are held across mainland Japan and Okinawa each year for DoDEA Pacific students, the upcoming event at Sagamihara is the only one that features joint competition with Japanese students.
Approximately 80 students from Japanese schools located in Kanagawa Prefecture will participate alongside 90 DoDEA students from Arnn Elementary School, Byrd ES, Ikego ES, Lanham ES and The Sullivans ES. The students will compete in a variety of oral and written challenges to determine the overall champion and top performers in several categories.
Following the contest Thursday, all participating students will join in a special friendship building and cultural exchange activity using the traditional Japanese game Jan Ken Pon—similar to rock-paper-scissors.
The soroban is believed to have been first introduced to the Japanese via China and Korea around 1600 A.D., however, over the centuries the Japanese soroban has been modified for portability, advanced calculations and finger-friendly bead design geared toward quick and accurate counting. Although handheld calculators have been available for decades, the soroban remains popular today among many Japanese families with elementary-age children as a way to reinforce mathematics concepts taught at school.
The table below provides information about each of the upcoming contests:
NOTE: All events listed below will take place within mainland Japan or Okinawa. Times listed with an asterisk* indicate these times are not yet finalized; please contact the POC to confirm final event times.
Date Time Location POC Phone/Email
28 March 10:00-14:00 Kantō Plain:
Sagamihara Shimin Kaikan (Sagamihara Civic Hall) Manami Mikami DSN: 225-1646
17 April *09:20-11:20 Sasebo:
Harbor View Club Megumi Fukui DSN: 252-8800
29 April *09:00-11:30 Okinawa:
Surfside Club at Camp Kinser Mike Schoebinger
or Hiro Masashiro DSN: 634-1204
COMM: 098-961-1204 Mike.Schoebinger@pac.dodea.edu
15 May TBD Kantō Plain:
U.S. Naval Joint Services Activity - The New Sanno Manami Mikami DSN: 225-1646
29 May *09:15-11:40 Misawa:
Misawa Civic Center Masumi Kumagai DSN: 226-2647