Vintage Soroban Kanban

Japanese Antique Kanban | Soroban / Abacus | Taisho Period



Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 43-0”L x 12-1/4”w x 2-0”d

This is a wonderful RARE wooden Japanese Soroban / Kanban for an Abacus Shop. This realistic piece was designed especially for merchants in this specialization, as it is oversized and has eyelets for hanging horizontally either inside or outside the shop. The is a large section and a small section are separated by a wood member that has been lacquered in a cream color, with 21 rows of beech wooden beads 1/5 bead count, (style), 126 beads in total. Each bead is fitted onto bamboo and boar’s hair bristle dowels to keep each bead in position, although for a shop sign it was not necessary being an architectural signage piece used by the merchant or tradesmen.

The entire frame is made of Japanese Oak and probably crafted between 1920-1930. This date range can be inferred due to the number of wooden beads it contains, (The Japanese formally changed to a 1/5 style beading to a 1/4 style in 1930 when all of the Japanese school textbooks were revised). Due to it’s apparent age and construction, this Soroban was likely made exclusively with traditional Japanese hand tools to create the traditional joinery and metal corner hardware, which have held the abacus together all these years. 

And finally, there is a very old signature script on the top of the frame, which is an early form of Japanese “photographic script”, and cannot be interpreted. This kanban / abacus is a collector’s find for the number of beads dictate a piece made in the Taisho era, and the signature indicates that the signer, if it were the craftsman who made the piece, used a much older script to identify himself.

Condition: The abacus is in very good condition, weathered and commensurate with age, with a little separation on the bottom side of the trim that encases the dowels which hold the beads in place and most likely from being hung outside the merchants shop. There is slight scaring of the wood from aging and a few wood beads show some wear, again form aging. The original cast iron hanging fasteners from which it was hung remain functional and in fully in tacked. (see both front and back images of the piece).