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Yokota students showcase soroban skills
ROPPONGI, Japan -- Students and spectators take their seats during the introduction of the 29th Kanto Area Department of Defense Dependent Students soroban contest held at the New Sanno hotel, May 25, 2011, Roppongi, Japan. Every year, towards the end of May, the Japanese Soroban Association hosts the competition. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrea Salazar)
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Yokota students showcase soroban skills

Posted 6/9/2011   Updated 6/13/2011 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Lynsie Nichols
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

6/9/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- May 25 was just a regular day for many people in Japan, but for 120 elementary and middle-school students in Department of Defense schools from Yokota and the surrounding Kanto Plains area, it was more -- it was the day of the soroban competition.

The soroban is an abacus, or counting tray, developed in Japan. It is composed of an odd number of columns or rods containing beads that represent a digit.

Every year, towards the end of May, the Japanese Soroban Association hosts the competition at the New Sanno hotel in Roppongi, Japan.

Kiyomi Uehara, a contract teacher for grades kindergarten through fifth at Yokota West Elementary, formed a soroban club to introduce students to Japanese culture.

"This is a great competition for the kids, it enriches their math skills and helps them learn more of the Japanese culture," said Ms. Uehara. "We have practice sessions in my classroom every Thursday for an hour after school; the children are really serious about this event."

In Japan, the soroban is taught in primary schools as part of lessons in mathematics because the decimal number system can be demonstrated visually.

Ms. Uehara recalls the joy she experienced from her younger years of practicing the soroban.

"When I was younger, I had the opportunity to practice the soroban and really enjoyed it," said Ms. Uehara. "Starting this club not only helped me spread awareness of the Japanese culture, but it brought back fond memories of my childhood that I wanted to share with my students."

There are a total of 15 elementary and middle schools that participate in the competition every year. Awards are given for the highest score; there is one grand prize winner and a maximum of three second and third place winners.

"The students get really excited to participate," said Ms. Uehara, "It's a day off from school and a chance to participate in friendly competition with their peers."

Last year, Yokota won seven medals, this year, they only won four prizes including first, second and third places in the written question category, and third place in the oral dictation category.

"I'm so proud of the kids, they all did so well," said Ms. Uehara.

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