Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.354

on August 31, 2011

When I was a child, learning to use an abacus was common practice for kids nationwide in Japan. An abacus is a wooden calculator with many beads inside a rectangular frame. We used to attend a small private school twice a week in the evening. The teacher was a next-door neighbor who happened to be skillful with his abacus and live in a house my family rented. He ran the private abacus school at his home that was actually located inside our front yard. Although the house was small, learning an abacus was so popular that it was packed with students. Almost all the kids in the neighborhood practiced there. It was like the norm for a child who began the third grade to learn it. Even an elementary school officially spent some classes to teach an abacus for the fourth-graders. As an inevitable custom, I began to learn it at the next-door neighbor’s house when I was in the third grade. Six third-graders including me joined the school that year. Everyone touched an abacus for the first time but for some reason, I was very good at it from the word go. Practicing there twice a week with other kids, I had gotten cleverer and cleverer with my abacus and became the best student in less than two years. I was able to move the beads on the abacus with my fingertips faster than any other kids and count on the abacus most accurately in the school. Unfortunately, the world had been already in the electronic calculator age. Even in a rural area like my hometown, people seldom used an abacus anymore. My talent was obviously obsolete. It’s a mystery why I’m always good at something totally useless or decisively unprofitable…

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