The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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In the world of the abacus, three Waseda ladies have taken their stand

Ms. Sayaka Matsuda
Ms. Hiroka Horiuchi
Ms. Yuki Kaneko

”Did you know that the abacus is often referred to as a 'brain sport?'” “That's right! And just like a sport, it can lead way to fierce competition,” said Ms. Matsuda, Ms. Horiuchi, and Ms. Kaneko with beaming smiles. One thing that these three share in common is that they all have continued the abacus everyday, without rest, since their childhoods. And they all love it. They also all obtained the highest of the ten levels of abacus proficiency when they were in high school. Following that, they sought out victory at national abacus competitions. “Actually, it was thanks to a certain two individuals that I was able to give as much effort as I did. I heard that there were two other people of about the same age that were as strong as I was.those two were Ms. Matsuda and Ms. Kaneko,” reflected Ms. Horiuchi. The three would go on to meet at competitions time and time again. “Ever since we were little, we were good friends.and good rivals,” said Ms. Matsuda.

After entering Waseda, in addition to individual competitions, they also formed teams and entered competitions as groups. “I knew that the other two had entered Waseda before I had, and I wanted to form a team made up of the three of us so badly that I ended up enrolling as well,” said Ms. Kaneko. Even now they continue their daily practices. Ms. Horiuchi said that in order to give correct answers at high speeds, “concentration is necessary in addition to skill.” “When I feel that Ms. Kaneko and Ms. Horiuchi are working hard, I can push myself even further. When I give my best, it directly links to the team's best,” said Ms. Matsuda. Last year in November, their group won the National Arithmetic Competition for the second straight year. Not only did they win, but they also received a perfect score in all seven events of the competition, which include multiplication, division, written exercises, and mental arithmetic. As a result, they received the first group award for a perfect score ever to be awarded at the competition. The result hadn't been anticipated by the organizers of the event, and so the award - a wallet - was sent later to each of the three competitors. “Those matching wallets are treasures to us.”

”I think the fact that the three of us were able to join together as a team has brought us a great deal of happiness.” It is exactly because the people involved are these three individuals, who have given their everything to the abacus, that this miraculous result was achieved. However, these earnest feelings are not only directed towards the abacus. Ms. Matsuda described her thoughts, saying, “I'm interested in special needs education, and have started an education internship that began this school year. I think it would be great if I were able to make course materials that made use of the abacus for the children to learn.” Ms. Kaneko said that “I am currently participating in a seminar with the theme of 'jobs for women.' I want to listen to lectures, read materials, broaden my perspective, and think about the future.” Ms. Horiuchi said “I've decided to be an abacus instructor as soon as I graduate. In order to gain experience as an instructor, I'm going to start teaching children this year. It will be difficult, but rewarding.” The paths they follow are different, but their emotions are the same. While treasuring the importance of one another, their group aims to win again this year, too.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Ms. Sayaka Matsuda

Born in 1988 in Ishikawa Prefecture. Graduated from Ishikawa Prefectural Ida High School and is currently a fourth year student of the School of Education. Participated in the 2009 World Championships.

Hiroka Horiuchi

Born in 1990 in Chiba Prefecture. Graduated from Waseda Jitsugyo High School and is currently a third year student of the School of Education. Placed first in the 2007 All-Japan Abacus Championships. Founded the Abacus Club and is currently the secretary-general.

Ms. Yuki Kaneko

Born in 1989 in Chiba Prefecture. Graduated from Ichihara Chuo High School and is currently a third year student of the School of Education. Placed number one in Japan at the all-around Abacus Christmas Cup 2009 competition.