Land of the Rising Sun

Mpumalanga, our easternmost province, means “the place where the sun rises.” So we think it’s extra cool that Japan is also known as the Land of the Rising Sun, given its location in the east. It’s a beautiful connection between our east and the Far East, including Japan.

Usually every year, usually in August, the leadership team of Abacus Maths, together with a group of our awesome trainers (franchisees) and some of our students, make an annual pilgrimage to Japan, to learn more and more about the abacus. Of course, we also take in some of the sights, sounds and smells of this amazing country.

As Africans, we find the mystique of Japan something that is quite different to our own. From the culture to the people to the food and everything in between, Nippon (another name for Japan) is a world away from us, and yet also so close by, given the increasingly global society that we all live in.

Firstly, Japan is a very homogeneous country, which means that it’s comprised mostly of Japanese people. While there are some expats who live there, it’s very different to South Africa, where we are the Rainbow Nation, with Black, White, Coloured and Asian people.

Secondly, Japan is quite a small country when compared to South Africa. It’s slightly smaller than Zimbabwe, with a land mass of 377,000km2 spread mostly over the four main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. But there are a myriad of small islands which also make up the country of Japan, including the famed Okinawa. South Africa’s massive 1.2 million km2 of land makes us about 3 times the size of Japan.

Thirdly, however, Japan has a massive population, with over 126 million people, compared to the roughly 60 million in SA, so you can imagine how crowded it can be on those four islands! Tokyo remains the largest metropolitan area in the world, with a population of 38 million, compared to Johannesburg’s 10 million. Very interestingly, Tokyo is the world’s largest megacity and also one of its oldest, while Johannesburg is the world’s smallest megacity and also its youngest.

Fourthly, Japan has had one of the strongest economies in the world since its recovery from the Second World War, thanks in part to aid that the Americans put in place to help the main protagonists of the war recover from the destruction of their cities and also their economies. It is currently ranked as the third-largest economy in the world, behind the United States and China, and ahead of Germany. The Japanese economy is about 14 times the size of ours. Wow! That’s a lot of bucks! However, despite the strength of their economy, Japan has actually been in recession for the last 20 years or so, with negative growth rates of their economy year-on-year.

Fifthly, totally unlike South Africa, Japan has an ageing population. With far fewer young people than we have, it’s one of the reasons why Japan is so big on AI and robotics, to get machines to do things that people, as they age, won’t be able to do for themselves. And like their fellow allies in the Second World War, Germany, Japan has a massive and thriving motor industry. Germany has BMW and Mercedes, and of course Japan has Toyota and Nissan.

Finally – although there is a lot more we could share with you about this wonderful place – Japan is the only country in the world to have experienced a nuclear attack. On 6 and 9 August 1945, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastated when the United States dropped atomic bombs on them. ‘Hibakusha’ is the name given to a person who was directly affected by the bombs. The Genbaku (‘A-Bomb’) Dome is the centrepiece of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, as it was the only building left standing in the centre of the city where the nuclear bomb was detonated.

Japan is also famous for its cherry trees, which blossom every spring. Some of these trees were donated to the United States, and can be seem blooming in Washington, DC, also in the spring.

Another famous Japanese invention, aside from sushi and sake (rice wine) is the ‘shinkansen’ or bullet train, which was the world’s first high-speed train, opened back in 1964, linking the cities of Tokyo and Osaka.

And as we write, of course, the Rugby World Cup is currently being played in Japan until 2 November. Next year, 2020, the Olympic Games also return to Tokyo. They were last held in the city in 1964.

So, as we close out or latest blog with a few pics of our trip to Japan, let’s review how many new Japanese words you now know!

soroban = abacus

shinkansen = bullet train

sushi = Japanese rice dish

sake = rice wine

genbaku = atomic

hibakusha = bomb victim

Nippon = Japan





Dear Parent

Happy Spring!

We hope that you are enjoying the warmer weather as much as we are.

The fourth quarter starts in October and is the busiest time of the year for our students, as they wind down the year towards the summer holidays.

We just wanted to share a few pics from our fabulous trip to Japan, which we undertook back in August. The weather in Japan was still glorious, as their summer was busy ending.

As our summer gets started, we wanted to wish you LOTS of strength for the end-of-year academic crunch.

Rest assured, we at Abacus Maths are here to help you and your child every step of the way, so please contact us if you need any assistance.

Enjoy the pics!

With love and numbers,

The Abacus Maths Team

African feet of the Rainbow Nation celebrate how lucky they are, to be walking the streets of Japan. And what a blast they all had!

The gorgeous sunflowers denote the rising of the sun in the Land of the Rising Sun (Japan). They also denote the rising of the African sun down south, as we proudly see how amazingly well our local gals fared in this Japanese soroban competition. So proud are we!

Aitsa! Proudly South African, one and all…

Celebrating Heritage Day a month early 

Eating HOOOOOGE nectarines. Imported from sunny South Africa, perhaps? Deeeelishus!

Building bridges, forging friendships…

Bridge of possibilities. Africa is rising, baby…. 

A time-honoured Japanese tradition…

Worsies, cheese, eggs, yoghurt, bread, rolls, corn flakes…. What happened to the mopane worms?!

All looking gorgeous, resplendent in SA colours…

With Pacific Ring of Fire mountains in the background, Team SA soaks up the last embers of Japan’s subtropical summer…