China in shock after Japanese girl wins brain battle



China’s loss to Japan on a popular game show devoted to mental athletics has left the country’s netizens atwitter and provoked some national soul-searching.

The battleground was the popular television show “Super Brain,” and the eventual winner a 9-year-old Japanese girl.

The series is a sort of weekly mental Olympics, pitting teams from around the world against China in a series of three brain-bending events.

In recent competitions, China has gone up against Germany and Britain, with contestants fighting over such questions of national honor as who can solve a Rubik’s cube the fastest.

Last Friday’s match against Japan — the country China loves to hate — was one of the most hotly anticipated, and widely watched, of the season.

For the last event in the triathlon, contestants were given mere seconds to find the answers to arithmetic problems that would take the average adult minutes — and a calculator — to solve.

When the dust settled, Japanese math prodigy Rinne Tsujikubo had demolished her Chinese competition, as well as fellow teammate Takeo Sasano.

Sasano, who is in his 30s, holds the Guinness World Record for mental addition: 15 three-digit numbers in 1.7 seconds.

The diminutive Tsujikubo played it cool throughout the contest, even after she mistakenly wrote one digit in a difficult problem.

That error allowed Team China to stay neck-and-neck for most of the competition, but in the last few minutes Tsujikubo completely blew the opposition away.

In the final round she multiplied two seven-digit numbers — and double-checked her work — before her competitors, or teammate, had seemingly even finished writing their answers.

The blistering speed with which she solved the problem left everyone, including the audience, dumbfounded and handed a win to Japan.

Xinhua, China’s official news agency, devoted a five-page write-up to the match, lavishing most of its attention on Tsujikubo’s mind-bending “mathleticism.”

What’s her secret? Studying the Japanese abacus, known as soroban, she told an interviewer before the show.

Abacus classes are a common, if not necessarily popular, after-school activity in Japan. After years of practice, devotees develop the ability to do sums on a mental calculator, solely based on visualization.

The skill is known as flash anzan (mental calculation) and is the centerpiece of an annual abacus competition.

Tsujikubo’s demonstration of the skill seems to have captivated Chinese viewers, who have watched the online version of the show almost 22 million times. Most were blown away by Tsujikubo’s superhuman arithmetic skills.

But inevitably, online comments showed signs of wounded nationalism. “Let’s fiercely trample Japan underfoot,” one commenter wrote.

Other viewers, however, had a more introspective take on Japan’s victory. Soroban, noted another commenter, were imported to Japan from China, where the tradition has largely died out.

“The island nation,” he wrote, referring to Japan, “defeated us with one of the best things left to us by our ancestors.” Perhaps, he said, “that’s worth reflecting on.”

  • loldwtf

    That’s not too surprising, what’s the author’s point? Amazing superhuman skills existed all over the world. In China, there’s a mathematical genius called 周玮, who is able to take the 13th root of the number 3213479587114 in just a couple of minutes. In India, there you got Shakuntala Devi, in which could compute 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779. In the Western world, you have brainman (Daniel Tammet) who’s able to memorize 22,514 digits in five hours and nine minutes.

    Genius existed all around the world, what’s the author’s point? To provoke the Chinese?

    • otisdelevator

      No. The author’s point is to report the news.

      • loldwtf

        There’s a difference between “reporting the news” and provoking. When one attempts to provoke one and another, the “tone” and its “diction” would make a huge difference. “When the dust settled, Japanese math prodigy Rinne Tsujikubo had demolished her Chinese competition, as well as fellow teammate Takeo Sasano.” — Is there such a need for using the word “demolished” as one of his (author) diction? Does he need to add “Chinese” before the word, “competition?” We all knew the competition was from/in China. If the author said something like, “demolished the competition.” Instead of, “demolished her Chinese competition,” then it would sound like a normal report instead. By using such diction, it changes your “tone” from “reporting the news” into provoking.

        Here’s just my two cents…..

    • Allan Johnston

      You’re a complete idiot…Bet you sit at your rented home all alone writing jerk off messages…SAD

    • kension86

      > “Genius existed all around the world, what’s the author’s point? To provoke the Chinese”

      lol no. Chinese can’t even come to this website without proxy.

      And the Chinese netizens were “already provoked” by the loss. Nothing to do with this article.

      And lastly, this is also reported by xinhua, the chinese state news agency controlled by their own government.

      • tressss

        Chinese can come to this website without proxy, just like me right now.

      • loldwtf

        Ummm, just fyi, there’s a thing in the U.S. called ,”H1B.” Internationally, called “immigration;” although Chinese from the mainland might not be able to come to this website. Without a proxy, however, there are Chinese from all over the world. Simple logic (if you know what I’m sayin’~)

        As for the video of being fake, in other word you’re also saying that the 9 year old Japanese winning the so-called “Brain Battle,” was fake? well, ok then… I guess everything was fake then. Nobody win anything here….. (Because the video was from Communist China)

  • Aeron

    It was so strange and funny to me to find abacuses for sale at 100 yen shops. I think it’s great though. Japanese school children are taught so much more than most other nations. They typically learn multiple languages before they learn to drive a car. The Japanese school system and the ideologies behind it are old and stalwart, but they sure are effective.

    The reflection should be to realize that the Japanese girl didn’t win because she’s superior, she won because she studied harder.

    • Tim

      Really? Japanese learn multiple languages? Like English?

      • jake Harods

        Does it matter? A Japanese does not need to learn any language due to their advanced economy. How many Brits or Americans speak other languages?

      • ロビン

        What does that have to do with Tim’s comment?

      • Tim

        The OP stated otherwise. I was responding to that.

      • jake Harods

        As you were

    • plorf

      The whole studied harder thing is nonsense. At some point, especially when millions of Asian students do nothing but study it’s simply impossible to study harder.

      I think you also mistake Japanese with Dutch or Swiss students who indeed learn multiple languages before they learn how to drive.

    • dratman

      Without this little girl’s innate talent, no amount of studying could bring an ordinary person up to her level. Child prodigies, like her, apparently have different brain structures.

    • vellyr

      Japanese schools are, in general, not so great. Japanese students don’t learn two languages, let alone “multiple” languages any more than American students learn Spanish/French/German. Their scores on international English tests are the lowest in Asia. In other subjects they spend much more time studying for the same or lesser results compared to other countries. This girl is a result of incredible natural talent, possibly borderline obsessive parents, and definitely not the Japanese school system.

  • texastea

    Now, if only Japanese and Chinese politicians could behave in such a civil and respectful manner towards each other.

  • Jayson Loyola Rael Ramos


    • otisdelevator

      Looking at the ‘diminutive Tsujikubo’ (the author’s words, not mine), might I instead suggest ‘bonsai!!!’.

      She’s great!

  • Tim

    But I don’t think Japanese people learn as many languages as OP thinks.

  • WIll

    I am Chinese and I watched the show. The 9-year-old girl was awesome. Btw the Japanese abacus is pretty much the same as the Chinese original, except they removed couple beads that were not used much from each rod, so they have 5 beads on each rod instead of 7. Anyway, both versions of the abacus pretty much follow the same operations for calculation. In China there are people who train mental calculation by visualizing the operations of an abacus too. Addition and subtractions can be easily performed mentally with this skill. What the 9-year-old girl was able to do that others were not, was that she was able to do long digits multiplications almost instantaneously too. This is a much more difficult task than addition or subtraction and usually takes a longer time, as it did her competitions. She was quite impressive.