An American Go Player in Japan

One reason Japan has had some allure for me is that the game of Go is played here widely (although it originated in China). There is an extensive professional circuit as well as a less refined culture of play for lowly rank amateurs like me.


My first stop on my go tour was the largest go organization in Japan, the Nihon Kiin in Tokyo. I did what was surely a very impolite thing in Japan – I showed up unannounced. It was like a pilgrimage to Mecca of sorts – you just go!


So an unlucky office worker there was gracious enough to show me around the 7-8 story building, eventually leaving me in the small but well done go museum, so he could get back to his work. Here is one of the general go playing rooms.

In Kyoto I had the good fortune to stay at the country home of Matsumoto-san, a very strong go player who the tirelessly helpful Yoshi-san introduced me to. Mr. Matsumoto was the epitome of Japanese hospitality, offering me his traditional wooden Japanese home in Yoshitomi, outside of Kyoto. Here he is in his sitting room – and what is that on TV – a professional go tournament (Michael Redmond was giving commentary)!


 And of course we had the opportunity to play a few games of go in this room at his house:


Needless to say, Matsumoto-san came out ahead. And his hospitality extended beyond his home. He took me to Osaka where I was able to get a new go board (to replace the one that was stolen along with my car before I left for Japan). And the friendly woman at the store GAVE me a nice set of stones after hearing about the theft.

And then he took me to the Kansai Kiin, the other big go organization in Japan. He had set up a meeting with none other than Maeda-sensei, a professional player of the Kansai Kiin whom I had met at past go congresses. We had tea, and he showed me around the building and then came the holy grail of go. He was able to show me a professional tournament game being played in the top pro playing room – and let me quietly take a quick photograph. Truly the inner sanctum of the Japanese go world. But I know, a bore to the non-go players out there.


Again, domo arigato gozaimasu Matsumoto-san, Yoshi-san, and Maeda-sensei!

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.




5 Responses to “An American Go Player in Japan”

  1. 1 Salmon King May 31, 2008 at 8:54 am

    So glad you were finally able to get a new set of stones Pete! Sorry, I could not resist that one. On a more serious note great photos. Not a bore at all, even though I do not play GO I find your blog about GO very interesting. Maybe you can try and teach me that game again. Not sure if you ever figured out the anagram on my previous comment “Am I near?”. It was your last name. Take care buddy!

  2. 2 Beatle Girl June 1, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Peter, you ARE the GO to guy!! The pictures are fabulous. Some of them remind me of the shots in the Go movie. Looking forward to Mt. Fuji and Thailand pics.

  3. 3 Thomas DiMattia June 8, 2008 at 12:43 am

    I think you were the one I gave all the advice as to what to do when you got there in Japan. Obviously you had a great trip. Having lived in Japan for 5 years, some of the surprising things for me were how small the Kansai Kiin was, and how generous the hospitality people gave, as you obviously experienced with Mr Matsumoto and Yoshi-san, and Maeda sensei.
    If I knew you were going to the Kansai Kiin, if you had time there is a shop about a 20 minute walk just north of there, along one of the side streets, where they make the expensive go boards. You can see it from their window outside.
    You can also get copies of those tv go games, if you know of someone in Japan who is copying them. I have about 14 of them, but wish I had them all. The show is every Sunday afternoon, and runs for two hours.

  4. 4 Billy December 13, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Mr. Hill (I guess that’s you),

    Your Kyoto 101 impressed me, a curious traveler who really knows nothing out of Asia’s two countries.

    This is more fun.

    I like Yamashita Keigo.


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