Friday 12 July 2013

Make a pilgrimage for Go players

I already mentioned that we were planning to go on a two day sightseeing trip. The first station of our bus tour was Innoshima. Thorough reader of 'Hikaru No Go' might know that this is the birth place of Honinbo Shusaku and also his last resting-place. Today they are proud to be a "Go playing City" as the mayor told as. Approximately 10% of the over 20,000 inhabitants are Go player. (The German Go Federation has at most that many members at all.) One reason why so many people are attracted to Go in Innoshima could be the exciting playing site. They are among others playing in the Shusaku Museum.

The entrance of the Shusaku museum.
After a bus tour of around three hours we arrived on the island Innoshima and walked into the Shusaku museum. We have been exptected there already. Even the mayor of Innoshima took part in the opening ceremony. He claimed to be a very strong Go player himself but I do not know if he took part in the tournament.

The mayor of Innoshima (right) with a translator.
Before we started to play Go again we got a short tour through the museum. They really have a lot of things about Shusaku and his time.

Playing tables right next to Shusaku artefacts.
In the backyard of the museum is a reconstruction of Shusakus childhood house. There he took his first steps of becoming a Go master. His mother actually was the first one to teach him Go.

Everybody wants to be in the house.
 After the tour the actual games immediately started. Around twenty people from the camp had decided to join the tour. We played handicap games against local Go player. They had already prepared pairings for all three rounds.

This is a very convenient "Go table".
Our top three player were asked if they would like to play in the living house of Shusaku. It had nice boards and a lot of flair but unfortunately no air conditioning. Nevertheless everybody wanted to play there and so the organizers tried to find as much ventilators as possible.

Top boards playing in a reconstruction of Shusakus birthplace.
In the end we achieved a very good result again by winning 70% of our games. Somehow the ranks got mixed up with Japanese and American ranks so not all games had proper handicap. I just managed to play against two of my three predetermined opponents. Both of them were Japanese 2-Dan, like myself. We did "nigiri" and they seemed happy that I knew the word myself. I won it both times and was therefore able to play Sanrensei all the time. The first opponent seemed not very experience with that opening and I played a bit more calmly than usual to keep it friendly. The other one played quite well but I managed to win by 4.5 points.
As it is apparently a common habit in Japan everyone got some small presents after the closing ceremony. I wonder if we appear impolite by don't giving anything in return.

After the closing ceremony we went to visit Honinbo Shusaku himself. Unfortunately nowadays one has to go to the graveyard for that. It was my first at a Japanese or in general Asian graveyard. The location at the hill is very beautiful.

A beautiful Japanese graveyard.
 In fact even the view from the graveyard itself is very impressive.

They say if you touch the the tomb stone of Shusaku you become two stones stronger. I was a bit hesitant to to do that since I think it is a waste before someone is at least 4 Dan. However everyone of us followed the tradition to put an incense stick in front of the grave. I'm not sure how that influences the rank...

The tomb stone of Honinbo Shusaku!
In addition to the actual grave there is also a shrine for Shusaku which was build by a succeeding Honinbo. It is a traditional Shinto shrine (as far as I understood it) and directly next to the museum.

A part of the shrine for Shusaku.
I guess that were enough photos for one day. I have even more from a really large shinto shrine at Miyajima. Tomorrow will be another friendly tournament against local players. Let's see how it goes.

PS: You should not ask a professionals how much handicap he will get in a professional game (Question to a 3p who is going to play an 8p: "So you will get 5 stones?") or tell him that he will rise two Dan levels when he gets two stones stronger (for example by touching Shusakus grave).
Actually professionals are much closer to each other than amateurs. According to one of our teacher even top professionals like Gu Li or Yi Se-tol could not give more than at most two stones to any active professional.

Maeda-sensei was quite popular with the elderly ladies of Innoshima.


  1. Great report, great pictures and great place!

    Did you feel the spirit of Sai around that place? :-)

  2. Hi Jan,

    To answer the question you asked in the post, the mayor did indeed play in the matches. He was playing as a 3 dan. I didn't personally play against him, but he was at the table next to me for the first game.


  3. Amazing post! I'm so jealous you got to visit Shusaku's shrine! I hope to visit their myself one day! As usual, great job with the photos and post!