First day in Japan

Hi folks! I have successfully landed in Japan, and am almost there in managing not to fall asleep before the night — staying awake for 30 hours is getting already difficult enough for me. Even with the threat of making typos or absurd sentences by accident, I decided to write this blog post. The sole reason for that is that we, me and Kurt, went to the Nihon Ki-in today in order to check my route to “school”, but ended up seeing the whole building through, inside out!

This is more or less what happened today, explained through a compilation of pictures:

Finnair's airplane dinner. Inside the foil is a beef hamburger steak and some potatoes. The noodle product on the lower left pretty much implies that we're going to Japan!

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Day of departure

Gifts? Check! Clothes? Check! Passport with visa? Check! Wallet, laptop, phone, rechargers, etc, etc, etc? Check! Weight limit exceeded? Check! Something forgotten? Most likely, but it shouldn’t be vital! Time before the airplane departs? Less than seven hours. Final blog post? Soon done!

The above should describe my current situation quite well. Today 17:15 PM Finnish time, my airplane departs for Tokyo, where I’ll arrive 2:55 AM Finnish time, meaning 8:55 AM Japanese time — it’s going to become one really long day. Once there, I’ll have quite a rigmarole to clear up: getting used to the new settings, meeting with Nihon Ki-in personnel and friends on Thursday, doing an interview on Friday, studying as insei right away in the weekend, and registering as alien at a local police office sometime during my first three weeks.

At this point, I would like to thank everybody who has helped to make my trip to Japan possible: Kobayashi Chizu sensei and Tomotaka Urasoe of Nihon Ki-in, my good friend Kurt for fixing my accommodation problem, Jaakko Virtanen with his company Virte-metalli and the Finnish-Japanese Organization for providing me with a big enough travel budget, and my family, girlfriend and go player friends for all the encouragement and practical help!

My Finnish readers may be interested to know that I also have a travel blog in Finnish at! Rest assured, English readers, I’ll make sure to update this blog often enough.



One week to go!

As the topic also states, I’m now only one week off from going to Japan! My period as insei starts right away on October 1, so I will only have some three days of time to get used to the new surroundings before I start with the real deal. As far as I know, I will be starting from the lowest insei group, so it may take a while before I start getting reasonably difficult games — yet I’m sure that if I don’t take my initial opponents seriously, as well, I may get some surprising losses! Most of the insei kids are most likely serious enough about what they’re doing.

My travel preparations are by now practically done, travel insurance included. For past several days I’ve been heavily concentrating on improving my Japanese language skills, to the extent of studying my university’s Japanese courses’ material without actually attending to the courses. I’ve also been reading a Japanese go theory book (Kihon Senryaku, “Basic strategy”: while claiming it is basic, most of its content I’ve never heard about before!) and Hikaru no Go in Japanese — while there are plenty of kanji that I need to check from the dictionary, I do understand most of the language after I get the hiragana versions of the words. It is probably not impossible for me, then, to survive in Japan with my current language skills. Some of the Japanese grammar still puts me off, however: for instance, it seems quite ridiculous that Japanese doesn’t have an equivalent for the English auxiliary verbs of “must” or “have to”. Instead, when in Japanese you indicate a compulsion to do something, you have to twist the whole sentence into a double negation! “You have to pay” would actually be something like “Speaking of you, not paying is not allowed”. These kinds of details are like to confuse me for a long time.

Congress game against Svetlana Shikshina, with impressions from Ten and comments by Takemiya 9p

I got a sudden inspiration to finally comment a game for this blog, and what could be a better choice than the exciting game I played with Svetlana in the European Go Congress this year, to which I also received commentary by Takemiya Masaki 9 dan? The game was initially difficult for me for non-obvious reasons, but I managed to turn it around when the game started nearing the endgame. I played with white. Sit back, relax and enjoy!

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Japan plans and the Nordic Go Academy

In exactly three weeks, I’ll be arriving in Tokyo for my insei period. Most of my preparations, including getting the visa, are done with, although I still lack a proper insurance, as well as barefoot running shoes for the winter. I haven’t studied Japanese quite as much as I would have liked to, so far, but even if I’m a bit late on that part now, I can catch up the hard way when in Japan. Having studied Japanese well before my plan to become insei, I could understand Takemiya-sensei’s lecturing in Japanese quite well in the European Go Congress in Bordeaux, so I shouldn’t have big problems in Japan on that part.

From what I’ve heard, while the insei only formally assemble in the weekends, there appear to be study group meetings during the weekdays as well. If I remember correctly, the numbers were something like at least five meetings month, but if I want to go to as many as possible, up to three times a week is possible. Add to this any teaching I may do, and some self studying, and my weekly schedule is fairly full already.

Another thing that I have yet to work on is how exactly I plan to continue teaching go while in Japan. Practically all of my students so far have been westerners, but with something like a seven-hour time difference and the fact that my weekends are always full, it’s looking somewhat difficult for me to keep holding internet lessons. For this reason, I’m right now working with Jeff and Juri on our Nordic Go Academy project, to get it well enough known in go public to ensure a constant, sizable pool of students. Offline reviews at the moment seem like the best way to continue doing go teaching while in Japan. For those interested, our September league is starting this weekend (with October 1-2 being counted as the last September league weekend, as October has five weekends), and we will also have promotional simultaneous games (with a quick review afterwards) with the students every Friday at 21 PM CET. Our website will be updated shortly about the September league.