Results and more on insei customs

Now, after the third October insei week is done with, I’m already able to claim the first place of class E. My result last weekend was another 11 wins, 0 losses, giving me a total result so far of 31 wins and 2 losses. The number two in class E has so far 13 losses, so even in the worst-case scenario, were I not to attend next week, it would be a tie for the first place. Needless to say, I won’t even think about not attending next weekend — after all, this training is what I came to Japan for. There’s one more weekend of October left, after which the top four insei (based on results) of each class go up a class, and the bottom four go down one. Class E has 60 minutes of time reserved for one game, resulting in a fast 30 minutes sudden death (with no byo yomi) time setting, but class D already has 90 or 120 minutes of time per round, depending on whether it’s a three or four-game day. Class D’s time settings are 40 minutes of main time with a 40 seconds per move Japanese byo yomi on three-game days, and 30 minutes of main time with a 30 seconds per move Japanese byo-yomi on four-game days.

I thought the readers might find the insei results sheet system interesting, so I went and took a photo. The system is, in fact, same as the one we’ve seen in Hikaru no Go! So far, I haven’t stamped my own palm in order to “grab the win”.

Red circles indicate wins, while black circles indicate losses. 中 inside a red circle means that the game was won by resignation, 5半 means a win by 5.5 points, and 不 means a default win. テアキ means a free round, due to the odd number of insei in class E. This sheet is for weeks 3 and 4; the results of the first two weeks are written in the lower part of the sheet.

During the first insei weekend a good two weeks ago, I was still completely new to how the whole system works. After that, the second and third weekends were a lot easier, and I’ve found that by now I’m able to take most of the insei customs for granted. There are still a lot of details that should be interesting to the readers, however.

  • It’s practically the insei who keep the classroom in order. If I’m right, on Saturday morning, the first insei who arrive in the classroom take the boards and stones out from the drawers, and clean the boards with the cleaning cloth each insei has received. I cannot confirm this part however, because so far, when I’ve arrived, the boards and stones have all been already properly placed on the tables. When an insei stands up from a chair, he must neatly pull it close to the table afterwards. This is what the other insei most often get notifications from.
  • There is a careful seating order for the insei games, which derives from the results of the last month. The first four places of class E are logically given to the four insei who dropped from class D last month. For newcomers, the one who registered first gets priority, and that’s why I’m on place 9 instead of 10 or 11. Now, the first-ranked insei always plays on the first board, and the second-ranked insei always plays on the second board unless they’re playing against the first-ranked. The third-ranked insei always plays on the third board unless they’re playing against the first or second-ranked or unless the first and second-ranked are playing against each other (in which case the third-ranked used the second board), and so on. Being the ninth-ranked, myself, I most often end up using the fourth or fifth board.
  • Japan is one of those cultures that has the children use their right hand even if they are left-handed. Needless to say, this also applies to go, in the sense that the stone bowls are to always be located on the right side of the board from the player, while the lid of the bowl (for prisoners) is placed on the left side. Luckily I’m right-handed, myself, but some other insei don’t have it as easy. I actually ended up placing the bowl on the left side, once, during the first weekend, when the right side of the board already seemed really crowded with clocks and go bowls. The teacher was of course lightning-fast to notify about this breach.
  • When deciding the colours at the start of the game, the higher-ranked insei takes white and has the lower-ranked insei guess whether the amount of stones taken from the bowl is even or odd. When counting the number of the white stones, the stones are separated from the pile two at a time (with one’s index and middle fingers), neatly into formations of ten stones (two by five) to the right side of the board.
  • When a player resigns, the correct form seems to be to take a prisoner from one’s captured stones, and place it on the board while bowing at the same time. If one doesn’t have prisoners, just bowing noticeably is enough. After the stones have been cleaned from the board, the players place the go bowls, touching each other, to the centre of the go board, while saying ありがとうございました (arigatou gozaimashita, “thank you very much”). Then the winner of the game goes to record the result on the results sheet, shown above.
  • When an insei leaves the classroom, even to just go to the toilet, he must at the door turn to face the classroom, and bow, before actually leaving the room.

I’m sure there’s still a lot more to write on customs, but this is all that I can think of for now.

As a final treat of this blog post, here’s a few more photos from the Nihon Ki-in:

Familiar from Hikaru no Go! This is the sixth floor, one floor above Yuugen no Ma and one floor below my insei classroom. If I'm right, this floor is used by class A insei. On the left side, just out of the photo, is a shelf that the insei store their shoes on. Shoes are not to be used in the area ahead from here. The green slippers may be used for example when one needs to go to the toilet.
This is the insei classroom I use currently, this photo having been taken during the lunch break. The results sheets are located just behind the camera, and the door to the room is to the left. The go sets in the middle of the photo are for class E, the ones in the lower right corner are for class D, and the ones one the right side, further away from the camera are for class C. Class B is on the other side of the wall that is on the left side of the photo.


17 thoughts on “Results and more on insei customs”

  1. The insei don’t put the go boards and stones on the tables in the saturday morning. They are put there by the people responsible for the rooms in Nihon Kiin.
    Usually on Thursdays for the pros game (Pros also use the insei room for official games).
    About the room you’re talking about in the sixth floor it is “Insei hikai shitsu” which basically means “Insei’s resting room”. It is open for all the inseis but is mostly used by the ones who are taking the pro exam.
    About the bowls, left handed inseis can put the bowls on the left and use their left hands, the reason the teacher reacted to you putting your bowl on your left is because it is seen as bad manners to cross your hand over the board every time you make a move which is what happens if your bowl is on the wrong side, it is like go etiquette, same as the first move needing to be on the top right triangle.
    Congrats on getting on the upper class, I don’t think you should really have problems until class C. Good luck with japanese too.

    1. Thanks for the corrections! That cleared a few misconceptions of mine. This makes the cleaning cloth seem a bit superfluous now, since I don’t think I’ve ever seen any insei use them.

  2. Thanks for posting! Yesterday I had a dispute about go-etiquette. It is very interesting to see how the japanese players handle things.

  3. Thank you for the updates! They’re very interesting to read.

    If you have time to answer it would be interesting to hear your thoughts/opinions on the following:
    How do you study in Japan when the insei classes are only for playing games and some reviews? What do you do to improve the rest of the week? Are you going to a pro study group, or just doing problems by yourself?
    Compared to for example summer camps organised in China, do you think the insei experience has so far been better for improving?

    1. Thanks for the questions! I think I’ll answer these in the next blog post, seeing as how I could get several hundred words out by simply answering the questions. :)

  4. Thanks for posting, this is a great blog!
    Myself, just today exchanged a mail with the overseas department of the Nihon Ki In about instructions for becoming an insei. I would really love to, but I think I’m too weak and my time is running out (the top age for foreigners to apply for insei is 25, if I’m not mistaken). Nonetheless, I’ll do my best to improve and be able to apply sometime in the next years, before I get too old.
    Your blog is very inspiring and informative, I really like it.
    One question: you started as an insei in october because that is the month of the year to do so, or you could have done it in any other month?
    Thanks a lot! Regards.

    1. Thanks!

      Nice to hear you’re thinking about becoming insei! I would think that level close to EGF 2 dan should be sufficient to get inside. The top age for foreigners is indeed 25, and then you can continue to be insei until just before you turn 31.

      There are four months that insei enrol in: April, July, October and January. Application deadlines are at the end of the month two months earlier. I’m not sure how strict this is on westerners, though; I somehow got the feeling that I could have enrolled were it September or November, too. The given months are most likely the easiest to the Nihon Ki-in, but if it provides problems to you, you could ask the Nihon Ki-in about other possibilities.


    1. I didn’t initially know myself, either, so today I went out of my way and tried to look from the results sheets if somebody had lost on time. I didn’t find anything there, so I had to ask the teacher (it took me a few tries before I got him to understand what I wanted to ask). For a win on time, the kanji of 時 (=とき=toki=time) is used.

  5. Interestingly all the other players in the E class have quite even results. (Exception being players 6 and 7 who maybe are the youngest ones?) Are there some players in the current E class that have already played in D class or have all started just now?

    1. Only the three lowest insei of class E, myself included, started this month. Thus, the first four insei of E most definitely were in class D before this month.

  6. Hey, Antti! Glad to read how you are settling in Japan! I saw you on KGS yesterday but I preferred not to disturb you with chitchat… ^^

    Thanks for posting your experiences, you surely are giving me some sane envy (being that I am quite very far from EGF 2d and well over 25 years old 😉 and, still, a good motivational push to get better and enjoy this game more and more…

    It will be great to watch your commented game against Tom(?) and as you progress up the ladder, everything should become more and more interesting… ^^

    One little question, what do you think, in EGF terms, is the average (and top (excluding you :-P) and bottom) “rank strength” in Class E? Even if you say a 2d should be enough, how is it actually once being there and playing all of them?

    Take care, bow a lot, sumimasen is your friend and gambatte! ^^

    1. I don’t know exactly how I should go about approximating the E class rankings, so I’d start with the EGR ranking system assumption that with a winning percentage of 93% (very close to mine with 40 wins and 3 losses), there is a difference of about 3 ranks. Then, since there are clear differences between some of the insei’s levels, including a variation of one rank to both directions is probably reasonable. Me being EGF 6 dan, that would mean that the average E class insei would be about EGF 3 dan, and the insei of class E would be between EGF 2 dan and 4 dan in general. By intuition also after playing the games, I think this approximation should be close enough.

      1. Thanks for your reply… Now that we are seeing class D is not that challenging for you (as of yet, anyway), you will probably start getting the fun with the strongest class C players, which should be about 6d level as well… Unless Hikaru is around, you will be our bet, of course! 😉

        Now, Takemiya sensei is amazing, ins’t he? I haven’t had the chance to meet him, but every one of his games, the way he thinks about go and how apparently effortlessly manages his games, even the ones he loses, I can’t admire him too much… ^^

        Study a lot, I wanna see your name as the EGC champion in 2013, if not before! :-)

        Best regards!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please confirm you are a human by solving this: