Kisei day trip to Kofu

It’s been four months since my last larger excursion here in Japan. Last time was Innoshima, an island southwest from Osaka; this time Kofu, a smaller city not far away from mount Fuji. I conducted this trip with Tom (from the Nihon Ki-in), who worked out the details of the day trip. We left slightly after noon, went first to the Shinjuku train station, and took a train from there directly to Kofu, which took about 80 minutes. From the Kofu train station we took a taxi to the ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) that was used as the venue for the last Kisei game.

I’d of course prepared some go activity for the train trip, namely tsumego and theory books. The setting looked approximately like this:

Japan is nice in the way that there’s a lot of content stuffed in a relatively small area (it turns Japan’s surface area is still larger than Finland’s, though). After the train went through a few tunnels, maybe twenty minutes into the journey, I was forced to turn my attention from tsumego to the sights. Poor iPhone-taken photos don’t do much justice to the spectacle that was visible from the train’s windows, but I’ll add a few photos here anyway:

The tournament venue ryokan was rather spectacular as well. When we got into the entrance hall, it looked pretty much like this:

The entrance hall was maybe about eight metres tall, with huge windows facing the Japanese-style garden that the ryokan was built around. The entrance hall itself looked more like this:

The entrance to the ryokan is on the left side, and the windows to the garden on the right. Poor lighting in the latter photo is due to it having been taken at night.

Once we got to the ryokan, we asked for directions to the Kisei match, and found a room that was used for analyzing the game for amateur players (and also for broadcasting the analysis). Photographing was forbidden in that room, so I’ve nothing to show from there, unfortunately. There were about fifty people present watching the analysis, and principal commentators were Kobayashi Satoru 9-dan and Komatsu Hideki 9-dan, the latter of which is often reviewing insei games during the weekends.

We continued to the professionals’ game research room, which was was surprisingly laid-back, with myriad laptops. We didn’t have trouble getting in, thanks to Tom belonging to the Nihon Ki-in, and me being insei. The referee, Takemiya-sensei, was there at the time we came in, not to mention several (or dozens of) other professionals. They’d arranged for three television screens, one for showing the game board from above, one for showing the players, and one more for showing tv news about the match. Here’s a photo from there:

The professionals were analyzing the game as it went on, and it was really interesting to watch some 9-dans researching what was the most optimal way to play the endgame out. They went through dozens of game trees, and it seemed like at best white might have been able to make it into a half-point loss. This involved playing the last 70 or so moves exactly correctly.

Once the final game ended (in Chō-sensei’s favor), everybody rushed to the game room, where the players commented the game a bit, and then some interviews were held. Here’s two photos from there:

After the game, there was a party on the third floor of the ryokan, involving really good traditional Japanese food. We got an invitation there, having come all the way to watch the game, and dined and socialized there for about an hour. I don’t suppose many of the readers have had Takemiya-sensei pour some drink for them? There was a long dinner table for all the food, and maybe about thirty people present, naturally including Chō-sensei and Takao-sensei. I missed out on taking photos from there for not having wanted to look like a complete tourist. The Japanese people were pretty interested in the westerner that was attending the party, and were checking out how much I could talk and understand (and how I liked the special dishes). I got at least one home run in by getting to say うまかった about a horse meat dish that was being served.

About one hour in of the after game party, we had to leave with Tom for the train station. We actually were in a hurry in the end, as we were leaving at 8:55 PM from the ryokan, while the last train for Tokyo departed at 9:09 PM. We took a taxi again, and I got to do the classic “keep the change” scene as we finally had to run out of the taxi. We did make it in time however, and I was finally back at the apartment at about 11 PM, several experience points richer.

12 thoughts on “Kisei day trip to Kofu”

  1. I’ve been meaning to write this for a long time: THANK YOU for keeping this, yes, amazing blog.
    Kiitos and good luck for the rest of your stay in Japan!

  2. As your journey approaches its end, I’m interested in a couple of (obvious) insights:

    – How much stronger do you feel?
    – Does the world of the top pros feel more “human” to you than before, i.e. do their capabilities feel within reach (or have they always felt like that) and also does their attitude feel more related?
    – Has go become more interesting and fascinating, or has it started to wear you out and do you now long for other passtimes?
    – Does the quest for good play become more philosophical or more technical?

    Anytime! Thanks for sharing all of this.


    1. Let’s see here, these are some really good questions!

      1) Since the question is “feel”, I’ll answer purely by (my latest) feeling. I’ve recently had two games with 岩田, with whom I also played two games before she went on to participate in the women’s pro exam. I lost the two games before the exam by about 2.5 points both — now the games after the pro exam I’ve both won by 1.5 points. If four games gave perfect information, I’d have improved by about one-third a stone, but drawing a strict line like that seems a bit dangerous. It’s been four months since the first two games, however, and I’m sure that 岩田’s playing level didn’t stay stagnant in that time. All in all, I’m feeling like a half-stone improvement, here.

      2) “Human” might indeed be the right word. I’ve found out that I still lack a lot of knowledge about shape and the direction of play. When I came to Japan, I thought I’d just have to learn pro fuseki and improve my reading ability by a crazy deal, but it turns out there’s a lot else to learn as well. Anyway, I’m seeing patterns in the things that I’m learning, and it doesn’t feel like there’s an impassable wall or anything in front of me. While pros have significantly better reading skills than me, I think my skills have gone up too, and it feels like there’s a ways to go, even now. My answer to this question would boil down to “their capabilities feel more within reach than before”, but that’s actually more because I didn’t grasp the extent of their ability before coming to Japan.

      3) I’m still not one to get bored with go, as I’m still finding more and more new and interesting things. I get the feeling I’ve turned my understanding of the game by 90° since I’ve started as insei, and by that I mean in a good way. For now, I’m planning to continue the same kind of self-studying in Finland that I’m currently doing in Japan, with plenty of daily tsumego and professional games.

      4) Perhaps both-and? When we’re just looking at the stones, I think it’s purely technical — however the players’ minds have to be in the right mindset to find the technically correct move, and that’s more about philosophy. Being able to concentrate only on the go board and focus on the important things there is a vital skill, and more about philosophy. There’ll be times in the game when there’s no one clear best way to continue; then we could say there are many technically sound options, and you’ll likely pick the way that fits your playing style (and philosophy) the best.

      Hopefully that was sufficient! Cheers!


      1. Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I envy your ability to focus and be happy with the choices you’ve made. Good luck and I’ll keep an eye on you!

  3. Wow! I just found out about you being Insei pretty accidentally, after seeing some go news in Japanese and googling more information about it… needless to say I was very surprised!

    It’s amazing that you have made it this far from Oulu :) Good luck and wish you do well in the future also!

  4. Thank you Ten, thoroughly enjoyed it as usual. Though I’ll miss the insights about being and Insei in Japan and reading about excursions therein, I hope you will continue writing about your journey in the sport and perhaps even toss in an excursion now and then, your homeland is an interesting place too.

    “I missed out on taking photos from there for not having wanted to look like a complete tourist.”

    Way to be in the moment :)

  5. 「うまかった」といいました。格好いいね!

    Very nice pun. It must have been satisfying to have been able to say that.

    Thank you for your detailed and extremely interesting blog, and good luck for the future!

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