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Shogi star Fujii becomes 1st junior high school 5th-dan player

Sota Fujii (Mainichi)

Fifteen-year-old shogi prodigy Sota Fujii was promoted to both a higher class and upper dan on Feb. 1, becoming the first ever junior high school student to rise to the rank of fifth dan.

Fujii's promotion came after he successfully defeated fourth-dan player Hirotaka Kajiura, 22, in a Meijin Class C2 game at Shogi Hall in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on the same day. By beating Kajiura, Fujii managed to achieve his ninth league win, which was enough for him to receive the double-promotion to fifth dan and Class C1.

Technically, ninth-dan player Hifumi Kato, 78, holds the record for being the youngest ever person to be promoted to fifth dan, when he achieved the feat at the age of 15 years and 3 months. However, due to regulations at the time, the day of Kato's dan promotion was set as the first day of the fiscal year, meaning that he was a high school student by the time he was elevated to fifth dan.

Fujii, who is 15 years and 6 months, may have achieved the promotion at a slightly older age -- but due to regulation changes which recognize the rise in dan as being the same day as the rise in class -- Fujii has become the first ever junior high school student to become a fifth-dan player.

In fact, Fujii has the chance to go one step further, and possibly become the first ever sixth-dan player still in junior high school. This would happen if he beats Ryuo-title holder Yoshiharu Habu, 47, in the semifinal of the Asahi Cup open tournament on Feb. 17, and also wins the final.

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