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Go elevated to status of 'national game' of Japan

The Honinbo Monyu aligns stones on a Go board during a Honinbo tournament in the central Japan prefecture of Shizuoka, on July 1, 2020. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- The Nihon Ki-in, also known as the Japan Go Association, has altered its charter to define the traditional board game of Go as a national game, the body announced on Oct. 20.

    The association noted that Go has held a familiar place in the hearts of many people in Japan for many years. It hopes to promote the game as part of Japan's traditional culture both inside and outside the country as Tokyo prepares to host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2021.

    Go originated in China, and was introduced to Japan over 1,400 years ago. It was also a favorite of Japan's female nobles, appearing in "The Pillow Book" by Sei Shonagon of the middle Heian period around the 10th century, and spread among commoners during the Edo period (1603-1868). A Go instruction book written by master player Honinbo Jowa between 1827 and 1828 was titled "Kokugi kanko" (Sightseeing of the national game), and a statement the Nihon Ki-in issued in 1946 upon its inauguration contained the phrase "the national game of Go."

    Besides Japan's national sport of sumo, baseball also has national status in its agreement as a "timeless national sport." Nihon Ki-in auditor-secretary Yujiro Hashimoto, a ninth-dan holder, commented, "It raises awareness to call it a national game. On this platform, we'd like many people to acknowledge Go."

    (Japanese original by Susumu Maruyama, Cultural News Department)

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