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Japanese shogi player suspended for 3 months for not covering nose with mask

Eighth-dan shogi player Ichiro Hiura (Photo courtesy of the Japan Shogi Association)

TOKYO -- A shogi player has been given a three-month suspension after he was disqualified in three consecutive official matches for not covering his nose with a mask, the Japan Shogi Association announced on Feb. 13.

    The organization took the disciplinary action, effective from Feb. 13, against eighth-dan player Ichiro Hiura, 56, who had not followed observers' instructions to cover his nose during matches. The association explained, "He repeatedly abandoned the game in effect by not following the ruling and actions of the observers."

    Under the temporary game rules enforced by the shogi association in February 2022 as a measure against the coronavirus, a player who does not wear a mask properly without health reasons can be disqualified at the discretion of an observer. Hiura was disqualified shortly after the games started on Jan. 10 and Feb. 7 in the Meijin class C1 ranking tournament, and also on Feb. 1 in the preliminary round of the Kio tournament for violating the rule. Taking a serious view of the fact that Hiura did not follow the ruling of the observers for three consecutive games, the association held an extraordinary meeting of the board of directors on Feb. 10 and decided to punish him.

    At the time of his first disqualification, Hiura told the Mainichi Shimbun, "The temporary game rules don't say, 'You must not expose your nose,' and even if you expose your nose, there will not be any droplet infections because you are not talking during the match. The ruling is absurd." He added that he would consider a civil lawsuit.

    The Japanese government has indicated that it will leave it to individuals to decide whether to wear masks from March 13. The shogi association will apparently consider reviewing the rules, stating, "We will continue to make appropriate decisions on the improvement, revision or abolition of the temporary game regulations based on the latest information."

    (Japanese original by Susumu Maruyama, Cultural News Department)

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