Satoshi Hiraoka

Satoshi Hiraoka

This is perhaps my tenth visit to China, but my first to Wuxi. It impresses me as a pretty city, even though we’ve arrived in the middle of the rainy season. I first competed in the World Amateur Go Championship in the early 1990s, when it was always held in Japan. Although I won it on my first try, during the following quarter century, frankly, China and Korea have opened up a clear lead over Japan. The percentage of the population that learns to play go is higher in those countries than in Japan. So Japan has some catching up to do.

One good sign for the future is the new All-Japan Go Association. This is an amateur-based organization started by Yasuro Kikuchi about three years ago with the aims of stimulating go activity and increasing the number of players in Japan. Its main activity so far has been collecting signatures to petition the government to have go incorporated into Japan’s primary school curriculum. The goal was to get ten thousand signatures. The Association also holds about four tournaments a year and rates players according to the results. These are face to face tournaments, played in Tokyo, not online. I happened to win one of them and went right to the top of the rating list. I’m not sure I’m still at the top, however, because some strong younger players are coming in now: high-school students, and young people aiming at pro careers. Not insei, because they’re not supposed to compete in amateur tournaments, but people who are over the insei age limit of 18 but still under the age limit of 25 for becoming a pro. Anyway, we hope to increase participation further and establish a Japanese national rating system. If go regains its popularity in Japan, I expect that we’ll be able draw even with China and Korea again.

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