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 Post subject: Is the shogi world more traditional-minded?
Post #1 Posted: Thu Jun 01, 2023 1:08 am 
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I have been reading a lot about shogi lately and have even learned the rules and played a couple of games (gasp!). I can't say it is love at first sight (as happened with go many years ago) but it's been rather fun and interesting so far.

One thing that struck me is how the shogi world looks more traditional-minded. Keeping in mind that "traditional" may not be the best word to describe it. Nevertheless...

Exhibit A Fashion
Below is your routine title match game. The players, as well as the referee(?), wear Japanese clothing. To the best of my knowledge, this has disappeared altogether in go and was uncommon even 20/30 years ago.
Image

Exhibit B Grades
Real professional grades start at 4-dan, as was the case in go during the Edo period (my recollection here is a bit hazy).
There is also the fact that women professionals are kept on an different track entirely.

Exhibit C Internet presence/technology
With supposedly more players than go, I think I expected shogi material to be easily available and up-to-date. It's true that there is plenty to be found online but some things I took for granted as a go player seem to be nonexistent.

For instance, while there is several Japanese websites where you can replay and get go games, the only one I found for shogi is https://shogidb2.com/latest. It does the job but it doesn't exactly look good and lacks any functionality other than the most basic one.

More or less the same thing happens when you look for things on youtube. Here is the first results I got when looking for 藤井聡太, the current best player, and 詰将棋 (tsumeshogi). Again, it does the job but I find this lacking in the design department (and I say this as someone who is usually not that interested in shiny interfaces). The same seems to be going with softwares like shogidokoro and the likes, or with dojo81 the main online platform. Shogi players sure do seem to love their pixels.

Image

Image

All of this is only light-hearted comments, made after a very superficial acquaintance with the world of shogi. Nevertheless, I found it was interesting to see how things could look very similar and yet very different to what happens in go.


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Post #2 Posted: Thu Jun 01, 2023 5:15 pm 
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Traditional aspects of go still remain in Japan. For example in title matches often have the players sitting on the floor. Iyama has been known to wear traditional dress for official awards. Of course 40 years ago traditional dress was more common in title matches, and some players routinely wore it, e.g. Takemiya, Otake. More recently Yoda has worn traditional dress. Anyhow, it is cretainly no longer common to see traditional dress.


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Post #3 Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2023 1:41 am 
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That's a pity. I wish more go players would wear it for title matches.

I found this article about shogi pros wearing kimonos. Apparently, there is no rule about it, it's just something they do.
Quote:
(...)
There is no official rule that players should wear Kimono for title matches. Nevertheless, most players, both males and females dress in Kimono by tacit consent for title matches.

For your information, though Igo is also traditional Japanese culture, most Igo players wear suits for title matches, and ones in Kimono are minorities.

Surely, male players look even more dignified and ladies appear to be far more gorgeous in Kimono. Wearing something special is a sign of their fighting spirit.
(...)

https://en.i-tsu-tsu.co.jp/blog/shogi/1077


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Post #4 Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2023 5:48 am 
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It's an interesting sociocultural question with probably lots of answers.

In the case of shogi, when I was closely involved with the Nihon Shogi Renmei, they were adamant that players should wear Japanese dress (I'd say "Japanese" rather than "traditional") because they were conscious that they were the poor cousins of go professionals when it came to sponsorship. They therefore tried to promote shogi as a purely Japanese game as opposed to the Chinese game of go. Hence Japanese dress was de rigueur.

Since then, there have been various developments in go which have accentuated that difference. One is the increasing internationalisation of go and, regrettably in my view, internationalisation tends to mean westernisation. But catering for foreign go players means using tables and chairs, where Japanese dress is either impractical (especially for men) or gauche. Foreign players here includes those playing in Japanese title matches but who were born in China, Korea or Taiwan.

A further factor is the generally much shorter time limits in even title matches. Wearing Japanese outfits when you go to the loo can eat into your time allowance in a huge way.

Furthermore, Japanese dress of the quality expected for title matches costs an arm and a leg to hire, and takes ages to put on (usually requiring help, especially for the women, who then also need a "traditional" hairdo to go along with it). Economic constraints have meant that quite a lot of title matches are no longer being played in fancy hotels in faraway spas, the ideal environment for Japanese dress, and so sponsors feel they can make a little extra saving by dispensing with fancy outfits that don't really belong in urban concreteville Tokyo or Osaka. There is also the aspect that native Japanese are not wowed in quite the same way as foreigners. It's not that they think it's naff - far from it - it's just that they take it more for granted.

There are other practical problems, which didn't matter quite so much when people were used to wearing Japanese dress often and so learned to forestall the various hazards. The commonest problem for go players was making a move while forgetting to pull the voluminous sleeve back. The sleeve would often sweep a lot of stones off the board and the position was hard to recreate. The same can happen in shogi, but the pieces are fewer and better balanced, so it's rarely a real problem there.

There are other things that can be said, such as the effect of air conditioning, but that's enough, I think, to indicate why go and shogi differ and why Japanese dress in go is fading away.

I don't think Japanese dress itself is in any danger of fading away, in general. In fact, the last time I was in Japan I was amazed to see how many men were wearing it on the street. It was so common I thought there must be some special event or national holiday, but I was told there was no special reason - except maybe the hot weather (climate change).

I have a little insight into the problems and benefits of wearing national dress, as I often don a kilt. There are various levels of dressing up - formal, semi-formal and day dress. Each requires a different kind of expensive jacket and sporran and other accessories. There are also different weights of kilt, which are handy to have for summer and winter, etc. so the complete set of outfits can cost a small fortune - several thousands of dollars. A reasonable hand-made kilt alone costs upwards of $1,000. I wear mine often several times a week, I get value out of them all - especially when they are so appreciated by the ladies! I find that in Scotland, nobody bats an eyelid if you walk around town in a kilt. If you wear one in England, you may get a few stares and some requests for selfies with you. Abroad, you get LOTS of requests for selfies, but it's great way to meet the real locals.

I imagine this must be very similar to how the Japanese view and experience the wearing of their (likewise expensive) national dress.


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Post #5 Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2023 8:23 am 
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It's both more traditional and more casual because it doesn't have to worry about the international pressures igo has to worry about since Chesshogi and ShoChess aren't big yet.

What I wonder about is how on earth do people outside of Asia improve at Shogi with no online material in English, but I guess that shows I'm born in 1999 and would definitely be on the Gen Z team of that Korea charity match event. As far as I'm concerned a world before internet sounds like a miserable life without a basic human right of international knowledge and wasn't even a legitimately real world.

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Post #6 Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2023 8:29 am 
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gowan wrote:
Traditional aspects of go still remain in Japan. For example in title matches often have the players sitting on the floor. Iyama has been known to wear traditional dress for official awards. Of course 40 years ago traditional dress was more common in title matches, and some players routinely wore it, e.g. Takemiya, Otake. More recently Yoda has worn traditional dress. Anyhow, it is cretainly no longer common to see traditional dress.


Don't forget Yoda. May the force be with you . . .

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Post #7 Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2023 8:29 am 
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Shenoute wrote:
That's a pity. I wish more go players would wear it for title matches.

I found this article about shogi pros wearing kimonos. Apparently, there is no rule about it, it's just something they do.
Quote:
(...)
There is no official rule that players should wear Kimono for title matches. Nevertheless, most players, both males and females dress in Kimono by tacit consent for title matches.

For your information, though Igo is also traditional Japanese culture, most Igo players wear suits for title matches, and ones in Kimono are minorities.

Surely, male players look even more dignified and ladies appear to be far more gorgeous in Kimono. Wearing something special is a sign of their fighting spirit.
(...)

https://en.i-tsu-tsu.co.jp/blog/shogi/1077


Throwing shade Japanese-style

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 Post subject: Re: Is the shogi world more traditional-minded?
Post #8 Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2023 8:38 am 
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John Fairbairn wrote:
It's an interesting sociocultural question with probably lots of answers.

In the case of shogi, when I was closely involved with the Nihon Shogi Renmei, they were adamant that players should wear Japanese dress (I'd say "Japanese" rather than "traditional") because they were conscious that they were the poor cousins of go professionals when it came to sponsorship. They therefore tried to promote shogi as a purely Japanese game as opposed to the Chinese game of go. Hence Japanese dress was de rigueur.


Haha, I think they mean the Japanese version Indian game of chess with the signature rule, the drop rule, almost certainly inspired by the return of capture prisoner stones in the Chinese game of igo. But hey, minor details.

Quote:
Since then, there have been various developments in go which have accentuated that difference. One is the increasing internationalisation of go and, regrettably in my view, internationalisation tends to mean westernisation.]


I feel similarly . . .

Quote:
But catering for foreign go players means using tables and chairs, where Japanese dress is either impractical (especially for men) or gauche. Foreign players here includes those playing in Japanese title matches but who were born in China, Korea or Taiwan.

A further factor is the generally much shorter time limits in even title matches. Wearing Japanese outfits when you go to the loo can eat into your time allowance in a huge way.

Furthermore, Japanese dress of the quality expected for title matches costs an arm and a leg to hire, and takes ages to put on (usually requiring help, especially for the women, who then also need a "traditional" hairdo to go along with it). Economic constraints have meant that quite a lot of title matches are no longer being played in fancy hotels in faraway spas, the ideal environment for Japanese dress, and so sponsors feel they can make a little extra saving by dispensing with fancy outfits that don't really belong in urban concreteville Tokyo or Osaka. There is also the aspect that native Japanese are not wowed in quite the same way as foreigners. It's not that they think it's naff - far from it - it's just that they take it more for granted.

There are other practical problems, which didn't matter quite so much when people were used to wearing Japanese dress often and so learned to forestall the various hazards. The commonest problem for go players was making a move while forgetting to pull the voluminous sleeve back. The sleeve would often sweep a lot of stones off the board and the position was hard to recreate. The same can happen in shogi, but the pieces are fewer and better balanced, so it's rarely a real problem there.

There are other things that can be said, such as the effect of air conditioning, but that's enough, I think, to indicate why go and shogi differ and why Japanese dress in go is fading away.

I don't think Japanese dress itself is in any danger of fading away, in general. In fact, the last time I was in Japan I was amazed to see how many men were wearing it on the street. It was so common I thought there must be some special event or national holiday, but I was told there was no special reason - except maybe the hot weather (climate change).

I have a little insight into the problems and benefits of wearing national dress, as I often don a kilt. There are various levels of dressing up - formal, semi-formal and day dress. Each requires a different kind of expensive jacket and sporran and other accessories. There are also different weights of kilt, which are handy to have for summer and winter, etc. so the complete set of outfits can cost a small fortune - several thousands of dollars. A reasonable hand-made kilt alone costs upwards of $1,000. I wear mine often several times a week, I get value out of them all - especially when they are so appreciated by the ladies! I find that in Scotland, nobody bats an eyelid if you walk around town in a kilt. If you wear one in England, you may get a few stares and some requests for selfies with you. Abroad, you get LOTS of requests for selfies, but it's great way to meet the real locals.

I imagine this must be very similar to how the Japanese view and experience the wearing of their (likewise expensive) national dress.


My dream is an international tournament in Japan where everyone uses floorboards and semi-finals and finals are both a single two-day mitch with the lower-ranked player according to international titles gets to choose the colours. Now the Ing Cup is gone I want this even more as a replacement. And yes I can identify with similar feelings as an english person seeing someone wearing a kilt or a maternal ewe seeing someone wearing kente cloth. In fact traditional african dress doesn't raise eyebrows whatsoever in most of the UK, except maybe if it was a group of people earing it outside of London.

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Post #9 Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2023 10:02 am 
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Haha, I think they mean the Japanese version Indian game of chess with the signature rule, the drop rule, almost certainly inspired by the return of capture prisoner stones in the Chinese game of igo


Given that drops were added about 1350 and that Japanese people then were unlikely to be following Chinese rules of go in any case, I am not surprised that this is not a view that I have heard before. The usual explanation in Japan is that drops reflected the practice of samurais of that tumultuous era switching allegiance whenever they were captured. This does not quite fit in with the romantic glorification of bushido so prevalent nowadays, but why let a few facts spoil our video games, or guys dressing up and shouting "Ha" at everybody.

The only inspiration from go within shogi that I can think of off the top of my head is Sorai shogi, invented by the famous scholar Ogyu Sorai who "floruit" around 1700. He made a game using a 19x19 board with 180 pieces playing on the intersections. For the pieces he used go stones with names painted on. But it was shogi in the sense that the pieces could promote (their new names being promoted on the reverse).

I'd be willing to argue that the signature element of shogi in the wider sense is not drops (because not all shogis have drops, e.g. Heian Shogi, Middle Shogi and Wa Shogi) but all have multiple promotion forms and a bigger promotion zone than chess. Drops are certainly an attractive feature, but Middle Shogi used to be very popular, and go's Honinbo Dochi was reputed to be the best player of the past. In more modern times it was Oyama Meijin, so the game was still alive within living memory.


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Post #10 Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2023 11:42 am 
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Thanks you, John, for your long answer!
The interplay of the factors you mention certainly helps me in understanding what may be going on. I must admit, for instance, that I had never considered the economic implications for the sponsors (I naively thought the players used their own outfits) or how going to the loo would be impacted by wearing Japanese clothing.


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Post #11 Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2023 11:19 pm 
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Elom0 wrote:
What I wonder about is how on earth do people outside of Asia improve at Shogi with no online material in English, (...)
I have the same question about european go players in the 1960s/1970s. Many of them became strong dan players fast, at a time when resources were rather scarce.
I guess there is a survivor bias at play here (we only remember the few who did become strong and not the cohorts of others who didn't). In some cases, there's also the fact that they may have been tutored by a strong player right from the start (the Parisian group around Maître Lim, for instance).
But I wonder if it's not also a case of "less is more". Once you get a couple of good books for the basics (let's say the Elementary Go Series) and the occasional, more advanced, resource (one issue of Go Review/Go World here, a book like The 1971 Honinbo Tournament there), do you really need more? Isn't getting more actually a distraction?

For shogi outside of Asia(n languages), there is actually a decent number of books and youtube channels. While it cannot compare to go in volume, I think there's more than enough to go quite far. For instance, there are 3/4 French channels publishing videos regularly right now, from beginner's lectures to analysis of pro games. That's not too shabby, even when compared to go. And there are quite a few more in English of course, first and foremost Shogi Harbour by Karolina Styczyńska-Fortin, the only non-Japanese to have made it to (female) professional status.


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Post #12 Posted: Fri Jun 09, 2023 6:44 am 
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Shenoute wrote:
Elom0 wrote:
What I wonder about is how on earth do people outside of Asia improve at Shogi with no online material in English, (...)
I have the same question about european go players in the 1960s/1970s. Many of them became strong dan players fast, at a time when resources were rather scarce.
I guess there is a survivor bias at play here (we only remember the few who did become strong and not the cohorts of others who didn't). In some cases, there's also the fact that they may have been tutored by a strong player right from the start (the Parisian group around Maître Lim, for instance).
But I wonder if it's not also a case of "less is more". Once you get a couple of good books for the basics (let's say the Elementary Go Series) and the occasional, more advanced, resource (one issue of Go Review/Go World here, a book like The 1971 Honinbo Tournament there), do you really need more? Isn't getting more actually a distraction?

For shogi outside of Asia(n languages), there is actually a decent number of books and youtube channels. While it cannot compare to go in volume, I think there's more than enough to go quite far. For instance, there are 3/4 French channels publishing videos regularly right now, from beginner's lectures to analysis of pro games. That's not too shabby, even when compared to go. And there are quite a few more in English of course, first and foremost Shogi Harbour by Karolina Styczyńska-Fortin, the only non-Japanese to have made it to (female) professional status.


One might say that the fact they had to rely on thinking for themself more may have made up for lack of material. That and, some might travel to Asia as the only way to get a good igo education.

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