• Japan In Focus

Students Enjoy Shogi Festival in Hokkaido, Get Tips from Professionals

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Students focus on their shogi games in Otaru, Hokkaido, on Nov. 4.

OTARU, Hokkaido — A shogi festival was held on Nov. 4 in Otaru, Hokkaido, to commemorate the city’s hosting of the fourth round of the 36th Ryuo shogi tournament, sponsored by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

About 250 shogi fans visited the Otaru Shogi Festival, which was held on the seventh floor of the Otaru Keizai Center building.

Seventy participants from across Hokkaido competed in the Mayor’s Cup shogi tournament for elementary and junior high school students, the festival’s main event. Mitsuki Umezawa, a 12-year-old sixth grader at Pippu Chuo Gakko elementary school in Pippu, won the “free class” division for dan-ranked players while Jo Mizutani, a 9-year-old third grade student at Kosai Elementary School in Sapporo, won the division for kyu-ranked players. Umezawa gave welcome flowers to Ryuo titleholder Sota Fujii at an event on the eve of the Ryuo title match on Nov. 9.

“I’m glad! I didn’t think I would win the tournament. It’s an honor to give flowers to the Ryuo titleholder,” Umezawa said.

“I’m happy that I was able to think carefully at key points,” Mizutani said smiling. “I’d like to continue to aim for higher goals.”

On the day, fifth-dan professional player Wataru Kamimura and joryu-second-dan player Akiko Nakakura also participated in a teaching game event. In the opening ceremony, Kamimura brought laughter to the audience at the venue by impersonating Fujii and ninth-dan player Hifumi Kato, helping participants relax. Yui Nihonyanagi, a 9-year-old fourth grade student at Sapporo Nishi Elementary School who was instructed by Nakakura, said, “She’s a kind teacher. She’s easy to understand and I learned a lot from her.”

At the venue, a workshop for beginners was also held and players of all ages enjoyed playing shogi.

Many visitors tried “tsume shogi” checkmate puzzles and “next move” quizzes for prizes. Twenty were chosen by lottery from those who gave correct answers, and received sensu folding fans, whose theme is the Ryuo title tournament.