Shogi (Traditional Japanese games, Part 3)
Ship It Post #
Jan 15, 2022
Shogi is considered Japanese chess. I learned chess from a young age and enjoyed it. When I got interested in Japanese culture, I just had to learn shogi.
I like shogi better than chess, because once you capture an opponent’s piece, it becomes your to place almost anywhere on the board on another turn. This gives more freedom and opens up all kinds of strategies. Chess got a little boring as it’s mostly trading pieces down until there aren’t many left. By being able to use captured pieces, this keeps things fresh and the board lively.
I first tried learning online, but found it confusing. I asked Japanese friends at university, and some of them knew how to play and gladly taught me the moves. I downloaded an app game and started figuring out strategies on my own. Soon, I was able to beat most of my Japanese friends.
There was one Japanese guy was stronger than me though. He showed me the shogi app game that he used, which tracked your ranking. He was 2 kyuu. (Rankings go 30-1 kyuu, where 30 is the start, and 1 is the highest. Then after 1 kyuu is 1 dan, which goes up to 10 dan. It’s similar to color belts in martial arts, and then different levels of black belts.) I started playing on that same app, and gradually ranked up. By the time I got to 2 kyuu, my friend was 2 dan.
I could only play 3 games per day on that app for free. It became a daily habit. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not reach 1 dan after reaching 1 kyuu. It was like I hit a plateau in my skill level, where I would have to play seriously to improve further. But I didn’t want to spend so much time learning advanced strategies or formations, or pay to unlock unlimited plays which would take up all my day. It was frustrating.
At one point, I was throwing my phone when I lost an online match in that app. My phone had a heavy duty case, and my room had carpet, so it was mostly fine. But one time I got especially mad and threw it harder than usually and broke the screen. I had to pay $200 to get it fixed. I knew I had a problem. I eventually stopped playing. There were times when I would try it again, only to get frustrated again and quit.
It’s different when I play people in person. When I was in Japan, there were a few people I played and beat: a 5th grade student, another student’s dad, the father of the man in yesterday’s ship it photo, and my boss/principal of the English conversation school (though he beat me the final time we played).
When I first started working in Japan, one of my responsibilities was going to a cafe once a week and teaching English to any adults who signed up for English practice. There was this one elderly gentleman who came. When he learned that I liked shogi, he wanted to play. The next time I took my wooden shogi board which I had bought on Amazon and took with me to Japan. I beat him the first couple times, but we were about evenly matched. (More likely, he went easy on me.) He gifted me a mini magnetic shogi board. This was a lot easier to carry around than my thick wooden board. I had to leave it behind in Japan since my luggage to return to America was full. At least I have this mini board for memories and also to play anyone that I might come across in the future to play.