The Tale behind
the Go Stones of
the Go Stones of
White Go Stones
Shin Hamaguri Go Stones - Mexican Clamshell Go Stones -
(1) In Search of New Clamshell Production Areas
As the depletion of clams from Hyuga came to light and efforts to seek alternative clamshells accelerated, a trading company found only one clamshell production area in the world that could be used for making Go stones. This production area is located in the western part of Mexico, on the corner of the California Peninsula, which stretches about 1,000 km north to south. The coastline has a view of the white coastline where the entire beach is filled with white clamshells that lie on the surface of the sand. Some of the Mexican clamshells are about twice the diameter and about 1.5 times the thickness of the Hyuga clamshells. This is the only place where you can get such large, white, and thick clamshells. Mexican clamshells, which are used to make Go stones, are, like the Hyuga clamshells, a rare resource that miraculously came about only in this area due to its unique natural environment.
In the early days when Mexican clamshells were first identified as being used for making clamshell Go stones, entire clamshells were collected and exported to Japan as shells. However, once a manufacturing company that cut out the clamshell launched in Mexico, the cutout pieces of clamshell were exported to Japan in small, circular pieces. Also, with the advancement of Go stone machining technology, the finishing work that staff at Hyuga Go stone manufacturing vendors had previously done by hand became performed with the use of a machine. This change made it possible to mass-produce Go stones and distributed them at a more reasonable price than Hyuga clamshell Go stones, so the clamshell Go stones that were common at the time came to be replaced by the Shin Hamaguri Mexican clamshell Go stones. In terms of thickness, the thickest Go stone that can be manufactured from a Hyuga clamshell is Size 40 (11.3 mm), but from a Mexican clamshell, it became possible to manufacture a Go stone with a thickness up to Size 50 (14.3 mm). These Go stones have come to be distributed all over the world as a Go stone that can meet the needs of a broad customer base.
(2) The Birth and Predicament of Hyuga’s Special Clamshell Go Stones
The Mexican clamshell Go stones manufactured in Hyuga were presented in a box under the name “Clamshell Go Stones Made Exclusively in Hyuga” and distributed across Japan through Gobanten (Go board stores) nationwide. Until around 1990, there was at least one Go board store in each prefecture, and while the main business of such stores was to manufacture, sell, and repair Go boards, they also sold clamshell Go stones and other Go-related products. Meanwhile, as clamshell Go stone dealers mainly sold to Go board stores nationwide as wholesalers, it was also a time when it was considered taboo for Go stone dealers to put the manufacturer’s name on the Go stone box. Since the collapse of the bubble economy in Japan in the 1990s, the balance of supply and demand of clamshell Go stones took a huge knock, with sales of Go stones at Gobanten nationwide dropping. Hyuga’s clamshell Go stone dealers who lost their livelihood had no choice but to make drastic changes to distribute Go stones at a price lower than the standard retail price and wholesale price of Go stones decided by Go stone unions. Furthermore, due to the existence of distributors of inferior goods with lower quality than the industry standard and the industry’s misreading of supply and demand, the vicious cycle of a self-inflicted price decline caused Hyuga’s Exclusive Clamshell Go Stones to lose their credibility and Hyuga Go stone vendors began to go out of business.
From the year 2000 onward, the importing of Mexican clamshells stopped, and so the supply of raw materials stopped for several years. A situation occurred where it was not possible to get these clamshells into Japan because consideration to environmental issues and the social security system changed drastically in Mexico, restrictions were placed on the collecting and exporting of clamshells, and the exporting of clamshells deemed to be “fossils” was no longer permitted. The cost of obtaining a permit to collect shells soared together with manufacturing costs, and as a result, the number of shells fell to less than one-tenth of peak shipment volumes, and the price for clamshell Go stones more than tripled. Since 2010, when exports of clamshells finally resumed, Kuroki Goishiten was the only Go stone company that purchased Go stone clamshells at their inflated prices by the container load. As of 2022, there are only three companies that manufacture and sell Go stones in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture, including Kuroki Goishiten.