Chapter 5
History of Go

A Guide for the Lives of Great Men

(1) Go: A Game Also Loved by Samurai

琴棋書画 While there are various theories about the origin of Go, legend has it that it was born in China more than 4000 years ago and was introduced to Japan during the Nara-Heian period (710 to 1185 AD). Go was particularly popular as a nobleman’s hobby and was described in the literary works “Genji Monogatari” (The Tale of Genji) and “Makura-no Soshi” (The Pillow Book) during the Heian period. In the Muromachi period (1333–1573 AD), Go began to reach samurai families and ordinary people, and various games using Go boards and Go stones were born. Even today, in China, “Kinkishoga (琴棋書画qín qí shū huà)” is revered as the four arts of a well-educated literary person: playing the koto (a long Japanese harp-like instrument with thirteen strings), playing Go, writing calligraphy, and drawing art. The middle “ki” in “Kinkishoga” refers to Go.
徳川家康公 During the Sengoku period (period of warring states in Japan), Go was used to think about the strategies and tactics of war, and famous warlords such as Takeda Shingen, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu also liked to play Go. The Japanese “samurai” loved Go and may have played Go to forget about the tumultuous war-torn world in which they lived.

After that, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who ruled this war-torn society and forged an era of peace, did so in part by giving stipends and protecting Go players and creating Go masters. Go masters, who nurtured and honed the skills of talented Go players and continued to improve their abilities by competing in “Oshirogo (castle Go or castle games)”, in which they played Go in front of the Shogun, contributed to laying the foundation for the rules of Go that are currently adopted around the world by establishing and reconstructing the rules of Go that had been incomplete until that point.
Go has been played since the Heian period (794–1185) to the present day, and as is evident from the many unique idioms and sayings born from Go terminology, the culture of Go is invaluable to the Japanese.
There was a time when many Go boards and Go stones were sold in Japan due to the cultural legacy of having Go stones and Go boards as household articles of the Shogunate since the Edo period (1603–1867), as well as due to the surge in popularity of Go from the 1930s. However, since the collapse of Japan’s bubble economy in the 1990s, it is said that Japan’s population of Go players has been declining year by year due to the economic downturn, the popularity of video games, and the widespread use of PCs and smartphones. On the other hand, there are said to be more than 40 million Go enthusiasts all over the world. Boasting deep-rooted popularity as an intellectual and creative board game, Go reaches all corners of the world as a symbol of Japanese culture.

(2) Go: A Hobby of Great Men Who Changed the World

アルベルト・アインシュタイン氏 Go enthusiasts can be found all over the world. Among them are many important figures and celebrities who were or are fans of Go, including the likes of Albert Einstein, a theoretical physicist who is said to be the most prestigious genius of the 20th century, Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Inc., Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and former Major League Baseball player Ichiro Suzuki, who achieved 4,000 hits in Japan and the United States. There are various theories about the benefits of playing Go. The fact that Go is said to foster one’s creativity, concentration, and the ability to think from many different perspectives is probably what makes it so popular with many business owners and great people around the world.

Dipping your toe into the world of Go may lead to the blooming of your imagination and thinking ability.

Go Story

Chapter 1. White Go Stones
Miraculous Clamshell Go Stones - Clamshell Go Stones Produced in Hyuga -
Chapter 2. White Go Stones
Shin Hamaguri Go Stones - Mexican Clamshell Go Stones -
Chapter 3. Black Go Stones
Supreme Black Stones - Nachiguro-ishi from Kumano City, Mie Prefecture -
Chapter 4. History of Kuroki Goishiten
Kuroki Goishiten’s Mission
Chapter 5. History of Go
A Guide for the Lives of Great Men