Malcom Summers: Shogi

For my CIP, I went to a local shogi club in Kyoto and played/learned shogi. I first visited the club and told them I was interested. Then, I came back the next week to start. Throughout my time there I learned some shogi strategies and played several times against the people in the club. Since few people spoke English, I mainly used Japanese. I also borrowed and read a book to aid with my practice.

One of the first things I noticed was a lack of keigo usage. Even the younger kids just used です/ます form when speaking to adults. Meanwhile, the adults mostly used casual form. I believe this was due to the nature of the club. Specifically, senpai and kōhai relations weren’t really about age so much as skill. Thus, some of the younger kids didn’t use honorific forms because they were actually better than the older players.

I learned a lot of shogi specific vocabulary from the club. I think it may have been harder due to the fact that shogi terms aren’t exactly used in everyday conversation. This required me to actually review some of these terms before I went to the club. However, it was an enjoyable experience because, in between games, we would review what went wrong and where I could improve. As someone who has played a lot of chess, that part of the process was very familiar.

The best advice I can give to others is to find a CIP that isn’t as skill oriented. Unless you already do the activity at home/school, learning something from scratch is a very difficult process. Especially, learning in a non-native language. For me, playing chess allowed me to pick up shogi concepts quicker, but my CIP eventually became a chore. I had to spend time practicing in order to eventually win, but, when I became busy, practice was difficult. So, when I would go back to the club it would be the same result of me losing the entire time. As such, I think a more social oriented CIP could lead to a better experience.

6 thoughts on “Malcom Summers: Shogi

  1. Although it probably was very difficult to learn a complex game from scratch, I find it awesome that you were able to pick it up quickly, especially in Japanese. Did you end up ever winning a match?

    • Unfortunately, I came nowhere close to winning a match. But, with each visit, I definitely lasted longer and longer before I lost.

  2. I think the coolest part of this experience, even if it was a challenging one at times, was that you got to learn a skill that was very specific to Japan. That is something that is truly memorable. My question for you really revolves around the time spent between games when you went over what could have been done better with other players. Did you find those times to be really helpful in terms of working on your conversational Japanese?

    • The time spent in between games was the most useful. I learned about my mistakes and had to keep note of some phrases and vocabulary that the instructor used. I didn’t necessarily use a lot of conversational Japanese in those moments because it was a lot of listening. But when I had a thought I wanted to bring up, that required me to use my conversational skills.

  3. Even though it required effort to practice, do you think that it was a valuable experience at gaining more of an insight on Japanese society? Shogi seems very difficult to learn, so I’m very impressed that you were able to learn and play it in such a short amount of time. How many people participated in the local shogi club? I’m also curious what kinds of people frequented it, as I see you said there were younger kids as well as older players. Would you want to continue learning shogi in the future?

    • It was definitely a valuable experience in my opinion. I learned a lot about casual interactions and what people are like outside of work/school/responsibilities. There were maybe 8 people max at one time. The room was very small. It was about half kids and half adults. I definitely want to continue to play and practice when I have time.