I might take up shogi...

Good morning everyone,

Today is going to start out rainy, but it should stop and then it'll just be grey and overcast. Tomorrow will be the same and then Friday is looking rainy for most of the day. Saturday will see cloudy skies and the temperature will skyrocket-some parts of Japan are looking at a high of around 35C on Saturday! 

Shogi, in which two players use their 20 pieces to capture their opponent's king, is popular in Japan with an estimated 20 million people able to play the game and major tournaments run by the association throughout the year. It can trace its roots back hundreds of years and is thought to have originated from a game played in India.

Japan's youngest professional shogi player Sota Fujii not only made history by passing the game's longest winning streak earlier this week, but he has also sparked the interest of a new generation of player while driving demand in the brain games that have helped him achieve so much.

Inspired by the 14-year-old Fujii's effort in passing Hiroshi Kamiya's 28-game record, more and more elementary school pupils have taken to the traditional Japanese chess-like board game.

The number of children attending shogi schools in the Tokyo metropolitan area rose to 502 as of May, up from 366 a year earlier, according to the Japan Shogi Association.

In the Kansai region, numbers of young players taking instruction rose by about 50 percent this year, compared with the average, the association said.

Kai Nagasawa, 10, who joined a shogi school run by Fujii's teacher in Nagoya in January said: "Fujii, who ranks fourth dan, is so good and I admire him." A players' dan, or ranking, is a scale used for professionals with four the lowest and nine the best.

A shogi school in Aichi Prefecture where Fujii trained is also gaining popularity. The number of students at the school in Seto was about 15 when Fujii attended it between the ages of 5 and 10, but the figure has tripled in the wake of the prodigy's professional debut and his subsequent accomplishments.

"The number of shogi players is growing across Japan. We are seeing a tremendous impact," said Rikio Fumimoto, 62, who operates the school in Seto, Fujii's hometown.

The game's newfound popularity has also created a shortage of introductory shogi sets, known as "NEW Study Shogi." The sets are exactly what got Fujii into the game and the game's manufacturer saw a 1.5-fold increase in shipments in April, from a year before.

And it is not only shogi that is getting the Fujii bounce. A Swiss wooden marble game known as "Cuboro" is now seeing strong demand due to Fujii having played it when he was younger. The marble maze is said to promote focus and spatial awareness.

Toy shop Quartett in Aichi, which sells the Swiss toy, said orders for the product between January and May this year soared 30-fold from the previous year and it is advising its customers to expect a half-year wait before they can get their hands on it.

Experts attributed the game-buying frenzy to Fujii's outstanding mental strength and talent. "The thing that makes his story so interesting is that he can beat adults even though he is a junior high school student," said Kimiaki Nishida, professor of social psychology at Rissho University.

Official Fujii merchandise like a Japanese fan and autographed plastic sleeve are proving popular too, with some people even considering setting up a fan club.

Ryuichi Hayase, chief of a local Seto radio station, said he hopes to take advantage of the current shogi boom to revitalize the city. "Eventually I want to see something like a fan club for him," he said.

I definitely need the brain training...I wonder if taking up shogi would be a good pastime. The problem is finding someone to play with...if there are only 500 kids signed up in all of Tokyo, there can't be that many people playing it, right? Ha ha!

How about you? Can you play?

Have a great day!


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