Tendo City in the central Yamagata Prefecture is the home of “shogi,” the Japanese chess. This town produces more than 90% of the “shogi” pieces made in Japan. You will come across a variety of shogi-themed events and museums here. Every year in April, Tendo City holds a human shogi game, where people in samurai kimonos and armors actually move as a “shogi” piece. It is one of the must-see spectacular events. At some “shogi” workshops, you can see how pieces are made, and feel the experienced artisan skills. You can also try and make your own “shogi” piece as a lucky charm. The price range of “shogi” pieces is wide, depending on the materials and the ranks – the types of how they are made. The symbolic lucky shogi piece is called “hidari uma.” Usually “shogi” pieces for playing are small. “Hidari uma” is a decorative lucky charm and it can have any size. It has a reversed letter for “uma(a horse).” The reverse spell of “uma” is “mau,” which means to dance. This sound reminds Japanese people of something happy, graceful, and blissful. The letter of a reversed “uma” also looks like a wallet. Hence, “hidari uma” is said to bring good luck for business as well.
The connection to “shogi” and Tendo City dates back to the Edo Period. Nobumichi Oda, the descendant of a famous samurai Nobunaga Oda, encouraged all samurais in this area to make “shogi” pieces for living. He told his samurais that even Nobunaga admired “shogi” for a great way to learn samurai’s strategy training. Since then “shogi” pieces have been handmade by samurais and their descendants.
The ranks of “shogi” pieces are:
1. Kaki Goma – pieces with letters simply written in lacquer.
2. Hori Goma – pieces with letters carved and painted in lacquer.
3. Horiume Goma – a higher grade flat pieces with letters carved and painted in lacquer.
4. Moriage Goma – a highest grade pieces modified over Horiume Goma, mainly used in professional games. And there are different craftsmen for each process.
The differences between “shogi” and chess are as follow; The “shogi” board is 9×9, while the chess board is 8×8. In “shogi”, captured pieces become the property of the capturer and can re-enter play. In chess, captured pieces are out of the game. In ”shogi,” you have only one rook and one bishop. Counterattack is more common in ”shogi” than in chess. In ”shogi,” all pieces can promote (except the gold general and the king). In chess, only the pawn can promote.
Visiting Tendo City may give you a great idea for best home décor and souvenirs.
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