Japanese Book Reviews

Over the years I have accumulated quite a few Japanese instructional go books, while gradually learning enough Japanese to read them with decent comprehension. Though some turn out to be too difficult -- I'm about 3K, AGA -- and others are disappointing for various reasons, some are simply marvelous, presenting explanations, examples, playing advice and points of view which seem unavailable in the English language literature. On this page I would like to post reviews of some of my favorites, partly to tell people what's out there and, perhaps, to entice some publishers into supplying translations.

With some exceptions, these are books from which it was very profitable to read the text and not just study the diagrams. While much can be learned from the diagrams alone (as Robert Jasiek describes in some of his [ext] reviews of Korean books), many nuances, clarifications, warnings, exhortations and pithy go proverbs are found in the accompanying commentary, all very valuable for a player at my level. --FredK

NHK Igo Series

These volumes nearly all appear to have grown out of NHK lectures (the individual volumes are listed there). By and large their organization reflects their origin. The chapters are broken into lecture-size units, each typically taking some whole-board position as the point of departure for a lesson on some point of play. The lessons explore the consequences of both good and less good (i.e. typical amateur) play, usually with enough diagrams for the reader to follow the discussion comfortably without an actual board. The choice of example positions and points of emphasis in the commentaries all seem to reflect considerable experience at lecturing to amateurs. Also, even with my kyu-level comprehension of Japanese, the personalities of some of the individual authors come through in lively and informal text. The original lectures must have been great. Here is a [ext] web page for the series.

The Japanese original of Michael Redmond's book, The ABC's of Attack and Defense, was published in this series.

Five books by Ishikura Noboru. I know of 6 NHK books by Ishikura, more than by any other single author. [ext] An Easy Guide to the Basics, not reviewed here, seems to be introductory material aimed at players quite new to the game. Here are the other five. Despite the similarity of titles, the first three target ascending levels of playing experience:

Two books by Sonoda Yuichi. Sonoda presents unconventionally formulated go precepts, sometimes provocative, sometimes downright paradoxical. "Don't attack, don't defend." "Don't think." (Don't think???!!) See the reviews (or better, the books) to see what he means. He wants to teach amateurs unstereotyped ways of thinking about the game, to make it "even more interesting".


MyCom Publications

Note: MyCom is short for Mainichi Communications -- the latter word is borrowed from English and written out in katakana, while the abbreviation is written in English characters.

Other publishers

Two books on the opening, by Takemiya Masaki. These are volumes 2 and 3 of a three part series by Takemiya entitled Breakthrough to Shodan. (The first volume, entitled 100 Basic Tesuji, I've only browsed through quickly.) Any number of pros have published comprehensive instructional series covering the various phases of the game, and I do not know how similar Takemiya's may be to those others; but these two have fallen into my hands, and I like them. Placed alongside the English language literature I think that the joseki volume, in particular, is distinctive in its approach; and that if translated, both would nicely complement what is already available.

(Temporary comment: If someone can deduce the publisher's name from the ISBN numbers or from their own copies of the book --I don't know how to pronounce the relevant kanji-- that would be helpful.) 筑摩書房=Chikumashobo.

See Also


Japanese Book Reviews last edited by FredK on September 30, 2010 - 03:52
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