This travel report was originally published in the American Go E-Journal Volume 9 n°25 (29/05/2008) and written by Chris Garlock.
To find Igo Salon Dogenzaka you emerge from one of Tokyo?'s busiest railway stations into the mad hustle and bustle of Shibuya.
Shibuya is one Japan's fashion centers with thousands of highly stylish youngsters that come to shop, see and be seen.
It’s also where you find the famous statue of Hachiko, the Akita dog who waited faithfully at the station every night, even after his master died.
Around the corner and up the street is the Igo Salon Dogenzaka, where Michael Simon 5d plays.
Hikaru No Go fans would recognize the club in an instant.
The club with its bar running along a side wall and the rows of wooden name cards lining the front walls look just as it does in HNG n°8.
Some of the players themselves are also recognizable.
“It’s one of the strongest clubs in Tokyo,” Simon says, “not only are almost all the players dan-level, but they’re mostly quite strong, 4-dan and up.
Simon introduces me to Mr. Goichi Sawaguchi, an elegant gentleman enjoying a glass of red wine as he plays. Some three decades ago, Mr Sawaguchi was All-Tokyo champ “and he’s still as tough as ever,” Michael tells me. “He gives me four stones and no matter how many glasses of wine he drinks he still kicks my butt.”
The club runs two ongoing tournaments, one self-paired using the ubiquitous ranking cards that track wins and losses, the other a standing Round Robin against other club members.
Michael says he likes the club “because it’s friendlier and looser” and because it’s one of the few clubs remaining where smoking is still allowed. Open windows keep the club fairly smoke-free, but also allow in sound that drifts up from the speakers outside the music store directly below.
At the club, we’re joined by Korean pro Nam Chihyung – in town for the IGF meetings – and after the tour, Michael takes us to a nearby international food bazaar where we admire the perfectly-presented comestibles, from daintily-wrapped $100 canteloupes to cheeses fresh off the plane from France, fish from around the world and mysterious Japanese vegetables.