High school Go clubs in Japan
This is an article about high school Go clubs in Japan. Most of it also applies to junior high school Go clubs in Japan.
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Although there are many Go and Shogi clubs (GSCs) in Japanese schools, most of them are essentially Shogi clubs. This is because there are more Shogi players than Go players, and they easily take initiative at the GSC.
Generally in Japan, a high school Go club is taken to be a sign of an excellent school. This is because all schools have sports clubs, but only highly-rated schools have Go clubs.
The best advertisement for a school is to send their students to the University of Tokyo or Kyoto University. But this is hard for most high schools. Instead, some schools try to send their sports teams to national championships. This may be somewhat easier but is still difficult. For schools that do not have these options, cultural clubs (including Go clubs) are their remaining options for promotion.
There are several reasons why students join Go clubs.
- They want to enjoy Go – the simplest reason.
- They just want to say “I was a Go club member in high school”. This is an important claim because the more you participate in club activities, the more highly you will be regarded by teachers. So it is common for Japanese students to have multiple club membership. Club activity experience is used everywhere, including Japanese private university exams and job interviews at Japanese companies. Club activities are very useful to fill the blanks in the experience section at your personal resume.
- They just want an excuse to skip classes.
- They are just counted as a member in order to maintain the club. (Most schools only recognise clubs with a certain minimum number of members.)
- They want to avoid sanctions from the school. This is because some schools have punishments for students who do not join any club activity. There are various protests about these at change.org or other places.
In Japan, club activity performance is strongly linked to teacher employment and salary. Teachers who do not support club activities will neither be promoted nor hired. Club activity disestablishment may lead the teacher to be fired.
Professor R. Uchida at Nagoya University is an expert on this school issue.
For teachers at Go clubs, the Nihon Ki-in has a license system (Certified School Go Instructor, or shidoin) to certify their educational experience. It is cheaper than getting a dan diploma. Holders of this license are announced at the Nihon Ki-in official yearbook. Applicants have to satisfy these conditions:
- Attend official lectures by Nihon Ki-in pros
- Older than 20
- Obtain recommendation from a pro or
- Nihon Ki-in branch
- School principal
- Educational board
- Prefecture governor
This license is valuable because any teacher can be an advisor at a Go club without special experience or knowledge. This is accepted because there is no medical or physical danger at a Go club. If the same thing happens at a sports club (such as Judo, Karate or mountain climbing), parents may complain and gain media attention.
Generally, starting a Go club is NOT easy. First you need to find a teacher as a guarantor that the club is under school control. The school principal and the educational board of the local authorities will make the final decision. Sometimes the PTA is also involved. If you want to invite external coaches, that will need additional permission, because all human resource decisions are made by the school principal and the educational board. Generally, permission is also needed for competition attendance and classroom usage.
Some clubs are completely financed by the school, but others are financed by membership fees paid by students. Not all travel expenses are paid by the club.
- Prevention of cyber crime involvement, and healthy empowerment of the students.
- To keep club activities under school control and surveillance.
- Most schools have banned the usage of smartphones and computers. In 2020, the Ministry of Education has added exceptions but decided to keep the general smartphone prohibition for students ( Yahoo Japan News).
- Most Go club teachers prefer face to face activities in order to develop pupils’ communication skills, which is strongly claimed by the Nihon Ki-in and Kansai Ki-in as the benefit of Go.
The following table shows the notable winners of the high school championship (HSC, team competition section). The sponsor is Nihon Ki-in. Teams that cleared prefecture preliminaries can attend.
|1977, 1979, 1985-1990, 1999-2003 and 2013||Fujimura Girls, Aragaki Miki and Sasago Risa graduated from here.|
|2006 and 2014||Toshimagaoka Girls Academy|
|2015-2016||Toyama Metropolitan (public school based in Tokyo, not Toyama Prefecture)|
The High School Invitational Tournament (HSIT) is sponsored by the Kansai Ki-in since 2007. HSIT has a prefecture preliminary and a regional preliminary. The following table shows the notable winners at here.
|2012, 2015 and 2019||Toshimagaoka Girls Academy|
|2011||Tohoku Pacific Earthquake in March 11, 2011|
As mentioned in above, club activities are useful for school promotion, but also expensive. In times of financial crisis, club activities (especially cultural clubs) have always been targeted for savings.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, most games have been cancelled, and most schools see no reason to allow Go clubs to restart their activities. Some schools are considering closing them down.