History Of Women In Go

    Keywords: Culture & History

The history of women in go describes the history of female go players.

Ancient Era

One of the earliest references of women playing go can be found in the "The Tale of Genji" and the "Pillow Book" by Sei Shonagon during Japan's Heian period. In those historical works, women are depicted playing and enjoying go alongside men.[1]

In the Legend of the Old Woman Of Lishan, Tang Dynasty imperial go champion Wang Jixin encountered some women playing go.

Classical Era

By the Edo period in Japan, female participation in go declined, particularly at the professional level. However, go playing was an art that many geisha mastered.[1]

According to the Zaindanso (坐隠談叢) (published 1904), Yokozeki Iho (横関伊保) was the first female player to obtain a professional rank during the era of Honinbo Satsugen. She attained the rank of shodan at 17 years old (1779), and she is widely regarded as a pioneer in women's go.[2]

By the first half of the 19th century, during the era of Honinbo Genjo and Yasui Chitoku, the 1846 Dainippon Go Surname List (大日本囲碁姓名録) lists seven female go professionals, including Noguchi Matsu? (野口松) (2d) and Toyota Gen (豊田源) (3d). Most of these women were nominally registered disciples and not true disciples, in the sense that their ranks were honorary titles rather than true apprenticeships. Only the Four Houses could grant true ranks, and it was socially unacceptable for women to become students while living and eating with the men in the dojo during that era.[2]

However, there were notable exceptions, particularly for the wives and daughters of male go professionals. For instance, Yasui Ryuu? (安井鉚) (3d) was the daughter of Yasui Chitoku and younger sister of Yasui Shuntetsu and a renowned beauty throughout Edo. When she was a shodan, she defeated Inoue Gen'an Inseki (7d) with a three-stone handicap.[2]

Importantly, these Edo-era female professionals never exceeded the low ranks. The reason was because male professionals made a living playing go, and they could receive a salary from the shogunate. Furthermore, they could participate in the prestigious castle games, which was unthinkable for women. Not to mention, women were expected to be married by 20 years old and dedicate their livelihood to their husband and children, and they could no longer focus single-handedly on go like the male players. In the Four Houses, women could not study like the male disciples and improve to the same degree.[2]

However, the situation changed to some extent in the Meiji era.

The catalyst for this change was an unorthodox woman named Hayashi Sano. She was the adopted daughter of Hayashi Tosaburo, a member of a branch family of the Hayashi house. Hayashi Tosaburo was the son of the distinguished and revolutionary Hayashi Genbi. The Hayashi house developed a trend for unorthodoxy since the time of Hayashi Genbi, and Hayashi Sano was no exception. Although she was promoted to shodan at sixteen years old within the Hayashi House, she left the clan during the Meiji era (at the time, her rank was revoked by Hayashi Shuei), choosing instead to follow nine people including Honinbo Shuho, Nakagawa Kamesaburo, and Kobayashi Tetsujiro as the founding members of the Hoensha.[2]

Among the pioneering initiatives of the Hoensha, one objective was to recruit more women as dedicated students. During the Meiji era, there were many women among the students of the Hoensha, the most famous of which was Kita Fumiko, Hayashi Sano's adopted daughter.

Modern Era

See also:


History Of Women In Go last edited by Dieter on November 23, 2023 - 14:14
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