Intermediate Japanese for Reading Go Books


Once you have mastered Basic Japanese for Reading Go Books, you are ready to move on. This page aims to help you get a bit more out of your Japanese go books and point you towards some techniques and resources for learning Japanese.

Recap and Pronunciation

黒番 kuroban Black to play
白番 shiroban White to play

黒先白死 kuro sen shiro shi Black to play and kill White
黒先生き (or 活き) Black to play and live
白先劫 shiro sen ko White to play and make a ko
白先勝 shiro sen kachi White to play and win (the capturing race)

Note: In addition, 劫生 ko-iki (ko-life) and 劫死 ko-shini (ko-death) were used before 1950s to indicate results via ko and local ko threats.

Types of Go Books

死活 shikatsu (practical Life and death)
詰碁 Tsumego (composed life and death problems)
手筋 Tesuji (local tactics)
布石 Fuseki (opening)
定石 joseki (corner patterns)
ヨセ yose (endgame)
次の一手 tsugi no itte (next move)
問題集 mondai shu (problem collection)
基本 kihon (basic, fundamental)

Here's an example of a Japanese go book.
You should be able to spot several key words on the cover.

Books Grades

Many books of problems are graded and the grade may be given on the cover. Here are a few common examples.
入門 nyūmon introductory (for beginners)
初級 shokyū elementary
中級 chūkyū intermediate
上級 jōkyū advanced
有段 yūdan dan-level
高段 kōdan high-dan-level
三、四、五 級 3, 4, 5 kyu
初段 shodan
N.B. Japanese amateur ranks were being inflated over the years. Therefore older books have lower (more severe) ranks on problems.

The famous Maeda Tsumego series has three volumes labeled 初級, 中級, 上級.

Japanese for Diagrams

zu diagram
正 解 図 seikaizu Solution diagram
参 考 図 sankozu Reference diagram
変 化 図 henkazu Variation diagram
ten Spot, point (example: B3 at B1: B3 (1 の 点))
migi Right (example B3 to the right of B1: B3 (1 の 右))
hidari Left (example B3 to the left of B1: B3 (1 の 左))
ue Above (example B3 above B1: B3 (1 の 上))
shita Below (example B3 below B1: B3 (1 の 下 ))
sumi corner
hen side

Modern books usually label points with roman letters: A, B, C.

Old books use the [ext] Iroha (いろは) to indicate additional moves. The first fourteen additional moves in order based upon the Iroha are:

  • (katakana) イ, ロ, ハ, ニ, ホ, ヘ, ト, チ, リ, ヌ, ル, ヲ, ワ, カ
  • (hiragana) い, ろ, は, に, ほ, へ, と, ち, り, ぬ, る, を, わ, か
  • (pronunciation) i, ro, ha, ni, ho, he, to, chi, ri, nu, ru, wo, wa, ka

Japanese for Results

正解 seikai correct
解答 kaitō solution
失敗 shippai failure
セキ seki


別案 Betsuan (alternative solution)
注意 Chūi (take note, warning)

Further Reading

Japanese Go Terms is an extensive glossary with 700+ entries.

Hiragana and Katakana

It's worth learning the two syllabaries. Many Japanese go terms are written in katakana. Hiragana is used to provide the grammar. It's useful to know when the meaning is negative. There are many resources online to help. Here are a few examples. Please add any good ones that you find yourself.
[ext] Yoshida Institute
[ext] List of resources
[ext] Jim Breen's Japanese page at Monash University

A Bilingual Go Article

For a later stage of studying Japanese, here is a bilingual version of an article from the Igo Club Magazine including, in addition to the translation, a literal word-by-word translation and a complete vocabulary list. Kevin Moore ("Mr. Keys"), a musician working in Japan, had an eight-stone teaching game with Sanno Hirotaka, and this is an account of that game along with human interest details. (You may have to enable your web browser to display Japanese, if it doesn't do so already.)

[ext] Bilingual Go Game Dead link

I just now --12 noon EST, Sunday, December 2-- used that link. On that page, the links to the .pdf and .gif versions, as well > as the sound files, are dead; but the important links, to pages 1 through 6, and studies 1 through 6, are up and running. I had checked the link right before posting it, too. Please try again so that we can remove the warning. Thnx. --FredK

xela: At the moment (23:40 GMT on December 2nd) I'm getting a "server not found" error for

unkx80: Got 500 Server Error (2008 April 25).

[ext] Bilingual Go Game, alternate link Dead link

Maybe this link will work? (The other one is still working for me; I have no explanation.)

unkx80: Works okay (2008 April 25).

Both prior links are dead now. (2009 August 28) Most of the material may be found via [ext]

The pdf files (except for page 3?) may be found [ext] here.

The sgf file is [ext] here.

NN: richard, you listed different kanjis for tsumego and life & death. i am kind of puzzled, isn't that the same thing, tsumego = life and death? thanks in advance for your answer.

Richard Hunter: That's an interesting question. Let me answer in two parts. First, on my bookshelf, I have many 詰碁 books and several 死活 books. My intention was to ensure that people looking for suitable Japanese books don't look only for tsumego and tesuji and overlook 死活 ones because they lack the right key words in the title. They are worth reading too. Tsumego has a wider meaning that includes life&death. Basically, tsumego refers to a restricted position rather than full board but can include semeai, connecting out, etc. The problems can be realistic or contrived ones unlikely to occur in a game. Japanese books on life&death tend to focus on the shape of standard corner positions like the L+1 group and how to live/kill. They may follow a series of variations on a shape with a leg, hane, open liberties etc. Tsumego tends to focus on the killing/living technique.

Intermediate Japanese for Reading Go Books last edited by hnishy on January 31, 2023 - 10:35
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