KamiNoItte/Discussion

Sub-page of KamiNoItte

Greened? The word itte has te (hand) as its root, it literally means 'one hand' and can be directly translated into English as 'move', as in a 'move in a game'. Shougi as well as go uses the term. The word 'kami' which is often translated as 'god' is more complicated. It literally means 'superior', and by extension, 'upper,' 'above', 'very good', 'sacred', etc. In other words, the Japanese kami are the 'superior ones', not exactly 'gods' like the word means in English, but things that inspire awe in humans.[1]

The term 'kami no itte' could be directly translated into English as 'the superior move'. Or, as we usually say in English, 'the best move.' But the connotations of the word 'kami' give it a different taste, which results in it being translated as 'the hand of God'. Perhaps the most correct translation would be 'the move whose sheer perfection inspires an almost religious awe in those who witness it', but this is way too cumbersome for easy use.

exswoo I think you're assuming too much from the Japanese word kami here. While it's true that Japanese gods of lore aren't as omnipotent as god in Islam/Christianity, it would be a mistake to generalize this to mean that the word kami does not imply perfection/holiness.

For example, Japanese Christians use the term kami as well, and I doubt they will share your beliefs on what the word means.

If you want to take a Western example, think back to Greek/Roman/Norse gods, which we still call gods even though they aren't examples of "sheer perfection".

So...to get back to the term kami no itte, this would have to mean the perfect move?, although "The Hand of God" is clearly a mistranslation.

Greened?: I'm not sure that it is so necessarily a mistranslation, since the matter of translation is often highly context-dependant (at least between languages without tons of shared genetics or culture background) and generally recquires a good deal of finesse and compromise. One needs to consider the nature of the audience on both sides of the language barrier, the particular choice of words in the native tongue, the subject treated and its relationship to each culture, and in general, the overall feel of the work. I think that it is the case that in translating something that lies more in the realm of art than in that of (generally pretty explicit/literal) technical language, it is often a mistake to pay too close attention to translation of strictly literal meaning, to the neglect of various connotations that are consciously stressed in the original work. It can be just as bad in the poetic arena, and quite possibly worse than a literal word-for-word translation.

In the particular case of translating HNG for those who don't have much experience with Go in its place in 'Western' culture (which has a technical language of its own, semi-borrowed from Japanese and other sources, with its own rules of translation), I would be inclined to say that "Hand of God" is a pretty good translation in that it is not as blunt as 'perfect play', or as jargony as 'numinous move'. Compared to 'Divine Move' or 'Divine Hand' the contest is maybe closer, and variation in personal taste might well decide the best choice, but to me, 'Hand of God' sounds the most evocative and the least washed out. The phrase is meant (I think; go ask a Japanese speaker, or several) in HNG to have somewhat mystic, poetic, or powerful overtones, and possibly to cover several meanings, such as 'the perfect move', and more implicitly, literally perfect play, maybe to echo with those images of a hand placing a stone that frequently show up in conjunction with this phrase in the manga. It's an airier, more metaphoric, hence probably more versatile translation than other choices, and in its context, it doesn't necessarily sacrifice when it comes to being able to figure out what is being talked about; when a good or bad 'hand' is talked of, it's extremely hard not to understand what a 'hand' is. It's also difficult to simply think 'move' while avoiding some of the connotations that the word choice of 'hand' helps to facilitate. In the go-playing-westerner context, I generally think of two translations for 'kami no itte'. One is 'perfect play' as appears when we have technical, often computer-related discussions. The other is 'perfect awe-inspiring bueatiful deep move' (I keep the word-literal translation in mind in this sort of context): an inspired move that solves the problem of the strategy of a game decisively and clearly, that seemingly does everything at once and more on top of that: not a tesuji per se, but a move that is somehow impervious to every possible strategic line that can be thrown against it, that creates strategic possibilities of its own: something akin to the Ear Reddening Move.

John Fairbairn The most exact translation of kami is numen, and so kami no = numinous. To a Japanese kami no itte in a go context refers to divine moves (plural) so "perfect play" is probably as good as we'll ever get in English. But kami no itte is also used outside go for the protecting hand of the gods, so the Hand of God is not so far off. Since we don't know the eventual denouement of Hikaru no Go, we can't say that this meaning will not become explicit. But without that, it seems to me pretty obvious that Sai is providing the the protective hand of the gods/spirits (he is one himself after all) for Shindo-kun. The admittedly rather awkward phrase Hand of God seems the best solution in the circumstances.

exswoo I'm not so sure about the ambiguity of the term when it's used in Go. Actually, I did some more research on-line to see what other Japanese sites have to say about this and found....

A) Kami no Itte is a also a term that is used in shogi, as well as other board games.

B) A personal webpage at [ext] http://www.diana.dti.ne.jp/~kaney/index.html defines Kami no Itte as: (slight paraphrasing here) "A series of moves or a strategy that will guarantee a victory (for Black).

C) Other websites I browsed through seemed to agree with this definition (for example, a couple discussed the possibility of a creating a Kami no Itte AI for classic board games).

So, to sum up, the overwhelming consensus is that Kami no Itte refers to perfect play in a game (Which means that we spent a long time getting to the most obvious conclusion :) ).

This also explains why Sai felt that Shusaku was the closest person to Kami no Itte, given his legendary reputation with winning as black.

"Kami" more properly should be translated as 'divine' such as divine wind=kamikaze. --TimBrent

"Kami" means "god" and since there's a "no" in "Kami no Itte", I'd translate it as "god's move?". "Divine move" would mean practically the same metaphorically, but I wouldn't say it's a more proper translation, since it's not "Kamiitte". --ElDraco

Bob Myers: Kami are the gods or spirits worshipped at each Shinto shrine, and indeed the name “Shinto” means “Way of the Kami”. A kami could be the spirit of a well-known local figure, a more traditional historical/mythical god-type being, or, just as easily, a river, mountain, animal, or even rock. I remember visiting one shrine where the object of veneration, located on the back wall and symbolizing the kami being worshipped, was simply a hole in the wall—letting you gaze through at the mountain behind the shrine. The mountain was the kami.

(Note that many students assume that kami meaning God is the same word as, or shares an origin with, a different kami meaning “up”/“above”. But linguists tell us that this is not the case—the “mi” of the kami meaning God was originally a different sound than the “mi” of the word meaning “up”. So just as English “god” and “good” are not related (God is not necessarily good?), neither are Japanese kami/god and kami/up (God is not necessarily up?).)

The usage of kami(sama) for the Christian God is obviously a borrowing.


[1] Obviously, whichever meaning is required depends on the kanji used. It's either 神の一手 (move of god) or 上の一手 (upper/superior move). The latter could just as well mean a move on top of another or something ;-).
Surprisingly, a simple query on google reveals absolutely no results with the latter in combination with 碁 (go), whereas a search on 神の一手 gives lots of results, most of 'em related to HikaruNoGo like this one: [ext] http://www.estoys.co.jp/tys/71/71_01_11_00.html.
Consequently, I doubt that 'move of god' is "clearly a mistranslation". Besides, all the anime subs HikaruNoGo translators seem to agree that it's move of god.
I think that this is sufficient proof that the meaning actually is move of god. (or hand of god for that matter) I'll ask my Japanese teacher next class (which is not before june) to see if she knows anything about it (or knows someone who does).
--ElDraco

John F. The second rendering above is not really possible. The kami reading of ue is used only in special contexts such as place names. In any case, as I have said before, the phrase kami no itte is not specific to go and is used in the normal language to mean divine protection (i.e. hand of god). We just have to live with the fact that there is a pun in the original Japanese that we can't easily express in English. My suggestion for an English equivalent is Sai saying "I want to achieve immortality", meaning (1) live for ever - divine protection, (2) everlasting fame - perfect play.

"Perfect play" being the best interpretation then in my opinion. I didn't think it was the second rendering either. ;-) Just wanted to point out that the second, which some people used for translating it, wasn't correct/used. Let's conclude this by saying we find the best free translation for "Kami no Itte" (神の一手) to be "Perfect play" in this context. This was also proposed before. Anyone who's against raise your 右手 (right hand) :).
--ElDraco

RafaelCaetano: Hmm, anyone really considered 上? That's not the point of the discussion, I guess.

The fact that HNG translators use "hand of god" doesn't prove anything. They do make mistakes. I haven't seen the anime but the manga translation is clearly not top quality. You don't have to be a Japanese expert to see that. As a related example, translating "itte" as "hand" is a mistake. Every go player knows it's "move" (I mean "itte" as an isolated word, not "kami no itte").

Reuven: Seems like we're closer to the hand of god, than one might think! Checkout [ext] this problem.. ;) (However I think that only moves which would be [ext] "polite" should be taken into count as possible...But that's strictly my opinion... But now that I think of it... It might be like that play in soccer - A perfect move would be a cheating move, unless a perfect play would always led to jigo... - I bet there're some komi related discussion on the subject..)

Zar?: If it is translated as a 'perfect move'... wouldn't a move be good enough if it left at least one path to victory for the player (that is dependent upon the players next move and not on where the opponent plays). Then it would be perfect if it had the most paths to victory for the player (regardless of the opponents move.) This will be obtained as soon as computers can read ahead? to the end of the game on all possible variations... (and then we can finally figure out a fair komi?)

(Anon) I don't know how many of you commentators are asian. I am Chinese, and while Japanese isn't Chinese, around 50% of Japanese vocabulary came from Chinese,and I would be surprised if "kami" wasn't one of them. While 神 in a buddhist context is not the most powerful (they're lower than buddhas), it can be used to represent "god". I don't see anything wrong with the translation of "Hand of God". I think it's simple and catchy, and completely reflects the tone of "kami no itte". When translating, it may not necessarily be the best to always translate literally 100%, since you may lose the flow or feel of the thing you're translating. Something like "Divine move" or "nominous move" seems to be a little too classy and arrogant, and not so straightfoward. And it doesn't sound nice at all. But that's just my opinion.

(Anon) If kami no itte referred to perfect play, then why isn't it Kami no Shiai? Notice the 一 in 一手. It means one. A single hand, not a whole game. And if you argue that it means the best move in a particular situation, I disagree. Sai wouldn't have needed to wait 1000 years to play that - in fact, chances are he has played the best possible move (in end game) many, many, many times.


KamiNoItte/Discussion last edited by Dieter on December 5, 2011 - 10:21
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