Keywords: Go term

(Please note that we don't have definite sources on 'karai' yet!)

Karai (辛い), literally meaning 'salty' or 'spicy', is a Japanese go term meaning 1) being stingy on territory, or 2) a severe move with immediate profit while also solid, challenging the opponent to come up with a really good plan.

Taken from [ext] http://gooften.net/2011/12/13/c-class-third-week-update/#more-771


isd: I don't really think that the first part of the definition, being stingy on territory, conveys the meaning very well. Emphaising a lead in territory or Demonstrating a lead in territory might be better?

tapir: The first part is meant as a translation of a phrase not of the term. "being severe while taking territory" was proposed by jun tarumi, who is not only japanese, but an egf 5 dan player as well. Until more translations come along, we can stick to this, no?

Bill: For some reason, people seem to have a way of jazzing up translations of go terms. (>Dieter: if you check my source, you'll see the term was jazzed up by a native speaker.) >> Bill: Oh, I did check the source. A native speaker of English?

辛い(からい) 厚みよりも地をとることを意図すること。

from Weblio's [ext] Basic Go Dictionary

Google translation: It is intended to take place than the thickness.

(Place instead of territory, of course.)


from a different [ext] go dictionary

Google translation: Intended to take place than the thickness.

I have my own connotations, but avoided them by using Google.

OC, neither of these dictionaries is particularly authoritative, but neither are the players.

Third definition:


From the [ext] katteyomi go dictionary

Google translation: Pragmatic than the thickness (place) to emphasize that.

mafutrct: So far there is no definite source, and over at [ext] http://boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/5716/what-is-the-meaning-of-karai-and-how-is-it-applied/5731#5731 a completely different idea was proposed, too. It's important that this article states that we don't really know yet, so I added a hint about that. Also, this term does exist at gobase but with little explanation.

Bill: What seems to be different there is the notion of solidity, which I think is off base. That sounds like 堅実 (kenjitsu). Territorial profit is what Google translates as pragmatic . . . (place).

Bill: Rendering Google's translations into more proper English suggests two senses:

1) Intending to take territory rather than thickness.

2) Emphasizing territory over thickness.

tapir: Can it be the notion of "severeness" is already embedded in the word itself (severe harsh is one meaning of it, isn't it) that the go dictionaries don't bother to add this to the definition? The game example of Antti has a move called karai that takes territory while taking away the base of a group. I wonder how many other go terms didn't arrive in the West, because no insei blogged about them or they were obscured in translation.

Bill: Good point about the regular meaning of karai. I think the main reason that it did not come into use in the West is that it is a surprisingly rare go term. I was surprised not to find it in Nam's Contemporary Go Terms, for instance. One major usage is for describing a territory oriented go playing style. Such usage carries no connotation of severity. Along those lines, individual plays are described as karai or ji ni karai (a synonymous phrase). Like an initial 3-3 in the corner. OC, that play cannot be called severe. In fact, spending a few hours searching through my go books did not turn up any examples of its usage as severe. However, I remember that usage in go related conversation when I was in Japan. Perhaps that has to do with criticizing an amateur play as amai, by contrast with a better play which is karai. You can see how that kind of discussion might not appear very often in the go literature.

Bill: I have generally found Weblio to be reliable for go terminology. I suppose that it is about as authoritative as Wikipedia, I don't know.

Antti: Maybe this is authoritative enough for you. From Nihon Ki-in's 用語小事典, 1997 ("small terminology encyclopedia"): "からい: 地にからいこと。まず地で得をして、その上で互角に戦っていこうという打ち方。" Attempt at a translation by me: "karai: to be karai on territory. A playing style in which a player claims a lead on territory while also going out to fight." As discussed above, to me this certainly sounds like "severe" or a similar word has to be included in an attempt for an English translation of the term. Your ordinary 4-point-surrounding move in the opening part of the game is definitely not karai unless it's threatening your opponent's stones. If memory serves me right, some of the Japanese professionals I've met at our weekly 英会話, English conversation school, as an example characterized Cho Chikun's play as "karai".

John F. Hayashi Yutaka, than whom none can be more authoritative, did not rate karai as a go term. It is certainly used in go but nearly always to do with Cho Chikun, whose emergence slightly post-dates Hayashi. It may be worth accepting as a go term now just because of Cho - but the NK dictionary is slightly skew-whiff in that it is more often used of the player rather than his style.

I suspect it has been borrowed from shogi, where its meaning is: notwithstanding being ahead, playing all out, no compromises, no quarter given. Maruyama is the player most associated with this style. My impression is that the term was borrowed specifically to write about Cho and his jidori (territory taking) style, but substituting "having already made territory" for the more general shogi "being ahead". That's understandable, since territory is a relatively easy metric and it definitely can be applied to Cho.

As to translation, in most cases it's probably better not to try to get a one-to-one mapping. It is probably best to re-write and for ji ni karai, instead of unidiomatic phrases about being "severe on territory", or harsh, I'd suggest saying things like, "(Cho) plays in an uncompromising way once he gets ahead in territory." However, if karai is used alone, I'd suggest just "uncompromising", as this can be used both of a person and a style.

Incidentally, from this it can be seen that, although it features territory, there is NO dualism with influence or thickness. It's more about psychology than go theory.

Bob McGuigan: I have only seen karai in go writings as a description of a go style, as John says above. I've certainly seen it describing Cho Chikun (ji ni karai) but I think it has also been used for other players with a territorial style (Ishida Yoshio, Rin Kaiho, Cho U(?)). I loved Bill's contrast of amateurs' play as amai (soft but also sweet) and pros' as karai (which means spicy or pungent in the context of food). My Kenkyusha J-E dictionary lists "harsh" or "severe" as meanings of karai but I think these are in an everyday context, not a go context. Just because some pro described a move as karai doesn't mean that is a standard use of karai; it might just be an attempt on the pro's part to be colorful or to spice up his description :)

Bill: I am glad that others have chimed in. :) As I recall, karai was used in a go context (as an opposite to amai) when I was learning go, and Cho Chikun was still an insei.

Antti: One way or the other, it doesn't seem like the term would get much use in western countries even if we found a really handy one-to-one mapping for it, seeing how it's this late that there's any discussion in Sensei's about the existence of the term. For similar purposes, English-speakers are likely content to say "here x is attacking while taking profit" instead of "x's move here is xvarfb", where xvarfb is the one-to-one mapping we'd gotten.

I'm having slight issues with the authority we're discussing here. I don't see how one person could say "this word has no connection to this game", while 1) Japanese players, professionals and amateurs included, in actuality do use the word fairly often (really, it comes up fairly often not only in the English conversation school we have, but also in insei and go dojo training I attend), and 2) Japan's primary association related to the game has even published an encyclopedia which contains the word and states cleanly how it's used in terms of the game. Sure enough, the situation could have been different n decades before, but if people are (often) using the word in relation to the game, then it's definitely a valid term in relation to the game.

As we have a term, here, which is not able to be translated so that it'd find its use in the western go community, but which still exists in the Japanese go community and has a clear definition, I'd rather have a comprehensive description about the usage of the term in Japan here at Sensei's.

Dave: I am sure that I have heard it used to describe specific plays by both amateurs and pros that I know. I never gave it a second thought since the meaning of roughly "severe" seemed to fit naturally. Regarding the link to Cho Chikun, amusingly my 1983 version of the dictionary quoted by Antti follows the basic definition (word for word as above) with a one and a half page excerpt from a commentary by Cho Chikun on game 1 from the 7th Kisei (Cho versus Fujisawa Shuko in January '83) about Shuko's "karai" play - "厚み流秀行先生は地にカライ". As always YMMV. :-)

John F. I think Anttii is unwise to challenge the authority of Hayashi Yutaka. For many years he was the editor of Kido. He was also a native speaker. And the very small dictionary Anttii is quoting is (for other entries) mostly copied word for word from Hayashi's big encyclopaedia, which, however, has longer definitions and many more of them. As I said, though, Cho Chikun came along a little later and (with him, I infer) a new word became popular, so that the modern editor felt inclined to include it. What I can say for (almost) certain is that I've never seen it in old go writings. But I also find it rather frequent in modern texts (and, as others observe, no longer just about Cho). For these reasons, it still feels like a fad word to me.

On a more general level, if you look at how go terms develop, there is a rather small core that we know pros of the past used. They used these mainly among themselves to talk about go theory, not to talk about personalities or to spread go among the masses. These are technical terms proper. Around the 1920s a new breed of terminology came along as journalists learned to write about the game. They invented terms such as avalanche. They also wrote about personalities and other things off the board. That required a raft of new terms. Their need to proselytise also resulted in a major simplification of kanjis and some standardisation, e.g. hiraku is now used almost entirely about the 3rd or 4th lines, but in Igo Shinpo (circa 1900) you can see it used for jumps into the centre (today we would say aoru).

Japanese go thus has two levels of go technical terms: pro and journalistic. What we see today is almost entirely journalistic go terminology aimed at the public. There are still pro terms that are rarely seen in public texts.

There is, of course, a 3rd level. These are Japanese words which are standard in the ordinary language, and which often have a wide range of meanings and nuances, but which most westerners only ever encounter in a go context. Too many westerners try to fit these into the straitjacket of technical terms in English, which doesn't really work because the Japanese feel free to use the word in all its guises. Over time, some, like aji (which doesn't seem to occur in old texts), become popular enough within go to acquire a technical status. Others are still a "work in progress", and I would class such words as journalistic. I suspect karai is one of these. In other words, its long-term status is still uncertain. It may be generational. To me it feels like "cool" or "wicked". These are words that (in the sense of good) that I NEVER use, and maybe the next generation will never use. I wouldn't be surprised if there are likewise Japanese go readers who flinch at the go use of karai, or if it fades away. There are plenty of journalistic go terms that have faded away, especially the once very popular militaristic terms of the 1930s.

Antti: That was some very nice insight into the topic! I can see how karai could either fade away or become a more common term which way it goes, we can only see. Still, it's only natural for a language to change gradually. I don't mean to undermine Hayashi Yutaka's authority or anything, but to me it feels more rational to listen to an existing association which actually does seem to stand at the pinnacle of the (Japanese-speaking) go world, contrary to a however-authoritative person who is now deceased, and who was not known to see twenty or thirty years into the future to foretell how the language would change. As for the Sensei's library entry, I would imagine people would prefer a description of the term and how it's used in its country of origin, even if it ended up being a fad term ten years later, than an "authoritative person x said twenty-five years ago that this term does not exist in this context". Sorry for the polarization here, but my understanding was that we're looking for a purpose for this page, and not philosophizing on general go terminology.

Tapir: While I can add nothing to this discussion... Is there any chance to read more about the militarist-journalistic go terms of the 30s anywhere? + Is there any chance to read more about technical terms vs. popular terms in general (I remember the underused / overused terms discussion, where I fear the technical terms are on the underused side.)?

isd: I would like the page to explain the term as it is used today in Japan. All this discussion is very interesting, but it's not relevant to producing a tidy and informative page.

Antti: I'm up for following isd's suggestion, and vouch for a translation of the 用語小事典 entry I included earlier (or some other similar definition from an authoritative enough source). Some examples of usage of the term with a diagram or two would be informative. It would also be nice if someone with better Japanese and/or English skills formulated a more fluent translation! I wouldn't mind having to redo the whole page by myself, but I would feel bad removing all of the good content we have here in the discussion.

Bill: I think that the OED criterion of appearing in the literature is applicable. Karai as a go term, and ji ni karai both appear in the Japanese go literature. Both are used to refer to a style of play and to particular plays or sequences of play. I think that the connotation of severity is enough that we should also include that regular meaning of the word. That gives us three different senses. How about something like this?

1. Of playing style: aiming to take an early lead in territory and then maintain it through even fighting.

2. Of a play or sequence of play: securing territory (with a connotation of sharpness or severity).

3. (General usage). Severe.

As for not losing the discussion, we simply move it to a subpage. :)

Antti: That seems like an excellent way to put it! I'll see if I can contribute to the exact word form after having slept a good night's sleep.

John F. It seems as if I'm being stereotyped again as only interested in history and "philosophising", yet I gave a perfectly good explanation of modern usage, including shogi, and suggestion for an English equivalent: "uncompromising". There is no British/US problem with this I'm aware of.

I'm reluctant to sign up to Bill's three meanings. 1 and 2 put too much emphasis on territory. You could say karai even if you took a lead in other ways. There is a reason for adding ji ni to karai in Japanese. I also think "sharpness" is too specific (too "chessy"?) here. As to 3, I disagree because severe has too many branch meanings, most of which don't apply (and Japanese kibishii covers that nexus). I say again that "uncompromising" is probably always adequate, or you may prefer "relentless" in some contexts,

To expand: I don't think you start out trying to be karai, by accumulating territory and then playing hard. I think the lead comes first and only then do you make a (psychological) decision to be karai - uncompromising.

For militaristic and other types of terms, I have written about these in various books.

Tapir: Thank you, I wanted to enquire where to look. I found the shogi reference and the uncompromising proposal good, it seems to cover what I have seen without being so specific as severe, which we already have as the antonym of slack (yurui). The severe page doesn't give an Japanese equivalent, but I doubt it is karai after reading the entries here, so giving severe as 2 of 3 meanings of karai may be a little misleading, when we use severe as a go term in its own right. P.S. I do not think that we have to hurry to close discussions and put definitions on the page, especially when a discussion is as interesting as this one.

Antti: My apologies if I have been misinterpreted I had absolutely no intention or will to make any personal attacks against anybody.

John F. I didn't think there was anything personal, so no apology is needed. It's just that I do think there are several people who have a reflex action: see my name, think history, go to sleep, and don't actually read what I write, which is often trying to link the past to the present. To me there is a problem if such a reaction then produces limited vision. If we focus only on the present, I think we lose a lot. First of all, there are people who actually read or translate old texts, so old meanings are still relevant. Also, old meanings can explain or nuance modern meanings. And if the word is totally new, it's useful to consider, in the light of the historical ambience, why it was needed.

Dieter: I think that in the world of Go and beyond, young people don't care as much about the value of something in history. Their world is the world of today and they want to know what Karai means in today's world, or if "Dance the night away" by Jennifer Lopez is a wicked song to dance to, rather than care respectively what it meant in the Edo period or if it is a rip-off of the Lambada which was itself a cover of Llorando se fue which in its turn is based on a folk tune of the Andes.

All that doesn't deny us the plight to defend of the rights of history, neither the youngsters the right to care more about today's ephemeral usage.

John F. I do find this very frustrating. More stereotyping. I am not defending any rights of history. If you look at the third paragraph of my first contribution above ("As to translation..) I have explicitly suggested a translation for the MODERN usage. Since some people are uncertain about the meaning, suggestions have to be explained. In many cases a look at the past can help. Why does doing that have to lead to glib assumptions about fuddy duddies stuck in the past (which is what comes over to me)? In any case, even if youngsters do care more about the present, I'm sure the more intelligent ones, like go players, are open to being shown a bit of perspective. This is all getting rather remote from the term karai, but I think it's useful to make the point for the sake of other terms discussions.

Dieter: John, I tried to make it a little more karui. I'll remove my failed attempt at humour if you wish.

Karai last edited by VanMorrison on September 19, 2018 - 10:51
RecentChanges · StartingPoints · About
Edit page ·Search · Related · Page info · Latest diff
[Welcome to Sensei's Library!]
Search position
Page history
Latest page diff
Partner sites:
Go Teaching Ladder
Login / Prefs
Sensei's Library