Kitani Reiko

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Kobayashi Reiko's Nihon Ki-in photograph

(小林禮子) Kobayashi Reiko, nee Kitani Reiko (木谷禮子) (23 December 1939 - 16 April 1996), was a Nihon Ki-in professional Go player. 6 dan in 1968, 7 dan posthumously. She won 10 Women's Go titles.

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Kobayashi Reiko was the third daughter and fourth child of Kitani Minoru and Kitani Miharu, and the only one of their seven surviving children to become a Go professional. (There were five daughters and three sons, but the second-born daughter died in infancy.) She married Kobayashi Koichi, 13 years her junior, on 22 March 1974, and was the mother of Kobayashi Izumi (and a son), and was therefore grandmother of Cho Kosumi and Cho Koharu.

Her maiden name Kitani means "tree valley", from 木 (ki) = "tree" or "wood." 谷 (tani) = "valley." Her married name Kobayashi includes the character 林 (Hayashi), a character with two 木 combined, and means forest. The other character 小" (ko) means small, so the whole name means little forest.

Her given name Reiko means a child of good manners, from 禮 (rei) = "ritual" or "manners", and 子 (ko) = child, a common ending in Japanese girls' names. The name has a connotation of a person with a graceful and gentle demeanor, which proved to be true to life.

Titles and other Go achievements

Kobayashi Reiko won the All-Japan Women's Championship (informally called the Women's Honinbo prior to 1982) half a dozen times, in 1966 to 1971, and the Women's (Old) Meijin twice, in 1973 and 1975.

Kobayashi won the Women's Kido Prize in 1967, 1968, 1970, 1980, and 1982.

She was the only woman in the 1971 Pro Best Ten, and finished 8th after beating Takagawa Kaku and Iwata Tatsuaki.

Kobayashi also promoted Go. She helped train her father's students, and traveled to the USA in 1964 and China in 1965. She was also the main trainer of her daughter Izumi.

Kobayashi liked the 5-4 points. One of her most famous quotes was: 'Go is a fighting art.' She beat Kato Masao with black by resignation in March 1970, in a game Kageyama Toshiro used to illustrate the determined struggle to get ahead in his book Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go, Chapter 4.

Courtship and marriage

In the Kitani Dojo, Kobayashi Reiko was like a big sister and even mother to much younger disciples. It was a surprise when she married one of them, 13 years younger. Her mother Kitani Miharu had been worried that Reiko in her 30s would never find a husband, but opposed marrying Kōichi who had first proposed when he was 18 and she 31. Furthermore, Kōichi had not yet made his great achievements in the Go world, while Reiko had won many women's titles and might have been the best female player in Japan (meaning, in the world, at that time). But Reiko had faith that Kōichi would one day be a top player. But Reiko's father Kitani Minoru eventually gave his blessing, and Miharu followed suit.

It turned out to be a real love match. She supported Kōichi's Go career and raised their children, including training their daughter Izumi.


Kobayashi Reiko died after a battle of over a year with breast cancer, aged only 56. Her cancer was discovered too late in November 1994, when it had already metastasized. In August 1995, a doctor called her husband to tell her that Reiko had a year to live. But on 12 April 1996, she had to be hospitalized, and died four days later on 16 April.

In her terminal stage, she didn't want her young husband to be alone, so she matchmade him with his younger brother's wife's sister, 15 years younger. They married in 1998, two years after Reiko's death. Reiko had lived long enough to see her daughter become a professional, but not long enough to see her married and have her own daughters who later became professionals.

Cho Chikun paid tribute to Kobayashi Reiko after her premature death:

: It is difficult to describe the feelings that we disciples have for Reiko in words. It can be said that we have left some chores to her. To put it simply, the disciples admire Reiko very much, as she is our Madonna.

: Reiko endured such hardship and sadness, maybe it was all for Koichi's sake. Such pure love is something I have never seen or heard before. Love is when a man is loved so much by a woman.

Head-to-head scores against other leading female players

(Based on [ext] Kobayashi Reiko, Go rating profile and game list, which starts in 1974, so doesn't include her six All-Japan Women's Championship wins and one of her two (Old) Women's Meijin wins)

Outside links


Kobayashi Koichi and Reiko wedding photo (Image credit: Google Images)
Kobayashi Koichi and Reiko wedding photo (Image credit: Google Images

Kobayashi Koichi and Reiko with their two young children, including Kobayashi Izumi (Image credit: Google Images)
caption=Kobayashi Koichi and Reiko with their two young children, including Kobayashi Izumi (Image credit: Google Images

Kitani Reiko last edited by Jono64a on March 24, 2024 - 06:58
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