Nihon Ki-in Professional Examination
(棋士採用試験 Kishi Saiyo Shiken or unofficially 入段試験 Nyudan Shiken) The Nihon Kiin has several categories for new recruits. Qualifiers must be 23 or younger, except for Foreigners. Though qualifiers are officially registered as professionals on the 1st of April each year, they actually start playing in tournaments some months before.
- Five players per year qualify through examination tournaments as follows:
- Tokyo Main Branch: one qualifies from the summer examination tournament (for insei only) and two from the winter examination tournament (for insei and gairai 外来, participants from outside).
- Chubu Branch: one.
- Kansai Branch: one.
- Female Special Qualification: one per year through female only examination tournament. Therefore, at least six qualifies each year. Before 2019, most female players qualified in this category (only four females ever qualified as regulars: Miyazaki Shimako, Inori Yoko, Kato Keiko and Xie Yimin).
- Foreigner Special Qualification: Well performing insei or ex-insei who has nationality of a country outside of East Asia. No set number. Recent qualifiers were Antti Tormanen (Finland) in 2016, Chang Fu Kang (Malaysia) and Rafif Shidqi Fitrah (Indonesia) in 2020. This category has no age limits. (Judging from the Japanese Wikipedia article, this category was introduced in 2002, it seems) Note: Though some English sources use the word "citizens", citizenship is not sufficient. Nationality (外国籍) is required.
And in 2019, two new categories were added:
- Female Special Qualification by Recommendation: Qualification by female players was made still easier. Well performing insei or ex-insei who is recommended by insei coaches (院生師範) qualifies. No set number. Thirteen players qualified in the four years 2019-2022.
- Elite Special Qualification by Recommendation: Elementary school child who is recommended by two or more professionals qualifies after further review by the Kiin. Immediately applied to Nakamura Sumire, who was nearing qualification in Korea, in 2019.
Who qualified by these Special Qualification criteria receive reduced pay until the player achieves a good result (such as winning an official tournament) or a particular rank.
Nihon Kiin New Promotion System for rank promotions after qualification.
Japanese Wikipedia article contains a complete list of recent qualifiers by category.