Igo Salon Dogenzaka, Tokyo, Japan
THE TRAVELING BOARD: At The Igo Salon Dogenzaka
reported by Chris Garlock; photo by John Pinkerton

Emerging from one of Tokyo's busiest railway stations into the mad hustle and bustle of Shibuya en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibuya,_Tokyo , it’s immediately obvious from the thousands of highly stylish youngsters there to shop, see and be seen that you’re in one of Japan’s fashion centers. It’s also where you find the famous statue of Hachiko en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%c5%8d , the Akita dog who waited faithfully at the station every night, even after his master died. Around the corner and up the street is the Igo Salon Dogenzaka, where Michael Simon 5d plays. Simon has long been active in the American go community, especially on the New York City scene and is a former Treasurer of the American Go Association. He and his wife Kanako moved to Tokyo last December and while Michael – whose resume includes everything from rock and roll musician to computer programmer, high-end car mechanic, real estate, wine importer and patents – is considering where to next apply his talents, he keeps his go game sharp at the Igo Salon. Hikaru No Go fans would recognize the club in an instant, as it was featured in #8 and not only does the club – with its bar running along a side wall and the rows of wooden name cards lining the front walls -- look just as it does in HNG, some of the players themselves are recognizable. “Let me introduce you to some of the thugs,” Michael says affectionately during a visit last Sunday afternoon. “It’s one of the strongest clubs in Tokyo,” Simon says, “not only are almost all the players dan-level, but they’re mostly quite strong, 4-dan and up.” Simon introduces me to Mr. Goichi Sawaguchi, an elegant gentleman enjoying a glass of red wine as he plays. Some three decades ago, Mr Sawaguchi was All-Tokyo champ “and he’s still as tough as ever,” Michael tells me. “He gives me four stones and no matter how many glasses of wine he drinks he still kicks my butt.” The club runs two ongoing tournaments, one self-paired using the ubiquitous ranking cards that track wins and losses, the other a standing round-robin against other club members. Michael says he likes the club “because it’s friendlier and looser” and because it’s one of the few clubs remaining where smoking is still allowed. Open windows keep the club fairly smoke-free, but also allow in sound that drifts up from the speakers outside the music store directly below. At the club, we’re joined by Korean pro Nam Chihyung – in town for the IGF meetings – and her filmmaker friend Sungwoo, as well as Jeremy’s friends Tomotaka and Michelle, and after the tour, Michael takes us to a nearby international food bazaar where we admire the perfectly-presented comestibles, from daintily-wrapped $100 canteloupes to cheeses fresh off the plane from France, fish from around the world and mysterious Japanese vegetables. We load up and head over to Michael and Kanako’s nearby apartment for a relaxed evening of wonderful food, excellent wine and good friends, including philosopher Yoichi Kajimura. The beautiful goban in the corner never got used, but somehow we didn’t miss it.
- photos by John Pinkerton
Published in the American Go E-Journal, world go news available free every week via email: sign up at www.usgo.org
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