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Highly Specialized Shogi Pieces and Human Shogi in Tendo, Yamagata!

This video, titled "Shogi Culture in Tendo - The Thoughts of Craftsmen and Human Shogi" (天童市の将棋駒文化~生産者の想いと人間将棋~), was uploaded by "The City of Tendo" (天童市).
It's a PR video that was released by the Public Relations Department of Tendo, Yamagata, located in Japan's Tohoku region.
Tendo is a small town in Yamagata Prefecture that produces more than 95% of Japan's shogi pieces.
It has a long history, with roots dating back to around 1830.
The origins date back to the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), when shogi itself was considered to be connected to bushido and the samurai way of life, and shogi pieces began to be made as an in-house occupation for many warriors.
Tendo's passion for shogi is so strong that various shogi events are held as part of the city's urban development.
As seen at 0:38 in the video, there are symbols of Shogi pieces on mail boxes, taxis, and bridges, and even shogi puzzles on the sidewalks of the streets.

Urban Development and Shogi in Tendo, Yamagata. The Unique Charm of Tendo, a Town Full of Shogi!

Image of human shogi, Tendo, Yamagata
Photo:Human shogi, Tendo, Yamagata

Tendo, Yamagata famous for shogi, hosts an event called the Tendo Cherry Blossom Festival: Human Shogi.
This is one of the urban development events held just around the time the cherry blossoms are in full bloom in April, surrounded by approximately 2,000 cherry trees at the top of Mt. Maizuru.
Human shogi, which can be seen from 1:12 in the video, is loved by people of all ages and genders.

The basic rules are the same as for regular shogi.
This unique shogi tournament, in which people play as shogi pieces, shows the smiling faces of Tendo residents and their passion for Shogi.
Tendo is a town full of attractions and shogi alike.

In addition to visiting the Shogi Museum and other famous attractions, we also recommend taking a stroll around the town of shogi, looking at souvenirs as you walk, and enjoying a tour of the shogi pieces that decorate the sidewalks.

Shogi Culture and the Shogi Craftsmen of Tendo, Yamagata Producing 95% Of Japan's Shogi Pieces

Tendo, which has supported the production of shogi pieces since the end of the Edo period, employs a method unique to Tendo that has been handed down from one generation to the next.
Kijizukuri, the process of shaping logs into shogi pieces, is one of the fundamental operations in Shogi piece production.
It's a high-quality crafting technique that can only be realized by Tendo's shogi craftsmen, who care deeply for the people that will be holding the pieces they craft.
You can see how shogi pieces are made at 1:52 in the video.

The calligraphy on crafted shogi pieces is done with lacquer.
Unlike the ink used in calligraphy, lacquer cannot be used to write smoothly.
Using lacquer to write characters such as "Osho" (王将, King), "Hisha" (飛車, Rook), and "Kaku" (角, Bishop) on small shogi pieces brings the shogi pieces to life.
Furthermore, carving pieces using a seal-engraving knife is another well-known method.
In Tendo, Yamagata, shogi piece craftsmen carve the characters by hand.
This gives the pieces a texture and smoothness that machines cannot replicate.
In this way, Tendo supports Japan's important, traditional shogi culture.

The Different Pieces of Tendo, Yamagata Used in Titled Matches and Matches Between Shogi Meijin

Image of shogi pieces
Photo:Shogi pieces

Hori-koma (彫埋駒, engraved pieces) and Moriage-koma (盛上駒, pieces with raised characters painted with a special brush) used in matches between shogi meijin and in titled tournaments, are made by shogi piece craftsmen in Tendo, Yamagata.
The shogi meijin system has a history of more than 400 years and is supported by the superb pieces made by the shogi craftsmen of Tendo.

Hohoemi no Yado Takinoyu, a long-established ryokan in Tendo, where shogi culture is deeply rooted, is widely known to shogi fans as the site of the Ryuo Tournament.
The Ryuo Room at Hohoemi no Yado Takinoyu has been passed down through the generations as the site of one of shogi's most historically famous games, in which Yoshiharu Habu, a shogi meijin (master) and chess FIDE Master, won the Ryuo title in 1994, with a 4-2 victory.

The long-established ryokan Hohoemi no Yado Takinoyu can be reserved by the general public, and can be used as lodging when sightseeing in Tendo City.

Sightseeing and Specialty Products of Tendo, Yamagata, a Town of Shogi

We recommend using a sightseeing volunteer guide or using the "Tendo WARABE KOMA GUIDE" to explore the sights of Tendo, Yamagata.

Various pieces are on display at the Shogi Museum as well.
In addition, for residents of Japan, Tendo also focuses on Furusato Nozei tax payments, and returns include Yamagata Prefecture's specialty products, such as La France (French pears) and cherries, as well as shogi piece straps (key holders, etc.), decorative pieces, and sets of shogi pieces and shogi boards.

Summary of Tendo, a Place of Shogi Culture in Yamagata Prefecture

Image of a shogi art installment at Tendo Park, Tendo, Yamagata
Photo:A shogi art installment at Tendo Park, Tendo, Yamagata

Shogi piece culture has been handed down since the end of the Edo period in Tendo.
In Tendo, Yamagata, shogi piece craftsmen have long supported traditional Japanese culture.

The passion of Shogi piece craftsmen and Tendo's urban development events to preserve traditional culture...
Enjoy the charm of Tendo's shogi culture in this 6-minute video.

【Trip Advisor】Tendo, a Town of Shogi

Written By
Last Updated : Mar. 13, 2023
岡本 修(Shu Okamoto)
A writer fascinated by Japanese architecture. I'll introduce you to buildings and food in Japan!
A City That Produces 95% Of the Shogi Pieces Used in Japan. Introducing the Traditional Culture and Shogi Craftsmen of Tendo, Yamagata!
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