Go Wizardry

All About the Many Aspects of Go
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Cartoonish Faults and Foibles


One of the best ways to learn a language is to have a hobby related to that language that spurs one on to study. Go is such a pastime. The game has aspects that demand intense focus. So players who want to learn Japanese can combine their love of go into the quest to master the language.

However, that intense focus in go can morph into something that is less helpful: obsession. Unless one is aware of the possibility of becoming obsessed in one’s play, there is the danger of having one’s game adversely affected.

An excellent counter to obsession and other psychological faults and foibles that may appear during games is humor. Laughter provides balance that allows one to step back and see the game in perspective. The editors of Kido magazine were well aware of this fact and endeavored to add humorous features to the publication whenever possible. A memorable example of this was the cartoon which appeared every month during 1975, and which had the title shown at the top here:

江戸 町 碁 会所

Edo Machi Go Kaisho

Edo Town Go Club


Created by

谷 いくお

Tani Ikuo

imageThe format of the translation given here was used years ago by a Japanese language learning magazine called Mangajin. It can still be found online for those who are serious about studying Japanese. In the meantime, this format is adopted here to encourage visitors to the GoWizardry website to learn the language.

The three pages that make up this cartoon, which comes from the November 1975 issue of Kido, will be broken down and explained in detail.

What follows is the first page. It should be pointed out that Edo is the olden name for Tokyo. Adding the word “machi,” or “town” gives a nostalgic, down home feeling when appended to Edo. It brings to mind “shita-machi,” or “downtown,” which is still in existence in the east of Tokyo. There, remnants of the past are in evidence even now.

Finally, please remember that this cartoon is rendered in traditional Japanese style, reading from right to left. So the first panel is actually the one on the right here.


熊: あ―ッ!まだ置いてねえのに!
Kuma: A―! Mada oite nee no ni!
Aaah! I didn’t put it down yet!
いや 置いたおいた!
Old man: Iya Oita oita!
No You put it down, you put it down!
ちきしょう 置こうか 置くめえか考えていてだけじゃあねえか..
Kuma: Chikishou Okou ka okumee ka kangaete ite dake jaa nee ka..
Damn Put down? not putdown? thinking about just, wasn’t I?
じゃら じゃら
FX: Jara jara
[Sound of go stones knocking together as they are being gathered up]

Notes: The words here are distinctly lower class, especially those of Kuma, whose name means “Bear.” He first says, “Oitenee…” which is a crude way of saying “oite inai” but is common among the uneducated. Then he says, “Chikishou” (“Beast” literally, but a mild curse word), which “properly” rendered is “chikushou.”


Tomeko (younger brother): Sore ni shite mo nante hayawaza nan darou ne Aniki
Regardless of that, somehow quick-skill, I think, wasn’t it Older Brother
Kuma: Denkou Sekka da
Flash of lightning it is
Old man: Kuwa- kuwa- kuwa- Shoubu wa isshun ni shite kimaru mono
Ha, ha, ha. Outcome instantly decided all the time
Sono taimingu ga taisetsu ja yo taimingu ga
That timing is important, I must say, timing is

Notes: The younger brother, Tomeko, speaks standard Japanese; no feeling of lower class here. Interestingly, he calls his older brother “Aniki.” This is “Ani,” or “Older Brother” with the honorific “ki” appended. In olden times this was common. Using the word today would sound funny. But “Aniki” is sometimes now used colloquially, if humorously, among friends, as if saying, “Pal.”

Then, Kuma uses the proverbial 電光石火だ(Denkou Sekka), showing that he has some learning. This expression comes from Chinese, where four kanji in a row are used in all sorts of proverbial forms. (The most commonly known among go players is 岡目八目[Okame Hachimoku], which means “Distant Eyes Eight Points,” i.e., those watching the board from a distance have a detached perspective which can be valued in terms of points.)

Another important point: 勝負(“shoubu”) is translated as “outcome,” but the kanji are actually those for “win” and “lose” merged together. This is common in Japanese.


てやんでエ 居合い抜きじゃああるめえし
Younger brother: Teyandee Iainuki jaa arumeeshi
You went hard at it. Like samurai drawing swords at each other.
Kuma: Are de chuubu wazuratteru nante shinjirarenee na Mattaku!
There, palsy suffering from, no matter; unbelievable, you know. Completely!
ブッ ブッ
FX: Butsu butsu
Grumble grumble

Notes: Tomeko says, てやんでエ (Teyandee), but notice that the word starts in hiragana but ends in katakana. This is to give added emphasis to the word, a common way to color the dialogue emotionally. Also, this phrase was used in the Edo Era (1600-1868) and it is obsolete today.

“Mattaku” is translated as “Completely” here, but it is often an expression of disgust. So to be absolutely faithful to the intent, “Completely absurd” would be a better translation.


Page 2 of the cartoon shows Kuma searching for a solution to his problem. No doubt readers of Kido wondered what he could do to address the situation. On the previous page the absurd nature of Kuma’s obsession was emphasized: Kuma was unable to best his opponent, an old, palsied player, at playing quickly on the board. So here he comes to a decision. That ends up bringing him to a desolate place for the answer. What could he possibly find there that would help?


Kuma: O―shi! Kou nattara otoko no iji de e!
Okay! When it comes to this point, a man’s decisiveness does it!
Yattaru ze~~~
I’ll do it~~~
Tomeko: Aniki doko ikun dai?
Older Brother where are you going?
Kuma: Tomeko, shibaraku aenee ga genki de yatte te kun na!
Tomeko, a while haven’t met but healthy going is he I wonder!

Notes: O―shi! is Kuma’s way of saying “Yoshi,” or “Good.” Tomeko says “ikun dai?” This is colloquial for “iku no da ka?”


Kuma: O―i Tsumujikaze
Hey Whirlwind
Kuma: Omee ni ori haitte tanomi ga arun dee
To you I’ll enter with a request
Itara henji shite kun nee
If you are there answer come with, you know


Tsumujikaze: Nan jai Kuma san kai
What’s this Kuma san is it?
Hori-dashi-mono nara mada haitte nee yo
If it’s a lucky find it still hasn’t come in, you know
いや そうじゃあねえんだ
Kuma: Iya Sou jaa neen da
No That isn’t it
じつはな おめえさんのこの腕に見込んでたのみがあるんだ
Jitsu wa na Omee san no kono ude ni mi-konde tanomi ga arun da
Actually, I must say It is your strength here depending on and making a request

Notes: Hori-dashi-mono is usually a lucky find: stumbling across a valuable antique in a secondhand store, etc. But this seedy-looking person living in a hut under a bridge would instead probably come into something illegally. The word kono in the cartoon has two dots over the kana. This puts a special emphasis on the word. The next word is “ude.” That means “arm,” but figuratively it is used to mean strength of any kind, here indicated by Kuma bending and unbending his index finger.


To, suri no meijin Tsumujikaze no tokoro e deshi-iri shite
With that, at pickpocket master Tsumujikaze’s place become a student
Fubuki ni shuukan…..
Snowstorm of two weeks…

Notes: Ironic allusions to the go world, with the words meijin (the same as the top title, but in ordinary Japanese it can refer to anyone who is a top expert at anything) and deshi. Notice the dots over Tsumujikaze here, too. Fubuki also is figurative: in the 1970s there was a popular television show called, “Toyama no Kin san,” in which the hero, who was normally a mild-mannered man would suddenly be transformed into a superhero and combat villains. At that point he would pull his robe down from his shoulder, exposing a tattoo of cherry blossoms on his bicep and proclaim, “This sakura no fubuki (storm of cherry blossoms) will deal with you,” or words to that effect. (After all these years it is hard to remember what the actual dialogue was.)


In the third and last page, Kuma reappears on the scene at the go club as a changed man. He looks like one of the quintessential bad guys in the spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s. With disheveled clothing and covered in grime (could he have changed so radically in two weeks?!). Kuma displays a grim determination to get his revenge. Heaven help anyone who gets in his way! Just how will all of this end?


Tomeko: Ah! Aniki?! Shibaraku da na―(tsu)
Ah! Older Brother?! It’s been a while, I must say
Do―ko itte tan da yo―!
Where did you go I ask you!
Kuma: Chuubu no niwatori wa iru kee
Palsied chicken is here I guess
FX: Kiro-
[Eyes glaring]

Notes: The small っ that can be seen at the end of Tomeko’s first words indicate that they are abruptly cut off. That is, it shows that the speaker is surprised and catches his breath as he utters the words. The same with the FX ッ in Kuma’s frame. It conveys the feeling that he casts a sharp, withering look as he stands at the entrance to the club. (This is of course an exaggeration for comic effect.) Kuma also gives a cryptic answer to Tomeko’s question. Notice that “niwatori” (“chicken,” another humorous touch) is written in katakana for emphasis.


Old man: Ho-ho― Doko ka de musha shuugyou shite kita to miemasu naa!
Ho, ho. Somewhere knight errant training underwent and came back looks like, I must say!
どれどれ腕が上がったか どうか打ってしんぜよう
Dore dore ude ga agatta ka. Dou ka utte shinzeyou
How, how arm [strength] improved? How about playing to see.
Old man: Kuwa- kuwa- Chi―tomo ude no hou wa agattoran you ja no―
Ha, ha. Little bit at all arm [strength] in the way of improved not it seems
FX: Kuwa- kuwa-
[Sound of laughter]

Notes: The Old Man repeats the word “dore” indicating that he is excited. “Ude” means “arm,” but the word is used figuratively as a substitute for “strength.”


Old Man (Off stage): A!
FS: Suba-
[Indicates zooming motion of Kuma’s hand putting a stone on the board]

Note: The “A” has the exclamation point in front of it in keeping with the traditional Japanese of reading right to left, but is used here for comic effect. It shows that the word comes from the Old Man to the right of the frame.


Old Man: Atari ni natte ita no! Shi-shikashi mada oitenakatta yoo―
Atari became did it! B-but yet didn’t put down, I say―
Old Man: Ne, nee anta chotto…
Huh, huh you [wait] a little…
Tomeko: Aniki… Shuugyou no michi wo machigaeta yo…
Older Brother… Training path mistaken, I must say… [You missed your calling]

Notes: The Old Man stutters and complains, showing that when the shoe is on the other foot, his former leering grin disappears. There are many “words of emotion” in this cartoon, here two of the most common: “ne” (“you know”) and “yo.” It is very hard to translate this word, since it simply conveys an emotion, in the case of “yo,” that is “!” (which is similar to “na,” a word that also means “!” but is more forceful in expression). One last point: the Old Man says, “anta” here, which is a crude way of saying “anata.” It has a lower class feeling. In the context of this cartoon, it shows that the Old Man has reverted to his roots.

Japanese has the reputation of being a courteous and rigid language with infinite levels of politeness, and there is some truth in that, but as this cartoon shows, all sorts of emotions can be expressed in very colorful ways. Of course, the purpose of this work is to make people laugh, so many odd devices are used to that end, but that does not negate the point. Japanese is simply a wondrous language in many ways and it is hoped that translations offered here at GoWizardry give a taste of that expressiveness.

Those who wish to comment on the opinions expressed here may send their thoughts to info@GoWizardry.com. The most interesting responses will be addressed in future postings.

Robert J. Terry

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