Why Milan? I'm often asked this question. The number one reason was that there was an Italian family I could trust and a place where I could live without worries, but there were also other conditions Milan satisfied.
*Not being a metropolis or in an advanced go-playing country (an area where I could carry out go activity freely, without any complications).
*A place where I could live an ordinary life (I didn't fancy countries requiring a visa or the jungle . . . ).
*A country with cheap prices (within Europe, Italy ranks with Spain as the country with the lowest cost of living index).
One more important condition was that the location be convenient for traveling around.
Of course, in this day and age, any place with an airport is convenient for travel, but my expenses would balloon. In contrast, trains are economical and reliable. From Milan, a one-night train trip can get you to such major European cities as Paris, Prague, Vienna, Amsterdam, Barcelona, etc. Fares differ depending on the distance and the countries you pass through, but ten thousand yen usually covers a one-way trip.
I usually reserve a bed in a six-person sleeping car in second class, which is the cheapest fare. There are two tiers of three beds, one on top of each other. They are converted into seats during the day, and the sleeper fee is just one thousand yen. That's really reasonable.
You have no idea what kind of people your companions are going to be, so, to be honest, you're a little tense each time. There's an air of mystery. But during a long trip you often become friends with the other passengers.
You start out by asking where they came from and where they're going; you go on to stories of your life, your family; you talk about Japan, argue politics -- the topics vary each time.
Sometimes I pull a 9x9 board out of my luggage and give a simple introduction to go. This is killing two birds with one stone: people are usually happy to while away the tedium of a long trip and I get a good chance to publicize go. Of course, it's important to be ready with Go Association pamphlets. I hand them over as we are parting, so they'll retain a memento of our meeting.
| This month I
made my first night-train trip for a while
when I went to the Paris tournament. This
is held for three days over the Easter holiday,
and people from all over Europe combine attendance
with some sightseeing. Kobayashi Chizu came
from Japan and gave public game commentaries
on a demonstration board.
At 200, the number of participants was down 50 on the previous year, but it's probably still the largest weekend tournament in Europe. After all, the usual attendance at an Italian tournament is around 50, so the impact is quite different. This is not a question of saying that more participants make a better tournament or that fewer is no good.
|The yongest player who is 8 years old.|
| Asians were conspicuous
in the top group. The 18-year-old Fang, a
2-dan professional from China, won the tournament
with a perfect score. At present he is studying
in Paris, but he also plays in Chinese tournaments,
so he is dividing his time between China
and Paris. He looked very happy at securing
the first prize of 1,000 Euros.
|Mr. Fan who won the championship.|
| As go becomes
more and more international, participation
by Asians in tournaments in international
cities and major metropolises increases,
and more and more often they take away the
One recent trend is the appearance of semi-professionals, who make a living from prize money and teaching.
|This time, the French young man of the first participation.|
| On the train
home, I shared the compartment with an elderly
gentleman from France. First of all, we talked
'Go? I know about it.' He confidently placed a stone in a square on the edge of the board, then said: 'If you pincer it like this . . . '
Perhaps the game he was carefully showing me was 'pincer shogi'.
This gentleman was actually a priest, and for the rest of the way to Milan he talked about God. It sometimes happens, like this, that on a train I'm the one who's the subject of proselytizing.
(June 2001, Monthly Go World)
|Initiation guidance is held at the same time, too. (international convention hall)|