Go In Japanese Education
© 2002 Milton N. Bradley
To understand the Japanese experience and assess its relevance to the US, some historical background is helpful. Go was brought to Japan from China in the 8th century A.D. and quickly became the favorite intellectual pastime of the nobility and Samurai. In 1612, only a few years after he became Shogun in 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu institutionalized Go by establishing the Go Academy, and this exalted and specially privileged position for Go in Japanese society remained intact for over 250 years until the fall of the Shogunate in the 1868 revolution. Although in today's Japan Go masters are "only" respected and wealthy professionals (like those in Sumo, Tennis or Golf), Go still occupies a unique position of honor in Japanese cultural life on a par with that of art, literature and music. An estimated 10,000,000 million Japanese (almost 10% of the entire population!) are ardent Go players, including many of their business executives and 4 of their 6 Nobel Prize winners, and its popularity is so great that tutorial programs and championship matches are routinely broadcast on national TV.
Mr.Kazuaki Minami, author of a book called "Go and Education", says "One of the most important things that Go gives a child is the ability to concentrate". Richard Bozulich of Tokyo's Ishi Press reports that Dr.Akira Tano, a Japanese educational researcher and head of the Child Psychology department at Chiba National University, has done extensive testing of young Japanese children and has concluded that "studying GO is the best way to develop a child's innate intellectual abilities". He also points out that "the younger a child learns to play GO, the better the results", and considers the age of 4 or 5 to be the best at which to begin. (At this early age, most children typically learn Go informally by the same method of "osmosis" used in acquiring language - just by being immersed in a milieu in which it is being practiced, in this case simply by watching the excellent play of their parents and the experts shown on TV.)
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