I (Steve) had the pleasure of spending a few days in Kyoto in early June following the WAGC in Sasebo. One of the things I managed was to visit a traditional Go salon. I had previously discovered that there was a go salon just around the corner from the hotel in which I was staying.

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I visited there on two evenings. The first evening, only the owner was there – a small man in his 70’s (I would guess) dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. He greeted me, and asked me to sit down. Despite me not speaking any Japanese, and he not speaking any English, we established where I was from, and what strength I was.

We sat down at the board, and he brought out what looked like the oldest go stones in the world. They appeared to be worn down to about half their original size by constant use. A few minutes after we started our game, the owner open the sliding door behind him a crack, and barked something into the room behind. A few minutes later, his wife appeared with two cups of green tea, which we sipped for the remainder of our game. In the end, I won pretty comfortably.

On the second evening, I met up with Marco Silles, who I had been in contact with when I sent out my request for info on go salons in Kyoto. The photo below shows Marco playing one of the local members (with the owner in the background). This guy (whose name I don’t recall) was pretty strong – probably equivalent to a European 4 or 5 dan. Needless to say, we were both annilated pretty easily by him.
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One of the intesting things about the go salon was the cost. In Japan, these are run as businesses, and you have to pay to play there. In this particular one (and it may be the same all over), you paid a fix fee to play there (500 yen, about €3.50), and then you paid for each game that you lost after that. That’s certainly one way to encourage you to get stronger!

Overall, a very enjoyable and interesting experience.  It’s wonderful to be able to participate in an activity where you do your talking through go, and don’t need to speak the same language to communicate.

11 Responses to “Go in Kyoto”

Im living in Tokyo at the moment, and i visited several go salons in the area (there seem to be 2 or 3 in the area of each major train station) since I didnt find any go-playing students yet. The fee is between Y700 and Y1300 per day, but a monthly membership is also possible. You dont pay for lost games, but there normally is some kind of rating system that keeps track of wins and promotions. Each regular member has a card where his results are noted.

the customers are 95% old men, 5% old women, and 0.1% curious foreigners like You and me 😉

The playing strength is rather mixed, most players seem to be within 2-3 stones of me(EGF 1d, japanese club rank about 4d), while the strongest can give me up to 5 stones (9d japanese club rank, equivalent to 6d EGF)

The nihon kiin club is rather special, there are a lot of beginners playing there, too, even if most of them are also on the older side. Also there are more women than in normal clubs.

Hey, Steve.

Caught your message on Rec.Games.Go about Go in Kyoto. Thought I’d drop a line.

First, thank you for posting the pictures. I was there, myself, in 2004. My experience was slightly different.

When I arrived, my friend (Seymour, Canadian 1 dan) and I (dunno my strength) played a few games there. We cleaned the house, but said we’d return the next night.

We did, and there were some stronger players waiting for us! 🙂

I got to play against one of Kyoto’s strongest amateur players. He and I played five straight games. I took black and, as others on R.G.G. would delicately say, had my ass handed to me on a plate four out of five games. (I won one game, and I hold dearly to that victory!)

A note about your page …

You wrote:

“In Japan, these are run as businesses, and you have to pay to play there. In this particular one (and it may be the same all over), you paid a fix fee to play there (500 yen, about €3.50), and then you paid for each game that you lost after that.”

I have played in several throughout Tokyo. Usually what happens is you pay to enter the club. You don’t have to pay anything else, win or lose. At one club, if you wind up winning seven games in a row, they let you come back the next day for free! But yours was the first I heard about having to pay when losing! 🙂

Great page, and thanks again for reviving some memories.



You might like these sites:

I am really pleased that you were able to find the place.

Apart from the smokiness, it was everything I could have hoped for.



There were only a few people there when I visited, so the place wasn’t smoky at all (thankfully).


I was in Kyoto for two days on vacation and found this Go salon thanks to the directions/map provided on the link. The people and the salon were very nice. The master there is still about 1 dan, and was kind enough to serve me tea.


glad my information was helpful to you in finding the salon. Visiting there was definitely one of the highlights of my last visit to Japan.


Has anyone been to the ‘Diamond Go Salon’ in Tokyo? If so how was it? I am in Tokyo this year and hope to visit the club. There is a website in Japanese I believe but I haven’t been able to find it. Thanks in advance. Mark.


I’m afraid that I’m not familiar with it. Didn’t get to play go in Tokyo last time I was there.

I will be in Kyoto for a month starting next week. And was wondering where the Salon was… as in which station(s) it is close to. As I am pretty direction impaired, if possible, directions to the place would be much appreciated.



I will be back in Tokyo, the last week of June and will personally check out the Diamond Go Salon, as long is the fees are not extremely crazy.

Went by the Diamond Go Salon today (I ended up having a lot of free time). Don’t bother going. Although it is easy to find, its a members only club. Which costs a LOT… for 1 visit it isn’t worth it. You’re better off trying to find a Go Salon elsewhere.

If you want an easy place to go, go to Ichigaya and go to the Nihon Kiin there on Monday-Friday. More likely to get games there… costs 1100 yen though.

The editorial on the site makes the Diamond Go Salon sound like everyone is welcome.

Thought I’d clarify the “site” thing… I meant the editorial that you can google, the one that’s posted on the AGA online letter thing. Not this site 🙂

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