Lesson 10




Japanese chess[将棋] is a board game involving two players and 40 pieces. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent's King. There are many similarities to chess in the way the pieces move, but what is different is that a captured piece can be used again as one's own piece. There are an estimated 20 million shogi players in Japan. The present-day Japan Shogi Federation[日本将棋連盟] was founded in 1947.

The prototype(原型) of shogi is believed to have originated in India. From there it made its way to Europe via Persia, becoming what is known today as Western chess. It also moved east to China. Shogi may have been introduced to Japan in the Nara period (710-794) by Japanese envoys(使節) who were sent to Tang dynasty[唐王朝] (618-907) China. In the Heian period (794-1185) several forms of shogi were popular among the nobility(貴族階級), but by the Muromachi period (1333-1568) the rules of the game had been modified(修正する), and the game had become very much like present-day shogi.  

In 1607 the Tokugawa shogunate established an office for shogi and go, under the jurisdiction(管轄) of the commissioner of shrines and temples[寺社奉行]; a monk named Honimbo Sansa[本因坊算砂] (1558-1623) was made its head.  Later the office was turned(引き) over(継ぐ) to Ohashi Sokei[大橋宗桂](1555-1634), who was installed as its first lifetime master[名人]. The master rank was inherited within a shogi “family”; a master remained one for life, with no alteration(交替) of status despite any change in his actual ability. The lifetime master system[終身名人制] was abolished in 1935, and annual contests for the title of master were begun. Kimura Yoshio[木村義雄] (1905-86) was the first to win the title. Championship matches, usually sponsored by newspaper companies, are held regularly, and game moves in such matches are featured daily in newspaper columns.



Go is also called igo[囲碁]. Two players alternately(交互に) place black and white stones at the intersections of lines on a board with the object of capturing the opponent's stones and securing control over open spaces on the board.

Some historical accounts place the origin of go in ancient China, while others trace the game to India, where early forms of chess were also played more than 4,000 years ago. Whereas chess spread widely throughout the West and the East, go was until recently played only in China, Korea, and Japan. It is somewhat hard to understand why the game did not spread further in early times, for some have called it the world's most intellectual game, and many aficionados(愛好家) in Japan consider it a true art. Its rules are simple and few, yet the number of possible play sequences(組み合わせ) is staggering(驚異的な).



The art of dwarfing(小さくする) trees or plants by growing and training(育てる) them in containers according to prescribed(規定の) techniques. The word bonsai also refers to the miniature potted(鉢植えの) trees themselves. Bonsai, which first appeared in China more than 1,000 years ago, was introduced to Japan in the Kamakura period (1185-1333) on the wave of cultural borrowing(借用) that included Zen Buddhism. In Japan the art was refined to an extent never approached in China.

Bonsai can be developed from seeds or cuttings(挿し穂), from young trees or from naturally occurring stunted(発育不良の) trees transplanted into containers. Most bonsai range in height from 5 centimeters to 1 meter. Bonsai are kept small and trained by pruning(刈り取る) branches and roots, by periodic(定期的な) repotting(植え替え), by pinching(摘み取) off() new growth, and by wiring(結ぶ) the branches and trunk so that they grow into the desired shape.

Grown in special containers, bonsai are usually kept outdoors although they are often displayed on special occasions in the alcove[床の間] in traditional Japanese rooms designed for the display of artistic objects. An unglazed(素焼きの), dark-colored container is usually chosen for a classical bonsai or to impart(添える) a look of age, but glazed(釉薬をかけた) containers are often used for flowering trees. As a rule, oval(楕円形の) containers complement(引き立たせる) deciduous(落葉) trees(); rectangular(長方形の) ones, evergreens(常緑樹).

The bonsai with its container and soil, physically(物理的に) independent of the earth since its roots are not planted in it, is a separate entity(存在), complete in itself, yet part of nature. This is what is meant by the expression “heaven and earth in one container.” A bonsai tree should always be positioned off(中心)-()center(外れた) in its container, for not only is asymmetry(非対称) vital to the visual effect, but the center point is symbolically where heaven and earth meet, and nothing should occupy this place. Another aesthetic(美学の) principle is the triangular(三角形の) pattern necessary for visual balance and for expression of the relationship shared by a universal principle, the artist, and the tree itself. Tradition holds that three basic virtues are necessary to create a bonsai: truth, goodness, and beauty[真善美].



Hot springs are numerous in Japan, and for centuries the Japanese people have enjoyed hot spring bathing. Visits to hot spring resorts were hailed(認める) not only as a means of relaxation but also for the beneficial medicinal(薬効のある) properties(性質) attributed to thermal(温熱の) spring water. Hot springs are still major attractions for vacationing Japanese, and many have been modernized and developed into large-scale resort complexes. Under the 1948 Hot Spring Law[温泉法], the Japanese government recognizes as onsen only those hot springs that reach certain standards regarding temperature and mineral composition(組成); the number of these as of 1990 was about 2,300. Since 1954 the Ministry() of() Health, Labor() and() Welfare() has accorded(与える) special recognition to 64 hot spring resorts capable of providing medical treatment.

Dogo Hot Spring[道後温泉] in Ehime prefecture is reputedly(評判によれば) the oldest hot spring in Japan. It was the site, according to tradition, of therapeutic(治療のための) bathing by several legendary(伝説的な) or early historical emperors. Buddhist monks developed hot springs for medicinal purposes and used hot springs for the bathing that is part of the Buddhist purification() ritual. Farmers and fishermen engaged in ritualistic baths at various times of the year.

Goto Konzan[後藤艮山], a doctor in Edo, noticed the effectiveness of hot spring bathing as a cure for certain disorders and in 1709 initiated the first medical study of hot springs, advocating the use of baths as therapy for various ailments(病気). In 1874 the Japanese government undertook the chemical analysis of mineral springs. After the founding of the Balneotherapy Institute[温泉治療学研究所] (now called the Medical Institute of Bioregulation[生体防医学研究所]) at Beppu Hot Spring[別府温泉] in Oita prefecture by Kyushu University in 1931, the medical study of hot springs began to be systematized, with many universities establishing research facilities at springs. After World War II, national hot spring hospitals were created, making hot springs for medical treatment available around the country. Hot springs are utilized in the treatment of various chronic(慢性) disorders. They are also used for treating external injuries and for postoperative(術後の) treatment and rehabilitation.



Mah-jong[麻雀] is a very popular indoor game introduced to Japan from China early in the 20th century. It is played by four players with 136 pieces shaped like small tiles, called Pai. Each Pai is inscribed(刻む) with a symbolic picture or a Chinese character on its face.

Each player has 13 Pai at hand, while the rest of the Pai are placed face() down(向き) in the center of the table. The players pick up a Pai from the center pool by turns, and discard an unnecessary one from their hand in order to build up various combinations. The first to complete a combination wins the game, and the game is repeated several times at least, in some cases through the night.



Pachinko originated as a marble(おは) game(じき) for children, but now millions of adults enjoy pachinko as a practical combination of pastime and a way to make profit.

A player buys a handful of small steel balls, puts them onto the loading(取り込み) tray attached to the vertical(垂直な) pinball()-()table() and flips(はじく) a ball. If the flipped ball falls into one of the several winning holes, the machine lights up and a dozen additional balls flow onto the tray to the jingling of a bell. The balls won may be exchanged for non-cash prizes such as cigarettes, chocolate, or candy. Some pachinko parlors keep a rich selection of goods as prizes.



Kara stands() for() empty and Oke is an abbreviation(略語) of orchestra, hence Karaoke means orchestral music without songs. Any person can sing a song accompanied by a Karaoke orchestra and feel like a professional singer. Almost all popular songs have Karaoke tapes.

Some elderly people seem to prefer Enka[演歌], or sad and melancholic(哀調を帯びた) Japanese songs, for Karaoke singing. Most drinking establishments have Karaoke singing equipment, and some of them are so sophisticated(洗練された) as to be almost professional. Karaoke has begun to be popular in America and Britain recently.


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