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EDITORIAL | Sota Fujii: A Testament to the Art and Power of Thinking

Despite the modern obsession with "time efficiency," the popularity of Sota Fujii and shogi suggests that we still value the art of deep thinking.



Sota Fujii reviews the match after securing his fourth consecutive title victory by defeating 7-dan player Daichi Sasaki (right) on July 18, afternoon, at traditional inn Takashimaya in Iwamuro Onsen, Nishikan-ku, Niigata city. (© Sankei by Hideo Iida)

Shogi sensation Sota Fujii has garnered immense global support not only for his exceptional skills but also for the profound mental processes that underpin his every move. They serve as a reminder of the importance of the art of thinking in our own pursuits.

In the 2023 best-of-five Kisei title series, Fujii secured his fourth consecutive title by defeating challenger Daichi Sasaki, a 7-dan player, 3 matches to 1. With this triumph, he now stands just one title away from the prestigious Lifetime Kisei. It is an award reserved for those with five consecutive Kisei title victories.

The live streaming of all four matches drew a huge online audience. Fans were treated not only to Fujii's prowess but also to the enthralling exchange of moves between the players, embodying the essence of shogi.

Nowadays, younger generations are believed to prioritize "time efficiency," or getting the most out of the time invested. Despite this, it is intriguing that shogi still remains popular. After all, shogi matches can sometimes go on for an hour without a single move. This suggests that contemplation and deep thinking are still highly valued.

Kisei title holder Sota Fujii and 7-dan Daichi Sasaki greet their fans after the first match. (© Sankei by Kan Emori)

Fans and Players Meet Again

During the COVID-19 pandemic, interactions between shogi players and fans were severely limited. Therefore, the best-of-five series was particularly significant, as it symbolized a return to normalcy. In many ways, the matches were only made possible by the unwavering support of dedicated fans.

The first match took place in Danang, Vietnam. Notably, it coincided with the 50th anniversary of Japan-Vietnam diplomatic relations. The live analysis session, which was held in Danang, witnessed the presence of passionate local fans. 

Then, adding to the excitement, the second match on Awaji Island, Hyogo Prefecture, featured a pre-match event for fans. It was a momentous occasion, awaited by both players and fans for four years.

The day after the first match of the Hulic Cup Kisei Tournament, Sota Fujii (left) and 7-dan player Daichi Sasaki take a walk through the streets of Hoi An in Vietnam on June 6. (© Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)

Elevating Shogi

The fourth match took place at Takashimaya, a traditional inn in Niigata City. This venue has been selected to host a Kisei match 25 times. 

But not every best-of-five series progresses to its fourth or fifth match. In an interview with The Sankei Shimbun, Motoko Takashima, the inn's proprietress, expressed her hope that the contest wouldn't end with three consecutive wins for either player. She said, "I hope we can contribute to making the fourth match an exceptional event."

Let's also acknowledge the efforts of 7-dan player Sasaki, who secured a victory in the second match, preventing a swift conclusion to the series. The collective contributions of everyone involved in organizing these matches have undoubtedly marked a new chapter in the history of the Kisei title.

Meanwhile, Fujii is also making strides in the challenger-deciding match for the Oza title. That brings the possibility of becoming an eight-title holder within his grasp. This unprecedented challenge holds the potential to further elevate the value of the Kisei title and enhance the allure of shogi.



(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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