In February, a Polish women became the first foreign female professional player of the Japanese strategic board game shogi.
It’s relatively rare for shogi to make the foreign-language news but the traditional game remains popular in Japan, though it has been embroiled in some scandals of late, following allegations of cheating leveled at a top player, which was then unproven and resulted in the resignation of the head of the Japan Shogi Association.
Shogi is a variant of chess, which spread to Japan from India. Its development possibly goes back as far as 1,000 years, though the Chinese variant go arrived in Japan earlier.
Sometimes referred to as the “Japanese chess” and similar to the Chinese game go, shogi could potentially be a great example of soft power. It is relatively accessible and doesn’t require language skills per se, though the pieces are identified by their kanji markings so a player needs to have a good visual memory or at least a guide handy. In theory, though, it could become popular beyond Japan’s borders or even a global sensation like sudoku has.
The Japan Shogi Association is certainly keen for that to happen, hence it has given its backing to the Shogi de Chocolat.
Created by the same folk as other items popular with tourists such as the bestselling Kabuki Face Pack series, this is a box of shogi-inspired chocolates. The eight pieces resemble shogi playing pieces, complete with the different kanji engravings. Aimed squarely at the culturally curious, the brilliantly original Shogi de Chocolat comes with bilingual (English, Japanese) explanations about shogi so that even the complete novice can learn and appreciate what they are eating.
The Shogi de Chocolat is available now from Japan Trend Shop.