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2019年5月22日 (水)

Mistaken for granted. Thoughts on alien chess Queen in 将棋

             2019/05/21

This is my personal responsive opinion on the following column on Mainichi newspaper website.

Edging Towards Japan: The 'queen' of the board's shifting status in chess and shogi
May 21, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)  Damian Flanagan,

I for a day or so, deeply considered how to rectify this misleading column on misunderstood appreciation of Japanese Shogi tradition, and decided to pause my sincerest objection here.

*No Kings in "日本"
First of all, there never has been any Kings in "日本", usually translated as “Japan”. This two-letter Kanji word is pronounced as "Nippon" or "Nihon" as commonly known here.

To make it clear, no King means no Queen.

Nippon "日本" was announced at the beginning of the western 8th century.

*Slightly offtopic but an essential lecture on the first "女王" in history
Before "日本", Chinese history record covering the third century of the three kingdoms shows that quite "recently" a (male) King in this territory was challenged and dethroned, and succeeded at the long last of the internal conflict by a young woman, who is known to be the first woman ruler, described as "女王", literally a “woman King”, not the Queen.

Reportedly and/or speculatively, she was born as a royal daughter, and raised as a priestess like vesta, who happened to be throned for her parentage and granparentage as well, and highly regarded priestesshood, so she was not to get married for life; this lone "女王" naturally had no spouse.
No Japanese language record is published for the virgin female King because there was no local language.

The Chinese record does not mention how the original King's wife was called; there was no Chinese word for Her Majesty.

*"皇帝" and "天皇"
To have more proper thoughts, it must be mentioned that the Chinese rulers are titled as "皇帝", the ultimate and supreme ruler over Kings, Dukes, and Barons, similar to the western Emperors. Anyway, Chinese "女王" is not a significant title.
Thus, the Kanji word "女王" as the ruler of the country has no place in the Japanese tradition.

As recognized, Japanese government has the "天皇" translated to His Majesty The Emperor, whose wife is entitled ”皇后” or Her Majesty The Empress. "No King, No Queen".

Traditionally, “女王” has been and is a title to the daughters of the Emperor, which is quite different from Queen.

As said above, "女王" as a common translation of western Queen, although so fairly common, indeed is a mistranslation. As said above, it is mistaken for granted.

*Thoughts on Shogi pieces
There indeed is another piece of misunderstanding regarding Shogi pieces.
First of all, Shogi pieces are considered as imported, at latest, at the end of 12th century. This incidence alone rules out importing of "Chess" pieces with "Queen"s. Thus, Shogi never had "Queen"s.

*Doubly Erratic “王将”
To begin with, no Kings at all ruled in the recorded history of "日本". So, the “王” can't be a King ruling the board.
More important discussion follows below.

*“王将” is not a King
Literally, “王将” is not the ultimate ruler but a "将” general serving the supreme ruler in time of war.

*Redisocvery of “玉将”
There's a solution to demystify the problematical “王将” piece. The original terminology must be “玉将”, where "" means highest treasure of jade as recognized by the Chinese emperors. Coincidentally or not, a full set of Shogi pieces contains one “王将” and one “玉将”.

*Cone-shaped treaure mountain
Thus recovered, the first row pieces are deciphered as treasures of "香" incense, "" sweet osmanthus, "" silver ,"" gold, "" jade, in an ascending order of their value. By the way, Japanese "" is quite different from Chinese "" to make some confusion.

Thus recovered, the game of Shogi may be interpreted as a treasure commerce game, not a war game at all as commonly mistaken for granted.

*"女王" on top of the generals
If a "女王" (Queen) piece exists on the Shogi board, “王将” must be her subordinate although highest ranking among “将”s.

*No "女王" in Chushogi
Additionally, there's no Chushogi piece named as “女王”, but "奔王" with Queen-like capability of movement. "奔王" can't be a pseudonym of a “女王”.

*Forgotten guardian angels of Chushogi
While talking on Chushogi, it must be corrected that the historical game survived until today with the significant support by core-fans including, but not limited to professional Shogi players like legendary great grand master Ōyama Yasuharu.

*Possibly a mistranslation
The published Japanese translation mistakenly reports the end of the game on the late 1930s, but it may be due to mistranslation. The English version seems to say "was" to report its existence; if extinction is meant it must clearly say "had been". Anyway, it is an uncomfortable statement for the supporters.

*Ending note
With all said, I would like to thank the author to mention some delicate and important aspects of the Japanese culture. My above complaint is composed in a haste to rectify the “mottainai” misunderstandings due to lack of proper advices that is quite unsuitable to the author.

E. & O. E.

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