Thursday, November 01, 2007

Beware the Idle Boasts of August

Ozawa Ichirō, who has been somehow too preoccupied to attend Diet interpellations, did make an appearance on Sunday for a test of strategy, patience and cunning against a longtime rival in the political world.

In August, during his brief tenure as Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yosano Kaoru was asked how he intended to push forward the Cabinet's political program when Ozawa Ichirō's opposition coalition controlled the House of Councillors.

A serene Yosano replied, "In the world of Go, it is I who lead, ahead of Ozawa."

In terms of reputation, as a certified 7th dan amateur in the game of Go, Yosano was on firm ground in his assessment. Ozawa, at 5th dan, was just not in his league.

However, Ozawa did not take the slight lying down. Through intermediaries he challenged Yosano to a match.

So it was on Sunday afternoon that Yosano, a gaggle of reporters, a 9th dan professional player and a knot of curious onlookers from the top ranks of political society sat in a high class Go lounge of a major hotel, waiting for Ozawa to show up.

And waited.

Fifteen minutes before the appointed hour, Yosano asked rhetorically, "If I lose, I will never hear the end of it from my fellow LDP colleagues, eh?"

Apropos of the long wait, the 9th dan player replied, "Maybe I shouldn't put it this way, but there's a little of the Miyamoto Musashi in Ozawa."

Three minutes before the scheduled time, Ozawa bustled in, dressed in his everyday uniform of a white shirt and dark blue suit.

The men proceeded to sit down at the board, Yosano playing black, Ozawa white. Yosano laid down the first stone.

* * *

Yosano's confident riposte to a reporter's questions in August did not reflect a tested hypothesis, only a guess. The two men had only played each other twice before. Twenty years ago, in their first meeting, Yosano had demolished Ozawa. However, in a rematch five years ago, the lower-ranked Ozawa eked out a bare victory over his rival. In terms of match victories, the two men were even.

Yosano, furthermore, had reached the pinnacle of amateur 7th dan over 30 years ago. While an aficionado of the game, he had not been engaging in serious Go competitions for years.

(If you are sensing a metaphor right about now, good for you).

Ozawa, by contrast, has been intensifying his study of Go of late, making weekly treks to a salon where he could test his ideas against high-powered pros. For the man who was once seen as having but a single interest--politics--his dedication to improving his Go game seemed a retreat from his previous monomaniacal focus on political power.

So while Yosano came to the match with the reputation and the credentials, Ozawa had the determination and the staying power...and the hunger to succeed.

Courtesy: Sankei Sports

The match lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes. Two hundred and ninety stones.

A glance at the board made it clear: Ozawa had won.

No, that is not correct: Ozawa had conquered. He had humiliated Yosano by a humiliating 15 1/2 stone spaces.

"I will not be able to sleep at night," a stunned Yosano bleated. "Definitely, there is going to be a rematch."

"Did I win?" a coy but obviously buoyant Ozawa chirruped. "I wasn't sure until the very end. That I was able to receive this victory makes me, of course, very grateful."

Lying bastard. He was so proud of himself he could spit.

Of course, any resemblances between the Yosano/Ozawa match on Sunday and what happened on July 29 of this year between the LDP and the DPJ are in the mind of the beholder.

[The full account from which this post has been drawn and an illustration all the moves of the match can be found on page 2 of the evening edition of the Mainichi Shimbun of October 31, 2007. ]

1 comment:

Jun Okumura said...

If Mr. Yosano had earned the 7th dan the hard way thirty years ago, he would have been one of the five or so strongest amateurs in Japan, which I think would have been the equivalent of being a weak chess grandmaster. Today, my guess is he would still be in the top 30. I assume that Mr. Yosano was really a strong 5th dan, in which case his go master would have seconded his advancement to 6th dan, other things being equal. But some are more equal than other, so he got promoted to 7th dan.

It's possible though, that Mr. Ozawa really has 5th dan skills, but purposely understates his rank as 5th dan (are you following me here?) and enjoys beating people up based on that handicap. Alternatively, maybe he is 5th dan in rank only, which means that Mr. Ozawa would have been hard put to win without a handicap. In which case Mr. Yosano was the real winner, if you catch my drift.