On so many levels, Japan is a far more advanced country than Australia. Take their public transport system: fast, punctual, frequent and none of these blow-ins with their odd habits such as eating stinky food in a crowded carriage. Internet is fast. Mobile phones, albeit the size and weight of walkie talkies, can seem to do pretty much everything except teach me how to cook this damn Japanese rice properly.
And how about toilets with all kinds of electronic controls? Probably the only thing missing from those is some sort 'head up display'.
Yep, Japan is an advanced nation. Except, that is, when it comes to chess.
Today I played in my first ever JCA event, some sort of New Year tournament. The first thing that struck me is that it felt like a NSWCA tournament circa 1995! There were clocks that I haven't seen in ages - like the old BHBs, the big plasticky Yugoslavs and Saiteks - as well as some strange ones like a Citizen (didn't know they made chess clocks) and something called a Phileon.
Chess isn't exactly popular in Japan, so as expected the field was pretty small - just 36 players. Like in Oz, about half of their number were juniors and they were just as noisy! But unlike any regular Aussie weekender, the practice here seems to be to BYO board and clock (which, I suppose, explains the variety of them). Also, the tournament broke for some snacks just before the last round. Bisquits and juices were served. I guess that's where part of my JPY5,000 (AU$62) went to. Actually, the whole day cost a lot more than that.
For entering the event and becoming a JCA member, I dropped the grand total of JPY13,400. That's $165!
The top seed in the event and rated 2308 had an off day losing 2 games. I hear that it was quite a shock for the 3-time national champion. Alex Averbukh, a fellow expat, walked away with 4/4 overall.
Yours truly lost ended with 3/4. I probably should have ended wth 50% had it not been for a somewhat pessimistic opponent in round 2. For some strange reason, he just resigned on-the-spot after one of my desperate checks. It seems that he thought it was kaput for him when it wasn't.
In case you're wondering, I did meet Miyoko Watai. She is currently acting as JCA head and was the main official at the tournament. Of course, I just met her today so I didn't feel like getting into some deep and meaningful about you-know-who.
Finally, once or twice I heard a name being thrown around throughout the day. The locals still remember him. It's some bloke named Junta Ikeda.
Note that I took a handful of photos. Check them out here.