Photo/Illutration Sumire Nakamura, a 3-dan professional go player, holds a news conference after winning the Women’s Kisei title at the Nihon Ki-in in Tokyo on Feb. 6. (The Asahi Shimbun)

I got up in the morning, played, laughed and was scolded. The days were long when I was a child. But now, they just race away. All clocks mark the same passage of time, but I suppose different people feel differently about how time passes.

I wonder how time flows for professional go player and junior high schooler Sumire Nakamura, 13, who won the 26th Women’s Kisei title on Feb. 6. It was her first major title, and she became the youngest in history to win it.

Even more astoundingly, Nakamura got there in only three years and 11 months since making her pro debut at the age of 10.

But unlike an adult, she may have felt that time as being long and intense. Come to think of it, that’s nearly a third of her life. Nakamura wept many bitter tears after losing games, then threw herself into studying for the next game, according to a go reporter who followed her.

In the world of go, it is said that “for a 12-year-old, one year is equal to five years for an adult.”

To catch up with front-running China and South Korea, Japan is now undergoing a rapid rejuvenation of pro go players. In October 2019, a teenager captured the prestigious Meijin title for the first time in history. There are quite a few young prodigies aspiring to follow in Nakamura’s footsteps.

In the final years of the Edo Period (1603-1867), Honinbo Shusaku (1829-1862) was lauded as “gosei” (a go saint). He was invited to Edo (present-day Tokyo) as a young boy and ranked “shodan” (1 dan) when he was 10.

Discovering young talent seems to have roots in history. On the other hand, some people warn about possible harm in providing special education to gifted children too soon.

“Since I’m sure go players younger than me will keep arriving, I’d like to become a player they can respect,” said the new Women’s Kisei titleholder at a news conference on Feb. 6. She had a shy smile and sharp eyes.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 8

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.