Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hidetchi's Shogi Dictionary

Any English speaker attempting serious study of shogi knows the biggest issue involved. It's language. Most of the primary source material that shogi masters study is still only published in Japanese.

Those of us that take up the study of Japanese in an effort to overcome the language barrier learn very quickly, shogi has a unique vocabulary. Shogi specific phrases don't translate well with online translation engines, and Japanese-English dictionaries don't have many of the shogi specific terms needed for reading Japanese shogi texts. Not only do we have to overcome the barrier of learning Japanese, but we also have to learn a specific niche of Japanese vocabulary that isn't found in standard textbooks and dictionaries.

Shogi Dictionary by Hidetchi
Some of the frustration has come to an end. We now have access to a shogi dictionary thanks to the hard work of Tomohide Kawasaki.

Tomohide Kawasaki is probably best known for his excellent shogi YouTube video collection published under the username of Hidetchi. His shogi videos span every imaginable shogi topic. He teaches basic shogi strategy, history, and analyzes historic matches.

A few good collections of Japanese shogi vocabulary exist on the web, but they all pale in comparison to this dictionary. The shogi dictionary has approximately 100 pages of shogi words and phrases defined in detail.

Approximately 100 pages of vocabulary,
phrases, definitions, and translations with
kanji grace the shogi dictionary.
The entries are organized by their hiragana spelling, as is common with many Japanese-English dictionaries. The hiragana is followed immediately by the more natural kanji/hiragana spelling. After many of the entries, you can find lists of related vocabulary that you can also look up in the dictionary.

One of my favorite features of this dictionary is that each of the joseki—joseki is defined on page 49, by the way—has a list of moves describing the joseki pattern named. Having the moves listed with the joseki name saves time and makes the definitions more clear.

At the back of the dictionary, you'll find a convenient index with English shogi vocabulary and phrases along with page numbers of related entries in the dictionary. So, if you don't happen to remember what a King's Head Silver is, or what it is called in Japanese, you at least know you can find it by skimming page 30.

My only disappointment with this dictionary is the small size font chosen. Students of Japanese shogi vocabulary will need a magnifying glass to study the kanji given in each definition. Small kanji may be fine once familiar with the vocabulary, but don't work so well for students of Japanese.

For the second edition, I'd love to see the dictionary presented in a single column format with large enough print that students and shogi enthusiasts with older eyes have an easier time studying the kanji provided in this excellent book.

In conclusion, this is the dictionary that shogi lovers have dreamed to find. I have to recommend the purchase and repeated study of this shogi dictionary. Once again, Tomohide Kawasaki has provided the English speaking world a priceless tool for the study of shogi.

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