Yamagata #3: Shogi Pieces (左馬)

Shogi is Japanese chess, and Tendo is a city in Yamagata Prefecture which produces the majority of the pieces used in the game. I don’t know much about the game itself, but even someone who knows nothing can enjoy the craft and beauty of each hand-carved piece… and in April you can even see a human-sized game! I definitely want to go!

The piece used in the postcard is the character for horse (馬, uma) but backward and is called “hidari-uma” or left horse. You can also read it as “mau”, which also means dance in Japanese. This piece was born in Tendo and is often thought to bring good luck and business prosperity. Therefore many businesses in the area have a large one on display to bring luck. I bought a small keychain when I visited Tendo, and it is a common way to carry the piece around!

The giant piece in my room while staying at Tendo Onsen

Checking in, this cute little pen holder greeted me

When you visit Tendo you can see many craft shops that make the pieces, as well as visit the Tendo Shogi Museum conveniently located in the train station! You can also see people playing the game near there, and get more information to visit shops.

Tendo is also a fantastic onsen, as well as growing many fruits throughout the year, so is a great day trip or overnight stay from Tokyo. I really recommend it!


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