What's in a name?

Fujisawa Hideyuki

There is an amusing story to the effect that, as the master's mother put it, " Do the officials really think I registered my son before he was born. Now really!” The point is that his date of birth had been registered wrongly at the registration office, as 14 June 1925. The date was corrected to 19 June only when the boy was old enough to get married.

He has had similar trouble with his name. Born Fujisawa Tamotsu in Tenshin-cho, Yokohama, Japan, he changed his name to Hideyuki 秀行 in 1944 when he felt confident in his go career and was ready to open a new page in his life. Ironically the intended reading “Hideyuki” did not catch on but “Shuko”, the alternative and, according to some, more pretentious reading of the very same characters became an almost instant hit.

He said: "Yes, there were people, especially senior pros, who felt that the choice of characters for my name change was a rather cheeky move, regardless of the reading. The Shu 秀 (or Hide) part is after all identical to the character adopted by the Honinbo Go-Dojo masters: Shuwa, Shusaku, and Shuho, to name a few. So, they probably figured that it was because I felt I was up there with the go legends of old that I changed my name.

"This, however, is not true at all. Although many people didn’t realise it, I took the character for Hide (or Shu) from the name Hidezo after a man who had helped me avoiding the draft for the imperial forces and to whom I felt deeply indebted. This person wasn’t even a professional go player! That the character for Shu is identical to the character used for the top Honinbo players is purely coincidental.

"My poor health was probably not the main reason why I managed to stay out of the army. It was the influence of Toyama Hidezo, which helped me the most. In Japan from before WWII, Toyama was known as a big-shot right winger. He is the son of the famous nationalist, Toyama Mitsuru (1855~1944). Yamabe Toshiro 9-dan was staying at Toyama’s place as a live-in student. That’s why I, every now and then, would go over to the Toyama residence. Toyama Mitsuru loved the game of go, so he would call Yamabe and me to come over and play each other in front of him. He never played us himself, he just would watch us going at it for hours at a time. Behind his back we used to call him “the 3-dan kibitzer, real rank unknown”. Anyway, although Toyama was not as much in the spotlight as he used to be, it was clear, from all the important politicians (among whom was the prime minister himself) who frequented his place, that he was still a major force in Japan, albeit more behind the scenes than before.

"One day, sometime in 1944, when more and more men were called up for the draft, Toyama Hidezo took a visiting minister aside and 'asked' him, 'Why don’t you arrange it so that Fujisawa is working for you?' This would mean that I would not need actively to participate in the military and I guess that this was Hidezo’s way of making sure I could continue to concentrate on go. By the way, after I changed my name, my closest friends at the time, Yamabe and Magari Reiki, have always called me Hideyuki. I don’t really know who started the 'Shuko' habit. At first, I have to admit I didn’t care much for it. I felt that I was being made fun of and that when people called me Shuko they meant a different character for Shu than the one I had chosen, namely the character for minikui 醜 [which translates as ugly but also contains the radicals for alcohol and devil]. Nowadays everybody calls me Shuko and that’s fine with me. It is easier to pronounce for one thing (laughs)."

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