Our frontispiece illustrates an incident which is said to have occurred about this time in the city of Kamakura. A samurai named Sato Tadanobu, who was a vassal of Yoshitsune, a brother of Yoritomo, the first Shogun of Japan, was playing Go in his house when he was suddenly attacked by his enemies, and he is depicted using the “Goban” as a weapon wherewith to defend himself. The print is by Kuniyoshi, and is one of a series the title of which might be translated as “Our Favorite Hero Series.” The “Go ban,” “Go ishi,” and “Go tsubo” look precisely like those which are at present in use, but Kuniyoshi probably represented the type in use in his day and not in the time of Yoritomo, as it is pretty well settled that in the early times the board was smaller.
There is also a story which comes down from the Kamakura period in regard to Hojo Yoshitoki. He is said to have been playing Go with a guest at the moment that news arrived of the uprising of Wada Yoshimori. Yoshitoki is said to have first finished the game in perfect calmness before he thought of his measures for subduing the revolution. This was in the first year of Kempo, or 1213 A.D.
In the beginning of the thirteenth century we find that Go was widely known in the samurai class, and was played with zeal. At that time everybody who went to war, from the most famous general down to the meanest soldier, played the game. The board and stones were carried with them to the field of battle, and as soon as the battle was over, they were brought out, and the friendly strife began. Many of the monks and poets of that period also had a taste for Go, and several of them are mentioned as celebrated Go players.