American Go E-Journal

Auto Exec Turns His Sights on Popularizing Go

Wednesday August 7, 2013

Tadaaki Jagawa has built a very successful career selling cars around the world. Now the Toyota executive is hoping to apply some of the same principles to making the game of go more popular around the world. Jagawa, Vice-Chairman of the Nihon-Kiin’s Board of Directors, is visiting the U.S. Go Congress this week. “I think it’s very important to meet the U.S. go community in person,” Jagawa told the E-Journal on Tuesday, in an interview translated by Frank Fukuda of the Seattle Go Center. “The Nihon Ki-in is in critical condition and really needed people with management skills,” Jagawa said. “It’s my goal that our professional go players be able to play go as much as possible, instead of spending their time managing the Ni-hon Ki-in.” As Vice-President of Toyota, Jagawa has been responsible for opening most of the company’s overseas factories in the U.S. Europe, Africa and the Mideast. As a manager used to being on the ground, Jagawa – who joined the Nihon Kiin leadership team in 2012” – says that a visit to the U.S. was “Number one, most important” to underline and explore the Ki-in’s commitment to supporting go in the United States. The immediate idea is for the Ki-in to send a stream of young professionals to the United States to teach and lecture as part of the AGA’s continuing outreach programs in places like the Seattle Go Center. Discussions with the AGA and local organizers are underway about a location on the East Coast. “It’s going to be very important to the success of this plan that ghe Nihon Ki-in be in more regular and frequent official contact with the AGA,” Jagawa said, obliquely alluding to the now-resolved tensions over the future of the Seattle and New York Go Centers. The hope is to have the plan for a new East Coast go center in place by March, 2014. Discussions are also underway with the European go community — and in fact, the other Nihon Ki-in vice chairman, Mr. Yamashiro, is visiting the European Go Congress this week — but the timeline there is expected to be somewhat longer. “Building the base is key to success,” Jagawa said. “You must sell the product through the base. In this case the product is go, which is very different than, say, a car, but perhaps there are some similarities after all.” Localizing is important, he stressed. Toyota became a global success in part by localizing its vehicles for each market. Applying this to go, Jagawa suggested, means adapting the Nihon Ki-in’s support to whatever makes the most sense in each community, rather than trying to impose a “one size fits all” model. “It must be fit to the needs of the people,” he said. Asked what his favorite thing is about the game of go, Jagawa chuckled. “Sometimes, in seeking the truth on the board, however deep you go, you can’t see the bottom. That’s very attractive.” Clearly, this is a man who relishes a challenge, wherever he finds it.
- report/photos by Chris Garlock: top left: Jagawa plays at the Go Congress; bottom right: Thomas Hsiang and Frank Fukuda present Jagawa with a 2013 U.S. Go Congress t-shirt.

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