American Go E-Journal

New home for the oldest go club in North America

Wednesday March 23, 2022

by Paul Goodman 2D

The first wave of Japanese immigration to San Francisco came after the Civil War, in 1869. Legend has it that in the 1880’s a group of Japanese fisherman wanted a place to play go, and founded the San Francisco Go Club. That story may be apocryphal, but the club is certainly the oldest in North America. In 1936, the Nihon Kiin was so impressed that it made the club its first overseas chapter.

Since then the peripatetic club has had six homes. Our newest, and by far the nicest, had its official opening on March 19, with a three-game tournament and a grand opening party. Our new home is located in San Francisco’s Nihonmachi (Japan Town) in a spacious and comfortable suite in the Japan Center next to the Kabuki Hotel.

The past two years have been difficult, but with the help of many people — especially the vision of Matthew Barcus, the energy of Mishal Awadah, and the financial foresight of Aaron Rosen — an empty storefront has been transformed into a warm, comfortable, inviting place to enjoy a game of go. We have new furniture and equipment for playing, a small kitchen area for snacking, and a comfortable lounge area for shmoozing. The walls are decorated with historical mementos of the club, including a calligraphy by Honinbo Shusai from 1936 commemorating the acceptance of the club into the Nihon Kiin. 

And let’s not forget the enticing sounds and smells wafting into the club from Nihonmachi, where in between games you and your friends can enjoy some ramen or sushi.

About forty people participated in the 3-game tournament at the grand opening. The tournament winner in the Dan Division was Jay Chan who walked away with a $150 prize as well as a seat at the 3-person simultaneous table with Hajin Lee (4P) on April 23 at the club. Tied for 2nd place in the Dan Division were Yuelun Yang, James Lou, Jason He, Cole Pruitt, and Lukasz Lew. In the Kyu Division four people tied for first: Yunyen Lee, Youchen Zhao, Joseph Marino, and Keelan Gardner 

We’re a friendly bunch, so if you’re ever in San Francisco, do come to the club. Everyone is welcome, beginners to experts. Even better, become a member: help support go in San Francisco and keep the tradition alive. Check the club website for information about membership and playing times.