A chess-like Japanese board game that was a popular pastime in the concentration camps, particularly for Issei . Like chess, shoji is a two-person game played on a board divided into squares with pieces that have varying capabilities and values and has as its object to capture the opposition king. The game differs from chess in the number of squares (81 versus 64) and pieces (20 per side versus 16). Though one players is "black" and other "white," the pieces themselves are not colored, and each shares the same pointed shape with Chinese characters on them. Also unlike chess, captured pieces can be turned around and redeployed by the capturer.

Shogi is frequently noted in descriptions of life in the Japanese American concentration camps in combination with go, another two-person board game. An account in an official War Relocation Authority publication suggests that go was the more popular game, which seems to supported by other anecdotal accounts. [1] In his internment memoir, Issei journalist Kumaji Furuya wrote that he and a friend would joke before the war that should Japan and the U.S. go to war, the two of them would end up interned on Molokai playing shogi. "Fate works in strange ways," he wrote, "for we were eventually interned in the same New Mexico camp [Santa Fe] where we did get to play shogi games together." [2]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Furuya, Suikei. Haisho tenten . Honolulu: Hawai taimususha, 1968. Translated by Tatsumi Hayashi as Internment from Camp to Camp . Honolulu: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, forthcoming, 2015.

Nishimoto, Richard. Inside An American Concentration Camp: Japanese American Resistance at Poston, Arizona . Ed. Lane Ryo Hirabayashi. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995.

United States Department of the Interior, War Relocation Authority. Impounded People: Japanese Americans in the Relocation Centers . Washington, D.C.: [1946].


  1. United States Department of the Interior, War Relocation Authority, Impounded People: Japanese Americans in the Relocation Centers , [1946], 168.
  2. Suikei Furuya (pseudonym), Haisho tenten (Honolulu: Hawai taimususha, 1964). The quotation is from an English translation by Tatsumi Hayashi, which will be published by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i in 2015. In this account, he describes a system of tournaments for go but not for shogi, resulting in his playing more go while interned despite having played more shogi before the war.

Last updated July 7, 2020, 7:24 p.m..