Am I Mr Ooijer in Hikaru no Go?

Umezawa in Leiden

1999-09-09: Umezawa tries to climb up the Leiden windmill. First 3 pictures copyright Harry van der Krogt.

Umezawa Yukari and Inori Yoko visited the Netherlands

On a very special day some years ago we had a dinner with Umezawa Yukari. It was 1999-09-09. She was touring Europe together with Inori Yoko, and they were going to stay in the Netherlands for a couple of days. Luck had that the weather was very nice for the time of the year. They were having tremendous fun. And we were having fun too, they were so nice and played go with everybody who wanted a game. That day they visited Leiden, Harry and Ger invited them for traditional Dutch pancakes for lunch, took them on a touristic trip through the town, and by the time the others and myself joined them for dinner Umezawa was already nick-named Miss Sunshine.

Dinner in La Cloche

We went to a nice restaurant (La Cloche) where the owner made us a special dinner with a beautiful selection of wines.

La Cloche, Leiden

1999-09-09: Our dinner in La Cloche. Gerald is sitting next to Umezawa, he played many games with her when he lived in Japan and she was a child. Ger is a Japanese interpreter and Filip also speaks enough Japanese to join the conversation. So that left Harry and me out of most of what was said :-)

If you're an Umezawa fan, or Japanese, or both, go there and ask the owner for a seat in the room upstairs because that's where we were. He might even remember us. It's worth it (and make a reservation).

Playing Go

Anyway, what is so special about the date is that it was exactly 40 years ago that the Dutch Go Association was founded. So it was a very special date for us and I told them that we were actually very happy and proud that their visit coincided with this anniversary we were celebrating. Later that evening at the Leiden Go Club Umezawa and Inori gave me a fan. They wrote on it: Dear Jan-san, 1999-09-09, in remembrance of this very special day: 40 years of Dutch Go.

Inori in the Leiden Go Club

1999-09-09: At the Leiden Go Club. Inori Yoko explains what happened in her game of 8 days earlier against Kobayashi Izumi. This one she lost, but she doesn't seem to mind. One year later she will succeed and win the Women's Honinbo Title.

At the Go club Umezawa played a simul and Inori showed us her most recent game: the challenger's final of the Women's Honinbo tournament. The room was packed. Even the members of the local chess club that played in the adjacent room came over to have a look and see what was happening.

At the Go centre

1999-09-11: Girls having fun on the terrace outside the Go centre. Third from the left is Kei Shinada (then living in Belgium), now an insei in Japan. Quite likely the photographer and beer drinker is Jan van der Steen.


That was on a Thursday and the Saturday thereafter they joined us again for the official celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Dutch Go Association, in the European Go Centre in Amstelveen. Again they played many more games -- especially against children. Harry took a lot of pictures but unfortunately he has none of them digitized yet so I have to use some of the pictures on Umezawa's site.

1999-09-09: the fan.

The next Sunday they came back to Leiden and played some more games. On her site Umezawa actually has two pictures of that day (gallery -- pictures 47 and 48), but I'm not on them. I got beaten terribly by her in a four stone handicap game as far as I remember. Inori was, at the same time, playing some serious two stone handicap games against our strongest club players and that wasn't easy for her.

Advisor to the Hikaru no Go team

Umezawa was already advising the Hikaru no Go team. The first episode came out in December 1998. But at the time of our meeting I was unaware of that. I started reading Hikaru much later, when the first translations came out on the net. When the story around the WAGC started in the Manga, it was a surprise to see three countries feature more prominently in that part: the US, China and the Netherlands. And even more surprising, a lot later, it was to recognise in the manga somebody I know: Frank.

Frank and Mr Ooijer in the Manga.

Frank Janssen is working for the European Go Centre and is one of our strongest players in the Netherlands. He has played in the WAGC. Surprise: in the Hikaru no Go story the Dutch representative for the World Amateur Go Championship is called Frank and he seems to be working (as a residential teacher) in a Go Club. He even seems to be living there (the real Frank doesn't). Is Frank Frank? And then there is Mr Ooijer, some big shot in the Dutch Go organisation, who calls up Frank in the middle of the night because Sai is playing on the Internet. Am I Mr Ooijer? Did I tell Umezawa that I watched pro games on IGS in the middle of the night? I am certain I told her about my Cho Chikun site. Or is Mr Ooijer Jan van der Steen? But my name is more similar to Ooijer (O/E).

Left Jan van der Steen, right Jan van Rongen.

It is not uncommon for characters in the Manga to be based on real persons. For example, the master of the Dogenzaka Go Salon not only exists, but really looks like the real person. Of course that is not the case with the Dutch Go players -- the artist Mr Obata never met us. But whoever is who, in this part of the story I see something back of Umezawa's visit to the Netherlands in that week. The real Frank doesn't use sugar in his coffee. Mr Ooijer has a mustache, both Jans don't. And in Hikaru no Go we all look a bit like the red-haired barbarians that the Dutch were when they had the trading post on the tiny island Decima. Oh well, maybe we still are. But for the rest: thank you Miss Sunshine for a nice picture of Dutch Go.


As always, there is more to it, something I overlooked the first time that I wrote this. Frank first appears in Hikaru no Go before the visit of Umezawa to the Netherlands. To be exact, his first appearence is in volume 4, chapter 30, which was first published in weekly Jump on July 20 1999. But he doesn't have a name then, at least I couldn't find it. Only two years later he gets a name, in chapter 109, where we also see Mr Ooijer appearing. For the name "Frank", some Hikaru watchers are quite confident that "Frank" was borrowed from the real Frank Janssen, because it has happened more often that the first name of a real person is used.

As for myself being Mr. Ooijer, it was just an interesting thought for a while. But who knows? Ms Sunshine :-)

Note: the first 3 pictures were made by Harry van der Krogt. Some others were copied from Umezawa's sites. I am sure she doesn't mind.

I wrote...