[Mr. Kunio Yonenaga, Chairman of the Japan Shogi Association]
[Press conference of launch of joint research project]
RIKEN holds "RIKEN Culture Day" once a year featuring lectures who are actively working in different fields from natural sciences. This event started in the view of the importance of scientists not just doing science but also cultivating logic and sensibility for excellent science. It is also based on Noyori Initiatives, "RIKEN that contributes to culture" which is one of the RIKEN’s policies.
At the 2006 RIKEN Culture Day, Mr. Kunio Yonenaga, Chirman of the Japan Shogi Association gave an interesting lecture on the topic of "Shogi and the human brain".
This lecture and an informal talk between Mr. Yonenaga and Dr. Masao Ito, Senior Advisor of RIKEN Brain Science Institute led to the idea on intuitive thinking of human to approach from the point of view of brain science, having Shogi players as subjects.
Following this meeting, the Japan Shogi Association launched a "Shogi/Super-Brain Study Group", and Mr. Yonenaga, Dr. Ichiro Tanioka, President of Osaka University of Commerce, Dr. Ito and people in the mass media exchanged opinions in this study group on the topic of "Human Brain and Shogi". There was also an encounter with Fujitsu members, one which triggered the initiation of a joint research project.
Subsequently in 2007, RIKEN, Fujitsu and Fujitsu Laboratories, in cooperation with the Japan Shogi Association, launched a joint research project titled "Exploratory Research on Brain Activity in Shogi" in order to understand the intuitive thinking mechanism of to human beings by elucidating the neural information processing network in the Shogi game through detailed analysis of how Shogi players judge the current situation and determine the next move.
"Serendipity" is a word often used in scientific research. It means "(talent for) making pleasant and unexpected discoveries entirely by chance" in a dictionary.
The organizer of the "RIKEN Culture Day" did not expected that this event would lead to a brain science research project when they asked Mr. Yonenaga to present a lecture. With just that one chance meeting, however, a connection was uncovered between shogi and brain science that grew into a joint research project. In a broad sense, this is serendipity.