Meijin (名人?) is one of the seven titles in Japanese professional shogi, and is the most prestigious title, along with Ryu-oh. This should not be confused with the "Amateur Meijin" title that is awarded each year to the winner of the Amateur Meijin Tournament. The word "meijin" means "an excellent person" in a certain field. ("mei"(名) = excellent, artful) ("jin"(人) = person)
The Meijin institution started in the 17th century (Edo period), and for around 300 years was a hereditary title that was passed from the reigning Meijin upon his retirement or death to another selected from three families, as deemed to be worthy. In 1935, however, the Japan Shogi Association(ja) (日本将棋連盟 nihon shōgi renmei?), or JSA, announced that it was abolishing the existing system of succession in favor of something more short-term and reflective of actual playing strength. In 1937, the reigning 13th Meijin Kinjiro Sekine(ja), who had received his title under the old system and was 70 years old at the time, voluntarily gave up his title so that a new Meijin could be decided through actual tournament play. Later that year Yoshio Kimura(ja), who was a student of Sekine, became the first Meijin to gain the title based upon actual performance by winning a tournament which included eight other top players. From 1937 to 1947, the challenger for the Meijin title was determined through tournaments involving a select number of players. Finally, in 1947, the JSA officially established the preliminary round of ranking tournaments (順位戦 jun'isen?) that it currently uses.
The Meijin ranking tournaments are divided into five leagues/classes (A, B1, B2, C1, C2) and players compete against others within their class throughout the year. Players who perform well during league play may be promoted to the next highest class while those who perform poorly may be relegated to the next lowest one. New professionals are placed at the bottom of the Class C2 league, and the top three players of Class C2 are promoted to Class C1 for the next year. Similarly, the top two players of Classes C1, B2, B1 are promoted to the B2, B1, and A, respectively, for the next year. The winner of the Class A league earns the right to challenge the reigning Meijin title holder in a 7-game match for the title. A new professional, therefore, needs at least five years experience (5 successive promotions) after their debut before they can qualify to challenge for the title of Meijin.
The Lifetime Meijin (永世名人 eisei meijin?) title was established by the JSA in 1952. Players who capture the Meijin title five times (does not have to be consecutive) qualify to receive this title, but are only officially awarded it upon their retirement or death.
- (1st - 13th: determined through succession)
- 14th Lifetime Meijin: Yoshio Kimura (Qualified for title in 1946 at age 41. Awarded in 1952 upon retirement)
- 15th Lifetime Meijin: Yasuharu Oyama (Qualified for title at age 33 in 1956. Awarded in 1976[a])
- 16th Lifetime Meijin: Makoto Nakahara(ja) (Qualified for title at age 29 in 1976. Awarded in 2007, prior to his retirement in 2009 )
- 17th Lifetime Meijin: Koji Tanigawa(ja) (Qualified for title at age 35 in 1997. Still active)
- 18th Lifetime Meijin: Toshiyuki Moriuchi(ja) (Qualified for title in 2007 at age 36. Still active)
- 19th Lifetime Meijin: Yoshiharu Habu (Qualified for title in 2008 at age 37. Still active)
Below is a list of past Meijin title holders from 1937 when the new method for determining the title holder was established. The number in parenthesis represents the culmulative times the player had won the title to date.
|2||1940||Yoshio Kimura (2)||4-1||Ichitaroh Doi|
|3||1942||Yoshio Kimura (3)||4-0||Tatsunosuke Kanda|
|4||1943||Yoshio Kimura (4)||No match held. Kimura retained title by default. [b]|
|5||1944||Yoshio Kimura (5)||No match held. Kimura retained title by default. [c]|
|6||1947||Masao Tsukada||4-2||Yoshio Kimura|
|7||1948||Masao Tsukada (2)||4-2||Yasuharu Oyama|
|8||1949||Yoshio Kimura (6)||3-2||Masao Tsukada|
|9||1950||Yoshio Kimura (7)||4-2||Yasuharu Oyama|
|10||1951||Yoshio Kimura (8)||4-2||Kozoh Masuda|
|11||1952||Yasuharu Oyama||4-1||Yoshio Kimura|
|12||1953||Yasuharu Oyama (2)||4-1||Kozoh Masuda|
|13||1954||Yasuharu Oyama (3)||4-1||Kozoh Masuda|
|14||1955||Yasuharu Oyama (4)||4-2||Kazukiyo Takashima|
|15||1956||Yasuharu Oyama (5)||4-0||Motoji Hanamura|
|16||1957||Kozoh Masuda||4-2||Yasuharu Oyama|
|17||1958||Kozoh Masuda (2)||4-2||Yasuharu Oyama|
|18||1959||Yasuharu Oyama (6)||4-1||Kozoh Masuda|
|19||1960||Yasuharu Oyama (7)||4-1||Hifumi Katoh|
|20||1961||Yasuharu Oyama (8)||4-1||Yuzoh Maruta|
|21||1962||Yasuharu Oyama (9)||4-0||Tatsuya Futakami|
|22||1963||Yasuharu Oyama (10)||4-1||Kozoh Masuda|
|23||1964||Yasuharu Oyama (11)||4-2||Tatsuya Futakami|
|24||1965||Yasuharu Oyama (12)||4-1||Michiyoshi Yamada|
|25||1966||Yasuharu Oyama (13)||4-2||Kozoh Masuda|
|26||1967||Yasuharu Oyama (14)||4-1||Tatsuya Futakami|
|27||1968||Yasuharu Oyama (15)||4-0||Kozoh Masuda|
|28||1969||Yasuharu Oyama (16)||4-3||Michio Ariyoshi|
|29||1970||Yasuharu Oyama (17)||4-1||Rensho Nada|
|30||1971||Yasuharu Oyama (18)||4-3||Kozoh Masuda|
|31||1972||Makoto Nakahara||4-3||Yasuharu Oyama|
|32||1973||Makoto Nakahara (2)||4-0||Hifumi Katoh|
|33||1974||Makoto Nakahara (3)||4-3||Yasuharu Oyama|
|34||1975||Makoto Nakahara (4)||4-3||Nobuyuki Ouchi|
|35||1976||Makoto Nakahara (5)||4-3||Kunio Yonenaga|
|1977||Makoto Nakahara||No match held. Nakahara retained title by default. [d]|
|36||1978||Makoto Nakahara (6)||4-2||Keiji Mori|
|37||1979||Makoto Nakahara (7)||4-2||Kunio Yonenaga|
|38||1980||Makoto Nakahara (8)||4-1||Kunio Yonenaga|
|39||1981||Makoto Nakahara (9)||4-1||Kiyozumi Kiriyama|
|40||1982||Hifumi Katoh||4-3||Makoto Nakahara|
|41||1983||Koji Tanigawa (1)||4-2||Hifumi Katoh|
|42||1984||Koji Tanigawa (2)||4-1||Hidemitsu Moriyasu|
|43||1985||Makoto Nakahara (10)||4-2||Koji Tanigawa|
|44||1986||Makoto Nakahara (11)||4-1||Yasuharu Oyama|
|45||1987||Makoto Nakahara (12)||4-2||Kunio Yonenaga|
|46||1988||Koji Tanigawa (3)||4-2||Makoto Nakahara|
|47||1989||Koji Tanigawa (4)||4-0||Kunio Yonenaga|
|48||1990||Makoto Nakahara (13)||4-2||Koji Tanigawa|
|49||1991||Makoto Nakahara (14)||4-1||Kunio Yonenaga|
|50||1992||Makoto Nakahara (15)||4-3||Michio Takahashi|
|51||1993||Kunio Yonenaga||4-0||Makoto Nakahara|
|52||1994||Yoshiharu Habu||4-2||Kunio Yonenaga|
|53||1995||Yoshiharu Habu (2)||4-1||Taku Morishita|
|54||1996||Yoshiharu Habu (3)||4-1||Toshiyuki Moriuchi|
|55||1997||Koji Tanigawa (5)||4-2||Yoshiharu Habu|
|56||1998||Yasumitsu Satoh||4-3||Koji Tanigawa|
|57||1999||Yasumitsu Satoh (2)||4-3||Koji Tanigawa|
|58||2000||Tadahisa Maruyama||4-3||Yasumitsu Satoh|
|59||2001||Tadahisa Maruyama (2)||4-3||Koji Tanigawa|
|60||2002||Toshiyuki Moriuchi||4-0||Tadahisa Maruyama|
|61||2003||Yoshiharu Habu (4)||4-0||Toshiyuki Moriuchi|
|62||2004||Toshiyuki Moriuchi (2)||4-2||Yoshiharu Habu|
|63||2005||Toshiyuki Moriuchi (3)||4-3||Yoshiharu Habu|
|64||2006||Toshiyuki Moriuchi (4)||4-2||Koji Tanigawa|
|65||2007||Toshiyuki Moriuchi (5)||4-3||Masataka Goda|
|66||2008||Yoshiharu Habu (5)||4-2||Toshiyuki Moriuchi|
|67||2009||Yoshiharu Habu (6)||4-3||Masataka Goda|
|68||2010||Yoshiharu Habu (7)||4-0||Hiroyuki Miura|
|69||2011||Toshiyuki Moriuchi (6)||4-3||Yoshiharu Habu|
|70||2012||Toshiyuki Moriuchi (7)||4-2||Yoshiharu Habu|
|71||2013||Toshiyuki Moriuchi (8)||4-1||Yoshiharu Habu|
|72||2014||Yoshiharu Habu (8)||4-0||Toshiyuki Moriuchi|
- Most titles overall: Yasuharu Oyama, 18 [e]
- Most consecutive titles: Yasuharu Oyama, 13 in a row (1959-1971). [f]
- Oldest player to win title: Kunio Yonenaga, 49 years 11 months (1993)
- Youngest player to win title: Koji Tanigawa, 21 years old (1983)
- Oldest player to challenge for title: Yasuharu Oyama, 63 years old (1986)
- Youngest player to challenge for title: Hifumi Katoh, 20 years old (1960)
- Most times recapturing title: Yoshiharu Habu, 3 [g]
- Longest period between titles: Yoshiharu Habu, 6 years (1997-2002)
- Although typically awarded upon retirement or death, a special exception was made for Oyama and he was officially awarded the title while still active in special recognition of his excellent results in professional play, including being the Meijin for 13 years in a row from 1959 to 1971.
- 12-player preliminary tournament held and top four finishers awarded "reserve qualifier" status. Each reserve qualifier then played a 3-game half-handicap non-title match against Kimura: Kimura alternated between giving a lance handicap and no handicap. Reserve qualifiers had to win their respective 3-game match to gain the right to challenge Kimura in a 7-game match for the title. (A playoff was to be held if multiple reserve qualifiers won their respective matches.) Since Kimura won all of the half-handicap matches, no reserve qualifier was able qualify as his challenger.
- A tournament to determine a challenger for Kimura did start, but was cancelled while in progress due to the Second World War
- The JSA unable to come to terms with Asahi Shimbun, the match's sponsor, over the prize fund. The JSA requested that the total prize fund be increased from 11,000,000 yen to 30,000,000 yen, but Asahi Shimbun refused. Negotiations were held in attempt to find a compromise, but were unsuccessful and the Asahi Shimbun's sponsorship of the match was ended.
- Nakahara is next with 15, followed by Kimura, Moriuchi, and Habu with eight apiece, and Tanigawa with five. Only Tanigawa, Habu and Moriuchi are still active.
- Nakahara is next with nine in a row (1972-1981)
- Habu lost the title for first time in 1997, but won it back in 2003. He lost the title again in 2004, only to recapture it for the second time in 2008. He lost title for the third time in 2011, but recaptured it again three years later in 2014.
- 組織概要: 創立・沿革 [Organization outline: Founding and history] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- 将棋の略史:家元の成立 [Brief history of Shogi: The Iemoto system] (in Japanese). Japan Shogi Association, Kansai Headquarter. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- 名人戦・順位戦 [The Meijin Match and Jun'isen] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- 順位戦について [About the Jun'isen] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- 永世称号の規定はどうなっているのでしょうか。 [What are the requirements for "lifetime titles"?] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- 歴代名人一覧 [List of Lifetime Meijin] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- 中原 誠永世十段・名誉王座が永世名人（十六世名人）を襲位 [Makoto Nakahara, Lifetime 10 dan and Lifetime Oza, awarded Lifetime Meijin title (16th Lifetime Meijin)] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. 9 November 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
- 中原誠十六世名人が引退へ [Makoto Nakahara, 16th Lifetime Meijin, announces retirement] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. 12 March 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
- 谷川九段, 詰将棋ベスト100 永世名人作品集 [Tanigawa 9-dan, Tsume Shogi Best 100: Lifetime Meijin's Collection]. Asahi Shimbun Digital (in Japanese). 6 September 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- 森内俊之名人、十八世名人の資格を獲得 [Moriuchi Meijin qualifies for 18th Lifetime Meijin title] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. 30 June 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- 羽生善治、十九世名人の資格を獲得 [Yoshiharu Habu qualifies for 19th Lifetime Meijin title] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. 17 June 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- 名人戦・順位戦過去の結果 [Meijin match and Jun'isen past results] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- 米長邦雄さん死去 将棋永世棋聖・元名人 [Lifetime Kisei and former Meijin Kunio Yonenaga dies. ]. 朝日新聞 Digital (in Japanese) (Tokyo, Japan: Asahi Shimbun). 18 December 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- 山村, 英樹 (22 May 2014). 名人戦:羽生、４戦全勝で奪取 史上初３回目返り咲き [Meijin Match: Habu wins four of four to take title, first player in history to recapture title three times.]. 毎日新聞 (in Japanese) (Tokyo, Japan: Mainichi Newspapers). Retrieved 26 May 2014.