Meijin (名人) is one of the 8 titles in Japanese professional shogi, and is the most prestigious title, along with Ryūō. The word meijin (名 mei "excellent, artful", 人 jin "person") refers to a highly skilled master of a certain field (the various arts found in traditional Japanese culture, such as the Japanese tea ceremony, go, competitive karuta, and rakugo).
The Meijin institution started in the 17th century (Edo period), and for around 300 years (1612–1937) 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. This is known as the Lifetime Meijin system (終生名人制). In 1935, however, the Japan Shogi Association (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, known as the Real Strength Meijin system (実力名人制). 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, 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 title is only open to professional shogi players that are members of the Meijin tournament system. This means that unlike some other tournaments amateur players, women's professional players, and regular professionals outside of the Meijin tournament system are not allowed to compete in the tournament.
The Meijin ranking tournaments are divided into five classes (A, B1, B2, C1, C2) and players compete against others within their class in a round-robin tournament throughout the year. Players who perform well during their class tournament 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 Class C2, 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 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 (five successive promotions) after their debut before they can qualify to challenge for the title of Meijin.
The first thirteen Lifetime Meijins (終生名人 shūsei meijin) were determined through succession. The Lifetime Meijin as a competitive title, eisei meijin (永世名人), 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 (with exceptions).
- 1st: Sōkei Ōhashi I [ja]
- 2nd: Sōko Ōhashi [ja]
- 3rd: Sōkan Itō I [ja]
- 4th: Sōkei Ōhashi III [ja]
- 5th: Sōin Itō I [ja]
- 6th: Sōyo Ōhashi II [ja]
- 7th: Sōkan Itō II [ja]
- 8th: Sōkei Ōhashi VI [ja]
- 9th: Soei Ōhashi I [ja]
- 10th: Sōkan Itō III [ja]
- 11th: Sōin Itō III [ja]
- 12th: Gohei Ono [ja]
- 13th: Kinjirō Sekine [ja]
- 14th Lifetime Meijin: Yoshio Kimura (Qualified for title in 1946 at age 41. Awarded in 1952 upon retirement)
- 15th Lifetime Meijin: Yasuharu Ōyama (Qualified for title at age 33 in 1956. Awarded in 1976[a])
- 16th Lifetime Meijin: Makoto Nakahara (Qualified for title at age 29 in 1976. Awarded in 2007, prior to his retirement in 2009 )
- 17th Lifetime Meijin: Koji Tanigawa (Qualified for title at age 35 in 1997. Still active)
- 18th Lifetime Meijin: Toshiyuki Moriuchi (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 Ōyama|
|8||1949||Yoshio Kimura (6)||3-2||Masao Tsukada|
|9||1950||Yoshio Kimura (7)||4-2||Yasuharu Ōyama|
|10||1951||Yoshio Kimura (8)||4-2||Kōzō Masuda|
|11||1952||Yasuharu Ōyama||4-1||Yoshio Kimura|
|12||1953||Yasuharu Ōyama (2)||4-1||Kōzō Masuda|
|13||1954||Yasuharu Ōyama (3)||4-1||Kōzō Masuda|
|14||1955||Yasuharu Ōyama (4)||4-2||Kazukiyo Takashima|
|15||1956||Yasuharu Ōyama (5)||4-0||Motoji Hanamura|
|16||1957||Kōzō Masuda||4-2||Yasuharu Ōyama|
|17||1958||Kōzō Masuda (2)||4-2||Yasuharu Ōyama|
|18||1959||Yasuharu Ōyama (6)||4-1||Kōzō Masuda|
|19||1960||Yasuharu Ōyama (7)||4-1||Hifumi Katoh|
|20||1961||Yasuharu Ōyama (8)||4-1||Yuzoh Maruta|
|21||1962||Yasuharu Ōyama (9)||4-0||Tatsuya Futakami|
|22||1963||Yasuharu Ōyama (10)||4-1||Kōzō Masuda|
|23||1964||Yasuharu Ōyama (11)||4-2||Tatsuya Futakami|
|24||1965||Yasuharu Ōyama (12)||4-1||Michiyoshi Yamada|
|25||1966||Yasuharu Ōyama (13)||4-2||Kōzō Masuda|
|26||1967||Yasuharu Ōyama (14)||4-1||Tatsuya Futakami|
|27||1968||Yasuharu Ōyama (15)||4-0||Kōzō Masuda|
|28||1969||Yasuharu Ōyama (16)||4-3||Michio Ariyoshi|
|29||1970||Yasuharu Ōyama (17)||4-1||Rensho Nada|
|30||1971||Yasuharu Ōyama (18)||4-3||Kōzō Masuda|
|31||1972||Makoto Nakahara||4-3||Yasuharu Ōyama|
|32||1973||Makoto Nakahara (2)||4-0||Hifumi Katoh|
|33||1974||Makoto Nakahara (3)||4-3||Yasuharu Ōyama|
|34||1975||Makoto Nakahara (4)||4-3||Nobuyuki Ōuchi|
|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 Ōyama|
|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 Satō||4-3||Koji Tanigawa|
|57||1999||Yasumitsu Satō (2)||4-3||Koji Tanigawa|
|58||2000||Tadahisa Maruyama||4-3||Yasumitsu Satō|
|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 Gōda|
|66||2008||Yoshiharu Habu (5)||4-2||Toshiyuki Moriuchi|
|67||2009||Yoshiharu Habu (6)||4-3||Masataka Gōda|
|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|
|73||2015||Yoshiharu Habu (9)||4-1||Hisashi Namekata|
|74||2016||Amahiko Satō||4-1||Yoshiharu Habu|
|75||2017||Amahiko Satō (2)||4-2||Akira Inaba|
|76||2018||Amahiko Satō (3)||4-2||Yoshiharu Habu|
- Most titles overall: Yasuharu Ōyama, 18 [e]
- Most consecutive titles: Yasuharu Ōyama, 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 Ōyama, 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)
Players by Meijin class
Below is a list of professional players grouped by their class for the 77th Meijin league including their rank in dan as of 22 July 2018[update]. The current Meijin title holder is Amahiko Satō (who, therefore, is not listed in the A class below).
Other professional players not listed here do not participate in the Meijin league and are known as Free Class (フリークラス furii kurasu) players. There were 24 such players as of 10 July 2018[update].
- Although typically awarded upon retirement or death, a special exception was made for Ōyama 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.
- There is also an unrelated Amateur Meijin title that is awarded each year to the winner of the Amateur Meijin Tournament.
- 組織概要: 創立・沿革 [Organization outline: Founding and history] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. 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.
- For instance, the Ryūō title allows one top amateur player and one top women's professional to compete in the lowest bracket of the Ryūō tournament.
- Shōgikai no Ichiban Nagai Hi: Dai Nanajūsanki A Kyū Jun'isen Saishūkyoku 将棋界の一番長い日: 第73期A級順位戦最終局 [Shogi's Longest Day: The Final Round of the 73rd Class A Ranking Class] (Television production) (in Japanese). NHK Educational TV. 29 March 2015. Event occurs at 8:33.
順位戦は全部で5つのクラスがあります。その中で一番上がA級です。そしてA級優勝者が名人に挑戦します。そして, 順位戦は各クラスとも一年間のリーグ戦です...成績上位者は上のクラスに行くことができるんですが, 成績が悪いと降級してしまういうわけなんです。[The are a total of 5 ranking classes. Class A is the top class and the winner earns the right to challenge the current Meijin. Each of the ranking classes lasts one year. Those who finish at the top of their respective class may be promoted to the next highest class, and those who finish at the bottom may be relegated to the next lowest class.
- 順位戦について [About the Jun'isen] (in Japanese). 日本将棋連盟. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- Hosking, Tony (1997). The art of shogi. The Shogi Foundation. ISBN 978-0-95310-890-9.
- 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). Japan Shogi Association. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- "Moriuchi, Yonkiburi Mejin Kaerizaki Shōgi Meijinsen de Habu Kudasu" 森内, 4期ぶり名人返り咲き 将棋名人戦で羽生下す [Moruichi defeats Habu to reclaim Meijin title after losing it 4 years ago]. The Nikkei (in Japanese). Kyodo News. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
- Murase, Shinya (13 June 2012). "Shōgi Meijinsen, Moriuchi Meijin ga Bōei Dairokkyoku Seishi Yonshō Nihai" 将棋名人戦, 森内名人が防衛 第6局制し4勝2敗 [Shogi Meijin match: Moriuchi wins Game 6 to win match 4-2 and defend title]. Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese). Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- "Dai Nanajūikki Meijinsen / Jun'isen Nanaban Shōbu" 第71期名人戦・順位戦 七番勝負 [71st Meijin Match / Challenger Tournament] (in Japanese). Japan Shogi Association. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- Yamamura, Hideki (21 May 2014). "Meijinsen: Habu Yonrenshō de Yonkan ni Aratana "Heisei Densetsu" Tanjō" 名人戦:羽生4連勝で4冠に 新たな「平成伝説」誕生 [Meijin Match: Habu wins four in a row, becomes a 4 crown. A new Heisei legend is born.]. Mainichi Shimbun (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
- Fukamatsu, Shinji (30 May 2015). "Habu Meijin 'Surōpēsu no Tatakai datta' Bōeisen kara Hitoya" 羽生名人 ｢スローペースの戦いだった」防衛戦から一夜 [Habu Meijin One Night After Defending Title: "The games were all slow paced"]. Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese). Retrieved 31 May 2015.
- Yamamura, Hideki (1 June 2016). "Amahiko Sato beats Yoshiharu Habu to capture Meijin title in his first attempt". Mainichi Shimbun. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- "Nijū-hassai Satō, Shin Meijin ni Habu Yaburi Hatsu Taitoru Shōgi Meijin-sen" 28歳佐藤, 新名人に 羽生破り初タイトル 将棋名人戦 [28-year-old Sato defeats Habu to win first major title and become new Meijin]. Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese). 1 June 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
- Murase, Shinya (6 June 2017). "Satō Meijin, Nijūdai Taiketsu Seishi Hatsubōei Shōgi Meijinsen Nanaban Shōbu" 佐藤名人, 20代対決制し初防衛 将棋名人戦七番勝負 [Shogi Meijin 7-game match: Satō Meijin wins the battle of the 20-somethings to defend title for first time]. Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
- Yamamura, Hideki (20 June 2018). "Satō ga Sanrenpa Yonshō Nihai de Habu Kudasu" 佐藤が3連覇 4勝2敗で羽生降す [Satō wins for third consecutive time, defeats Habu 4 games to 2]. Mainichi Shimbun (in Japanese). Retrieved 21 June 2018.
- 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.
- "Kishi Dētābēsu" 棋士データベース [Player database] (in Japanese). Japan Shogi Association. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
- "Furīkurasu Kishi (Nisenjūnananen Rokugatsu Tsuitachi Genzai)" フリークラス棋士一覧（2017年6月1日現在） [List Free Class Players (As of 1 June 2017)] (in Japanese). Japan Shogi Association. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
- "Dai Nanajūnanaki Meijinsen Jun'isen A Kyū" 第７７期名人戦・順位戦 A級 [77th Meijin League Class A] (in Japanese). Japan Shogi Association. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
- "Dai Nanajūnanaki Meijinsen Jun'isen B Kyū Ichi kumi" 第７７期名人戦・順位戦 B級１組 [77th Meijin League Class B1] (in Japanese). Japan Shogi Association. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
- "Dai Nanajūnanaki Meijinsen Jun'isen B Kyū Ni Kumi" 第７７期名人戦・順位戦 B級２組 [77th Meijin League Class B2] (in Japanese). Japan Shogi Association. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
- "Dai Nanajūnanaki Meijinsen Jun'isen C Kyū Ichi Kumi" 第７７期名人戦・順位戦 C級１組 [77th Meijin League Class C1] (in Japanese). Japan Shogi Association. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
- "Dai Nanajūnanaki Meijinsen Jun'isen C Kyū Ni Kumi" 第７７期名人戦・順位戦 C級２組 [77th Meijin League Class C2] (in Japanese). Japan Shogi Association. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
- JSA page: 名人戦・順位戦