Japan's Shogi, Go champions given national award for sweeping major titles
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The government bestowed the People's Honor Award on Tuesday on two champions of the Japanese traditional board games of shogi and Go, making the two men the first recipients of the prize in their respective fields.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave the awards to shogi champion Yoshiharu Habu, 47, and Go master Yuta Iyama, 28, in a ceremony at his office.
"You have achieved historic accomplishments and given dreams and inspiration to so many people," Abe said as he handed the men their awards.
"Receiving this award is an honor...I want to continue to challenge my own limits," Habu said at a joint press conference in Tokyo after the ceremony.
"This honor is more than I deserve," Iyama said. "From here on I want to make Japan's presence known in international tournaments."
Habu captured the Ryuo title late last year and became the first-ever champion to hold all seven major lifetime titles of shogi, a board game also known as Japanese chess.
Iyama secured all seven titles of Japanese Go for the second time, recapturing the title of Meijin in a match in October.
As commemorative gifts, the prime minister presented Habu and Iyama with calligraphy sets that included inkwells and brushes inside boxes decorated with cloisonne enamelwork. The word for cloisonne in Japanese is written with the characters for "seven treasures," a nod to each man's seven titles.
In return, they each gave Abe a set of boards and pieces from their respective games.
Established in 1977, the People's Honor Award has been given to 25 individuals -- including the two latest recipients -- and one group for their achievements in sports, entertainment and culture.
Wrestling champion Kaori Icho was given the award in 2016 after she became the first female wrestler to win gold medals at four consecutive Olympic Games, following the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.