© Igo Idol Project

Japan Now Has An Idol Unit For The Game of Go

In the last five years, the complex and challenging game of Go (also known as igo in Japanese) has made strides internationally, with the American Go Association's Professional System established in 2012 and the European Go Federation establishing their's two years later in 2014. The venerable game, born in China and refined in Japan, is played by more than 40 million people around the world.

Go has also entered popular culture. Game maker Atari's name comes from a Go term. However, surely the interest in Go and the noticeable increase in the Go-playing population around the world can be partly attributed to Yumi Hotta's award-winning manga and anime Hikaru no Go, which was translated and broadcast into several languages.

At the same time, idol culture in Japan continues to diversify. In addition to mainstream idol groups such as AKB48 and Nogizaka 46, there are underground idols exploring a variety of musical genres, local idols promoting their hometown's culture, idols produced by maid cafes, and most recently, hobby-based idol units have emerged. For example, Alice Project's Game Girls who are composed of video game fans or Station composed of train and railway fans.

Therefore, it makes sense that these two trends should eventually converge...

Introducing the Go Idol Project

© Igo Idol Project

Produced by Kazumori Nagayo, the winner of the 5th National Cable TV Cup and the runner up at the 6th Asahi Amateur Meijin Cup who operates the Nagayojuku Igo Salon, the Go Idol Project (also known as IGO-DOL) is an idol unit created to promote the game of Go. Indeed, despite the increasing popularity of Go worldwide, as Nagayo explains on the Go Idol Project's website, Go still has a conservative air about it and is often seen as a game enjoyed by "old men." He hopes that this project will give Go a more positive and happy image. If the first year members are successful, Nagayo hopes the group will continue to grow with a second year class and so on.

In an interesting twist, the charismatic women of the Go Idol Project have no prior experience playing Go! Instead, they will learn how to play the game from scratch under the tutelage of an instructor. Nagayo hopes that this process will not only create new ties between Go and other fields, but also revitalize the world of Go. He also hopes that people will be inspired by the idols doing their best to learn the game, thereby turning them into fans who will continue to support the idols as they reach towards their dreams.


Itoko Oba

© Igo Idol Project

  • Nickname: Itoko
  • Special skill: Making bread
  • Hobbies: Listening to jazz, appreciating paintings at art museums, enjoying Japanese cuisine
  • Strength(s): Quick to take action on my decisions
  • Weakness(es): I'm a worrier
  • Commitment to Go: I really get into competitive games, so I intend doing my best while having a good time!
  • Background: Born in Fukuoka, raised in Tokyo


  • Pro violinist
  • Miss World Japan 2015 Talent Division Winner
  • Graduate of Toho Gakuen School of Music
  • Twitter


© Igo Idol Project

  • Special skill: Trilingual in Japanese, English, French
  • Hobbies: Cosplaying, watching movies and anime, fashion
  • Strength(s): I'm a hard worker
  • Weakness(es): I lack concentration
  • Commitment to Go: I want to learn Japanese games.
  • Background: Born in France



© Igo Idol Project

  • Hobbies: Watching soccer games, cosplaying
  • Strength(s): I'm proactive!
  • Weakness(es): I get tired of things quickly
  • Commitment to Go: I'm going to get stronger!
  • Background: Born in Saitama


  • Die-hard fan of Kawasaki Frontale
  • Twitter

Chiharu Suzuki

© Igo Idol Project

  • Nickname: Suzuchi
  • Special skill: Korean language, acting
  • Hobbies: Going for walks, tending to my garden
  • Strength(s): I'm full of curiosity and very proactive
  • Weakness(es): I don't think enough about consequences
  • Commitment to Go: I hope I will become a fan of Go and become a source of information promoting Go to people around me!
  • Background: Born in Kanagawa.



The idols will conduct most of their activities as members of the Go Idol Project at two main locations:

  • Igo Room (Near Mitaka Station): This room will be the main hub for the idols and will include a broadcasting studio. The location has been secured and soundproofing construction will begin shortly.
  • Nagayojuku Igo Salon (Musashikosugi): This is a clean and well-maintained Go salon.


  • Official broadcasts (weekly 2 hour shows on weekends): Professional Go players or Go instructors play against the Go Idol Project idols in evaluation matches to test their Go abilities.
  • Self-conducted broadcasts (weekly 2 hour shows on weekdays): The idols will go over what they learned that week.
  • Fan meetup events (in Mitaka or Musashikosugi)
  • Fan club (private Facebook group) where fans and idols can interact.



Go Idol Project / IGO-DOL is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on the Japanese crowdfunding platform Campfire. Although they have reached 85% of their 500,000 JPY goal at the time of writing, they could use your help and support to make sure they reach the finish line!

Several rewards are available at different tiers:

  • 1,500 JPY: 1 original Go Idol Project sticker (5 cm X 5 cm)
  • 3,000 JPY: 1 admission to an official broadcast at one of the two locations
  • 6,000 JPY: Admission to the official Go Idol Project Fan Club
  • 10,000 JPY: 4 admissions to official broadcasts at one of the two locations
  • 30,000 JPY: 1 Go Idol Project member will attend your event (transportation fee not included)
  • 100,000 JPY: Admission to all 24 official broadcasts for 1 Go Idol Project member + Your name included in the credits of the broadcast video
  • 300,000 JPY: Admission to all 24 official broadcasts for all 4 Go Idol Project members + Your name listed on official website as special contributor

If you want to participate, please see the campaign page.

Upcoming Events

Go Idol Project Second Debut Event:

  • Date: December 10
  • Time: 1pm to 4pm
  • Place: Musashikosugi branch of Nagayojuku Igo Salon
  • Address: 3rd Fl., Ando Bldg., 3-26 Kosugimachi, Nakahara-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa Pref. (神奈川県川崎市中原区小杉町3-26安藤ビル3階)
  • Description: Singing by Louise, dancing by former Johnny's Jr. member and Go instructor Kenji Sakamaki, comic skits by Chiharu Suzuki and Shun Shuto, talk show with Yurika and Go instructor Kotaro Fujishita, cosplay photo session with Yurika, Introduction to Go lesson, group photo session with all members of Go Idol Project, and more!

For more information about IGO-DOL, you can follow their official Twitter account or look for updates on their official website.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.