Japanese shogi prodigy Sota Fujii received the Prime Minister’s Award on Monday for his achievement in becoming the first player ever to hold all eight major titles in the traditional board game.
The government commended the 21-year-old player, who secured the last remaining Oza title in October, for inspiring dreams and hopes among the public while contributing significantly to the development of Japan’s culture.
After receiving the award from Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Fujii told reporters that he was “extremely honored” and he had a “wonderful time” during the ceremony held at the premier’s official residence earlier in the day.
Japanese shogi prodigy Sota Fujii (L) receives the Prime Minister’s Award from Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the premier’s official residence in Tokyo on Nov. 13, 2023. (Pool photo)(Kyodo)
Before Fujii, the government had given the award to 35 individuals and 16 groups, including athletes, cultural figures and astronauts. He has completed the eight-title sweep since becoming the youngest-ever title holder at age 17 in 2020.
Critics, however, argue that prime ministers often utilize the prize or the People’s Honor Award, another one for individuals and groups with great feats, to capitalize on the popular recipients and appeal to voters when their support rates are sluggish.
The approval ratings for Kishida’s Cabinet have tumbled to the lowest levels since he became prime minister in October 2021, recent opinion polls showed.