Danger Monkey Go Stones joins forces with Baduk Club
Howdy from Colorado!
My name's Solomon and I'm an AGA 3-dan. I began playing Go in 2001, and in 2020 I began selling Go equipment online. I'm thrilled to be joining forces with Devin at BadukClub, since we share a love of the game and a mission to bring affordable sets to Go Players worldwide.
In 2003 I moved to Japan to teach English. I didn't speak Japanese when I arrived, but I slowly picked it up. Outside of work, I filled my time with soccer, choir, and Go. I'd play once a week at the municipal building with some old timers, and once a week with Yokoyama Sensei. After two years I returned to the US, and Yokoji gave me a parting gift of a slate and shell set of stones. I still use them. He was a great friend, and I'm sure that I carry his calm play style with me in my games.
Over the course of the next 15 years, I built new friendships through the game of Go and established a club that meets regularly in Denver. At least, it did, until the Covid-19 pandemic.
2020 has been a difficult year, to be sure, and there's still heartache and hard work ahead. But it's also important to have something to look forward to.
Like so many communities, this crisis took from our little Go club the joy of meeting face-to-face. There's something special about gathering together over a table and holding the pieces in our hands. It's something I hope we can enjoy again someday. So, during lockdown -- missing my friends, missing our games and our community -- I decided to do something.
I thought about Yokoji, and I remembered when he handed me a humble set of slate and shell. I still treasure the memory. I started making phone calls. I talked to a couple dozen people that play Go in Denver and gauged their interest in getting slate and shell. I explained that the least expensive option was Sea Mail shipping, which meant that the processing time would probably turn these items into Christmas presents, but no one seemed to mind.
However, apart from a few sets on Ebay, there didn't seem to be much available and the shipping expenses were absurd. The unfortunate fact is that, even with Sea Mail and combined shipping, the average price to get something across Japan and then over the Pacific Ocean is about $4/pound. That means a 40-pound board set costs $160 to ship from its source across Japan and then out of the country (in addition to the purchase price, taxes, fees, currency conversion, etc).
In June I had a bright idea and contacted a friend in Kyoto. "[Hey Van, would you mind if I shipped some Go stuff to you, and had you bring it back the next time you visit the US?]" When he agreed, I contacted one of the sellers and negotiated local shipping across Japan for about $20. Four sets later, I realized that I would be filling his entire suitcase. I told Van I'd pay for shipping, and I looked for a new solution. Still, that was 1 international parcel instead of 4. Not a bad start. (Thanks, Van!)
July rolled around and I began making this project a priority. I partnered up with a warehouse in Japan for international shipping, and I started scouring peer-to-peer networks for used stones. And, to be honest, I found more than I needed. I started a store on Etsy, and received a lot of visibility and positive reviews. I was able to bring down the cost of a good set, though Etsy's fees limited that to some degree. Then Devin invited me to join Baduk Club and I could tell we'd make a good team.
As I write this, boats are traversing the Pacific Ocean with dozens of sets of Go stones, rescued from the shelves of pawn shops, thrift stores, antique shops, and garage sales, all waiting to find a new life beyond Japan. Take a look, and sign up for our Newsletter for updates.
Over the last several months I've seen just about everything that Japan has to offer in terms of Go Equipment, from shops with dedicated staff to peer-to-peer sellers just emptying out their storage lockers. It's been wild.
And there's some gorgeous stuff out there. So if you have a bigger budget, let me know how big and I'll either help connect you with what you want or I'll keep my eye out for it.
Thanks for reading this far. I hope I can help pair you up with a set that will help bring you and your friends together for years to come.
Happy shopping, and thanks for being part of this journey with me,