I found an article about Yoda Norimoto from 2018, April. It’s in Japanese, unfortunately, so we have to rely on machine translation and I guess we’ll never know what’s actually written there. I mean, I don’t even know English all that well.
The original is behind a paywall 囲碁・依田元名人の妻が「夫よ、お金返して！」ドロ沼訴訟合戦 | 週刊文春 電子版 but there’s a bigger chunk of the article reposted here http://www.igodb.jp/cgi-bin/dailyigo/news.cgi?mode=view&no=8820
“Husband, give back the money!” says wife of ex-Meijin, dire lawsuit battle
Yoda Norimoto 9p. A superstar boasting winning 35 titles, and most irresponsible (? see Buraiha - Wikipedia) players of the go world. His wife is also a go player but right now the couple is in the middle of a fierce battle that doesn’t go according to joseki. The whereabouts of the missing 30 million yen and the outcries of their children - will there ever be a black and white answer to this life and death problem?
In January, Iyama Yuta 7 crowns received People’s Honour Award. In the spring Go world where the celebratory mood still remains, a terrible “off the board battle” is being played out. Moreover, it is not so peaceful because it is between two people who are known as husband and wife go players. “I have endured it for a long time, but recently I have learned that Yoda has been publishing egotistical information. There are many people in the go world who believe stories that are completely different from the facts. I discussed it with my children many times, but I’m determined to make the truth be known” with fatigue says Hara Sachiko 4p (47yo), a female Go player. “Yoda” is her husband, Yoda Norimoto 9p (52yo). The couple is currently involved in three civil lawsuits.
Yoda is one of the top ten Go players in recent years, having won a total of 35 titles, including four Meijin, six Gosei, and two Judan. According to a veteran go reporter. “Yoda is from Hokkaido. He learned go in 4th grade of elementary school and a year later set out to become a pro. In 1980 at 14 years of age he became a pro player. A player who takes go very seriously. On the other hand, he loved gambling such as mahjong and baccarat, and drinking, and was loved by the late Fujisawa Hideyuki. He is “buraiha genius” in the footsteps of Fujisawa. He’s also known as a go instructor for the politician Ozawa Ichiro.” Perhaps of his genius he stands out as eccentric even in go world. "Being late for title game, losing the return ticket for shinkansen. Long ago couldn’t tie his necktie so on TV match it was dangling from the neck and the staff tied it for him. Master Ando Takeo once described Yoda as “a person with talent must lack something.” Even on twitter there were weird statements like “Doing something stupid because you’re drunk is scary. But I’m weird even when sober so drinking doesn’t make much of a difference.” His autobiography published last year in November “Rock-bottom Meijin” describes many unheard of stories such as “Immersed in Kabukicho” and “From rising to baccarat hell”. On March 9th he appeared in a variety show called “密着！なぜソッチの人生選んだの？” He revealed 30-square-meter apartment where he lived after spending all the hundreds of millions of yen he earned in his prime. He also disclosed that he lived separate from his family but didn’t say why.
Yoda and Hara married in 1998. For Yoda it wasn’t a first marriage. Hara became pro in 1988. She gathered popularity among go fans as a young female pro hosting NHK Cup every Sunday etc. Right now she’s on a break from playing but still works as an executive director in Nihon Kiin. They have been married for 20 years and have three sons, the oldest of whom is in his second year of high school. Hara says “Behind the Yoda’s stories, how much the children are hurt by the betrayal of their father, especially regarding money… Has Yoda ever thought about that?”
The first trouble came in 2004. Yoda lost his Meijin title that year. In “Rock-bottom Meijin,” it’s written that he was introduced to a certain person who got him involved in speculative stocks. “Yoda’s income was often close to 100 million yen, but he spends all the money that come in. He even spends the share for municipal tax and insurance payment. His income was reduced due to the loss of his title, and he also borrowed 4.4 million yen from my mother to fund his stock, saying, ‘I will pay it back in three months with 10 percent more’. One day, pale-faced Yoda told me, ‘I’ve lost all my money in stocks. I borrowed 10 million yen from my mahjong friends and others, but I can’t pay it back anymore. I want you to sort it out.’ I was afraid that they would come to collect. I consulted Yoda’s father and borrowed 10 million yen from his retirement fund. The money Yoda spent in 2004 amounted to 77 million yen. This is the amount Yoda personally squandered.”
For the next several years, how to get through the monthly payments became a heavy theme for Hara. "When we first got married, we lived in my apartment and was given (???) 1,000,000 yen a month as living expenses, but after we bought the apartment in 2003, the amount was lowered to 600,000 yen. At that time, Yoda’s income was about 4 million yen per month. After that, living expenses gradually went down, finally reaching zero in 2014. My personal money was 30 million yen, but I used most of it to pay taxes. Yoda and I had about 20 million yen in income, but not enough money at all to pay taxes and debts. For this reason, we repeatedly borrowed money again. I learned for the first time that banks would not lend us money to pay our taxes.
I managed to get by for a few years while refinancing the mortgage and doing other things, but things changed again in 2010 when Yoda dropped out of the league tournament that decides the challengers for Meijin and Honinbo. We later found out that Yoda had ‘hidden money’ of about 20 million yen in his brokerage account after 2004. This was at a time when we were busy paying off Yoda’s debts. However, he probably used up all that money, and his income dropped even further, so he began to complain about his finances. He said, ‘I can’t win games because you don’t give me money,’ and ‘I can’t win because I can’t have fun’. I was shocked and said, ‘You haven’t finished cleaning up the debt you created, have you?’ But he wouldn’t listen to me, saying, ‘That was a long time ago!’
In February 2015, Yoda, who was away in Hokkaido on business, sent me an e-mail. He said, ‘We’re gonna move when I’m back. I decided where to too.’ Until then, we had never talked about moving. I didn’t understand what it meant. After that, he continued, ‘I am the owner of the house, so even if the family objects it doesn’t matter. I’ll have my lawyer explain it to you, so go see him.’ Not yet grasping the situation I went to see the lawyer, who explained to me that Yoda’s debt exceeded 200 million yen and that since the family finances are collapsed, we should sell the apartment and use the proceeds to pay off the debt. However, at that point, our debts have been reduced considerably; except for the remaining mortgage of 136 million yen, our borrowers are each other’s parents and Nihon Ki-in, etc., so there is nothing unexpected there. I explained that there was no need to sell the apartment, and the lawyer agreed. However, a short time later, I was called again and received a new proposal. That is, the money from the sale of the apartment would be kept by the lawyer, and the lawyer would also carry out debt repayment. The money would not go into Yoda’s hands, but would be used for children education expenses. For the children’s future… I agreed to sell it."
They decided to think about moving during the summer vacation, but two months later, in April, things unfolded rapidly. An acquaintance of Yoda’s, a broker who sells and buys property, reported, “We have a customer who wants to buy an apartment. If we don’t do it soon, they will buy another property”. With proclamations “Let’s sell it here. We have to sell immediately” and so on from Yoda I hurriedly looked for a place to move to. Since our oldest son was attending municipal middle school moving out of the municipality wasn’t an option, and to guarantee a go study room for Yoda we moved to a rental apartment with a rent of 460,000 yen. Although expensive, it was about 200,000 yen less than the previous loan. Yoda rented an apartment nearby for about 150,000 yen rent and started living there, saying, ‘I can’t study Go because I’m too busy moving around.’ However, Yoda broke his promise and appropriated the money he received from the sale of the apartment. Even after paying off the remaining loan from approximately 200 million yen, paying taxes, and paying off Yoda’s personal debts, 30 million yen remained with Yoda. The children were devastated, not only they were forced to move, which they had not been proactive about in the first place, their own school funds had been taken from them, and most importantly, that their father had cheated them."
In June of the same year, the lawyer sent a letter to Yoda. The letter expressed regret that Yoda had not kept his promise about the remainder of the money and stated, “As a father and husband, I ask that you discuss this matter with your wife and decide how to use the ‘leftover money’ for the children’s future”. Hara says. “That year around July Yoda, without telling his family, requested to terminate the apartment contract at the end of September. He said, ‘There is no reason for me to pay for a family member who lives separately’. Yoda left the house unilaterally, and we had never discussed living separately or divorce until then. I wish I had money, but my personal money has already been used up to pay off Yoda’s debts. I have also used my available credit. I was able to refinance the house to my name, but even now I have to borrow money again to get by.”
Yoda asked the court for “mediation of the sharing of marital expenses”. It was thought to reduce child support payments etc. but the mediation resulted in the court ordering Yoda to pay 460,000 yen per month. Yoda also filed a lawsuit seeking regular visitation with her children and a divorce. Hara, on the other hand, is also suing, seeking repayment of money paid on Yoda’s behalf during the marriage.
Of greatest concern is the involvement of the three children in their parents’ dispute. “Yoda has not only repeatedly refused to pay the examination and enrollment fees for his second son, which he had promised to allocate from the proceeds of the sale of the condominium, but he has also not paid the school fees since April of this year. I guess they think that since I took control of the bankbook since 2004, it is as if I took their money. I have been contacted by them to disclose my bankbook in exchange for payment of school fees. I sent a copy of the bankbook from 2004 onwards to Yoda’s lawyer and attached details of my incoming and outgoing payments. But to begin with, if I had money now, I would immediately pay my son’s school fees without having to ask Yoda. Yoda doesn’t even understand such an obvious thing.”
The children have sent their father repeated e-mails over the past two years. They contain heartbreaking outcries such as, “Actually, the promise was to allocate our school expenses first from the money from selling the apartment!” and “I found out from the bank book that all the money saved up from when I was little for my school fund went to make up for papa’s gambling and not being able to pay taxes,” etc. According to Hara, the second son, a third-year middle school student, has stopped attending school since last fall because he feels that he cannot go to school without paying school fees, and he was unable to attend the opening ceremony this month. We wonder how Yoda, who wrote that his reason for writing “Rock-bottom Meijin” was to “pass on to my sons what I have learned and grasped in my life,” feels about this. So we asked him.
Q: Why didn’t you allocate the money from selling the apartment to children’s education?
A: There are many things mixed up in this issue. The roots run deep. I have done nothing wrong that I would be ashamed or feel guilty. But I think the way I did it was wrong.
Q: At what point is that?
A: Because human beings are emotional animals… Well, we have a different value system. I can’t talk about it unless I know Hara’s true intentions.
And at the most interesting point the repost ends. Dammit. I guess we’ll never learn even the glimpse of the other side of the story. And take into account that this was translated by an idiot using still very imperfect machine translation. Some sentences I really couldn’t figure out. Give it a discount.
Makes me wanna read his book. Too bad can’t buy it.
@Lys pointed out an earlier article from 2014.
Here’s the cleaned up translation.
About the eccentricities of a genius that surpass normal people’s understanding.
Professional Go players are geniuses who have came out on top in the fierce competition for survival among the many strong boys and girls in Japan. In the world of professional Go players, Yoda Norimoto 9p is a professional among professionals, a genius among geniuses who’s achieved brilliant results.
He has won 35 domestic titles, including 4 Meijin and 6 Gosei. He has also shown unparalleled strength in international tournaments. In Japanese go which is considered to be behind China and Korea this deserves a special mention.
Yoda 9p is an elite Go player who emerged at a young age and won many titles but is also said to be the “last buraiha”. We asked his wife, Hara Sachiko 4p, about these great moments.
Episode 1 “The case of the 70,000 yen water bill”
My husband can’t do anything to a surprising degree. For example, he can’t turn off the gas stove (laughs). When we just married, I couldn’t right away quit my job, so I had to go to another districts, but even so, I thought that since we were newlyweds, I should do the housework properly. I cooked the food so that my husband wouldn’t have any trouble, he only needed to heat it up.
When I returned home, he was alive and well, but his beard had grown uncontrollably, beer cans were scattered around, and the gas stove was still on. He probably didn’t know how to put out the fire, so he left the stove burning for several days.
There was another story. When we got married and my husband was moving out of the room he had been living in, he received a notice demanding to pay for the water. The water bill was 70,000 yen. Seventy thousand for a person living alone. He probably was just leaving the water running.
But he went to complain, ‘There is no way I used this much’. The water department gave him a concession, saying, ‘Let’s cut the amount in half,’ but my husband got mad, ‘If I did use that much, I’ll pay as much. For what reason it should be half the amount!’
Episode 2 “The case of gambling the prize money in advance”
As he was on the verge of winning the title, his income naturally increased, but he was also very generous in the way he spent it. He was a frequent visitor to casinos, in Korea and other countries, he was a regular customer. So much that whenever he went to a casino, he was quickly ushered to a VIP room in the back. With chips of completely different color. Of course, he was full of determination to win but there’s no way he could win like in go.
One time, before an important world tournament he lost the prize money amount beforehand in a casino. And then worked really hard to win it back at the tournament.
When I asked him, ‘Doesn’t this make winning meaningless?’ He replied earnestly ‘What is better: to work hard to get back the money lost at casino and win or have none of that but also don’t win?’
Ideally, it should be winning in go and not going to casinos, but I guess it can’t be helped if losing at casino motivates him. The incredible thing is that the amount lost is so close to the prize money. Perhaps the casino was really good at manipulating their operation (laughs).
Episode 3 “The case of playing Romance of the Three Kingdoms II”
After a period of casino gambling the object of the interest changed. For some reason he got into playing NES. The era changed to the next generation consoles (Playstation and Sega Saturn) long time ago but he played mostly Romance of the Three Kingdoms II. Not the latest edition but specifically the second one, in the end he was doing just that for around 7 years.
In the beginning he played 20 hours a day. If Lu Bu (strongest commander) from his kingdom lost he would get angry and throw the controller (laughs).
But when it came time for the title match, whatever small amount of self-control he had worked. He would give the console and the game to me and ask to throw them away. Throwing away is fine but as soon as the game was over he wanted to play again, he would go around second-hand game stores close to the playing venue, get something and immediately start playing in the hotel room. Same when he went abroad. It was a circle of throwing away - buying, throwing away - buying. Well, it’s a little healthier than blowing tons of money in a casino (laughs).
Remember this game from what, like, 2008?