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Sensational Shōgi set on display at Southend Museum


Wednesday 2nd May 2017


Southend-on-Sea Central Museum is currently host to an unusual and beautifully crafted porcelain Japanese shōgi set on loan from the Horniman Museum in London until the 22nd July.


As part of “Object in Focus”, a three year project funded by the Arts Council England to loan objects to museums across the country, Southend Museums has developed “Toys and Games”; an exhibition exploring the social and design history of toys and games, highlighting iconic brands, the power of packaging and how toys continue to captivate us across generations.


Traditional games and toys are a fundamental part of the development of society, with evidence that board games predate the development of writing.  Initially games were played by adults and it was not until the late 18th century that card and board games were created specifically for children.


This unique shōgi set was purchased by the Horniman Museum and Gardens in 1951. It is believed to have been made by the Japanese porcelain factory Kutani, with the pieces dating from 1720, and the board dating from 1780. Most shōgi sets were made of wood, with luxury sets being made of lacquered wood decorated with gold, meaning this set would be extremely rare, however it is more likely that it was made in the early 19th century, but even so this is a very unusual and intriguing item.


Dating back to Japan around the 10th or 11th century the game of shōgi is similar to chess; pieces representing kings, generals and foot soldiers move across the board with the object of the game to capture the King. Some pieces are quite different from the chess we know, for instance what is known as a ‘rook’ in chess is a ‘flying chariot’ in shōgi.


Scott Dolling, Director of Culture, Tourism and Property said: “We are very pleased to be a part of the Object in Focus project.  With the loan of this remarkable shōgi set, the curators of Southend Museums have put together a great exhibition which will bring nostalgia and intrigue to adults and children alike.”


Objects in Focus will be on display until 22nd July, the Southend-on-Sea Central Museums is open Tuesdays – Saturdays 10:00 – 17:00. For more information please visit their website:



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