How to Play Japanese Three-Player Mahjong
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News from Hiroshima, 2004



Saturday 27th November 2004: Kenyon Victorious

Jaime hosted what turned out to be the last mahjong session of 2004 tonight. This report is being written up about six weeks after the event, so it is a bit hazy...

Jaime, Sawako, David were joined by Kenyon, who came with a box of 24 cans of ersatz cola to keep him going through the evening while the others stocked up on booze from the local convenience store. This was one factor that contributed to the New Kid on the Block's success...

Another factor was the inevitable distraction of football on t.v. Football isn't Kenyon's thing so, unlike David and Jaime, he was not distracted by the progress of the West Bromwich Albion versus Manchester United match, a match in which after a stirling defence and one or two fine chances, Manchester Utd scored against the run of play and then popped in another couple... at least, by the end of the match the score was 0-3 and several empty cans of beer (and ersatz cola) littering the tatami mats...

Our third and most compelling excuse for our miserable performance at the mahjong table is that our two "Irish" pals Brendledum and Raydledee came crashing into Jaime's flat fresh from Noda and Simon's gig where they had spent their time flirting with Mrs Smith before being rattled by a MONSTROUS CROW and running off with the Bourbon.

Then Tim arrived with a bag of beer and snacks. There was no hope of victory for the old boys against a young parvenu who was sober and staying that way, not interested in football and not au fait with Raydledee's gossip or Brendledum's pump-action blarney. Kenyon screened it all out and got on with building winning hands! It has been asked before, but we ask again: is he a man or a computer???

As for what happened at the mahjong table, er, I forget the details, except for the obvious one that Kenyon emerged victorious at the expense of the Old Timers...

Comments

Comment posted by Kenyon, on January 18, 2005, 8:17 am
Hey now, I like football. I may not be as much into as you guys, but I enjoy it as a game. Can't play were a lick, and yes I do refer to it as soccer often, but I'm an American so it goes.

But it was easy for me to screen out the rattle battle stuff.

And to your last question I'd say it's about 80/20
Comment posted by Anonymous, on January 10, 2005, 9:25 am
against the run of play.....the old man's memory is finally fading.

23rd November: Richard 's Farewell MJ Party

Richard Noone's short but eventful career as a "Hiroshima Cock's Eye 3 Player Mahjong" afficionado came to an end today with an afternoon and evening "friendly" session at his soon-to-be-vacated apartment.

David wrenched himself away from the Internet Centre (where he had been engrossed in writing an essay on the political background of Romeo and Juliet) and arrived at Richards at about 3:30pm to find Richard and Eri engaged in a two-player practice game.

Kenyon arrived a little later and it was agreed that this should be a "friendly game" with no reckoning up of mula at the end of the session.

And so off we went. By the time Tim arrived the fridge had been emptied of beer and Richard, Eri and Kenyon's trays had been emptied of score sticks several times over.

Tim had come straight from the JALT conference weekend which was held in Osaka this year (JALT = Japan Association of Language Teachers) and restocked the fridge for us while expatiating from both ends about the delights of a red-hot kimchi-based meal he had shared with former Lang teachers George and Linda who are now thriving in Kurashiki...

This reminded us that it was high time for dinner. The Menu: Pizza and potatoes delivered by the pizza delivery man.

Best hand of the session: David went "Pon" on 1-Bamboo, Red Dragon and White Dragon. Richard declared Riichi and David continued to discard with abandon from his remaining the tiles he pulled from the wall. Richard had discarded two Green Dragons earlier in the game. Kenyon drew a tile from the wall, surveyed Richard's discard row and also cast his eye over David's two sets of Dragons and said "You can't be waiting for this can you...?" and, playing safe to Richard, discarded the Green Dragon.

"RON!" cried David, who had been waiting with a set of three 9-Bamboo and one Green Dragon; waiting for the fourth Green Dragon to pop out to give him a hand consisting of: Sho Sangen; Honitsu; Honrotoitoi. Thank you very much, Kenyon!

Earlier in the game Eri had gone "Pon" and then opened up her hidden set of three White Dragon's by turning them into an open Kan after which she went out with a mixed hand. There was some debate as to whether or not that was legal or a Chombo although the benefit of the doubt went to Eri although David said he thought it was actually illegal according to the rules we play by. I have just looked up the passage that clinches it:

"To count as a Yaku a Dragon or active Wind open Pon or Kan must be claimed Sakizuke. That is, a Dragon or active Wind must be the first open Pon or open Kan that a player claims in order for it and all subsequent open dragon or active wind Pon or Kan to count as Yaku."

Towards the end of the evening, with Kenyon Tempai, David went Riichi and knocked a tile off the wall while checking the hidden Dora tiles, as is his right having gone Riichi. Kenyon said that the fallen tile gave him information about the availability (or lack thereof) of a tile that he needed to complete his hand. Tim was vocal in heckling from the sidelines while Richard also threw in his oar. David stolidly maintained his right to look and batted away any demands for a chombo fine to be levied (we are forever joking that players' clumsiness = a Chombo although fines are seldom insisted upon as nothing is mentioned about clumsiness in the rules as they stand on this website!)...

It had gone 11pm by now and David had to head off for the last train... Tim stayed on another hour... Richard consumed so much booze that it was reported that he could not remember even playing mahjong... There was a lachrymose farewell scene which David was relieved to have missed after all!

GOOD LUCK BACK IN HOUSTON, RICHARD. I WAS HAPPY TO HEAR THAT YOU GOT PAID BEFORE YOU GOT OUT. WE LOOK FORWARD TO REPORTS OF AMERICAN MAHJONG ACTION. DH.

Comments

Comment posted by David, on January 9, 2005, 9:02 am
I hear that George and Linda have got married and have returned to the USA.

Congratulations and best wishes you two!

19th November: Yaki Udon Yakitori" by David on November 29, 2004

Kenyon, suffering a double whammy of recent mahjong losses and late pay, declined the invitation to tonight's game.

Those present: Noda, David, Jaime, Richard, Eri.

Menu: Yaki Udon (Noda & David)

The yaki udon that Mama served up was delicious, but not so delicious for Noda was the Yakitori that followed! Richard won the first game of the evening, finishing on +25, but nobody retained the Oya for long and so the game moved swiftly and by the time we reached last Oya Noda was still looking for his first completed hand but the game was over before he could make it. Richard and Eri were both in the black. David was on -4 (although he was in the red, Noda's Yakitori fine brought him back into the black!). Noda finished on -24

Eri made way for Jaime in the second game. Noda ended that game on -1 - a grand total of -25 and a Yakitori fine; that was that for his evening of mahjong as he had to head for home early. Jaime came top, the only winner on +28, then Noda -1, David -8, and Richard gave back most of his early winnings by finishing on -19.

Eri now replaced Noda and lost a total of 89 over the next two games but recovered 8 points in the last to finish the evening on -81. However, she had to pay a Yakitori fee to the other three in the third game, so for the second time in the evening David finished a little down (-1) but still in the black financially! Richard was the big winner of this game, finishing on +84

Jaime see-sawed all evening, winning the first and third games but losing the second and fourth by bigger margins to end up on -15, a result mitigated by Eri's Yakitori fee.

David finished the third game in the black on +14 and finished top in the fourth on +64 which made him top dog for the evening, pipping Richard to the post by 10 points. Still, Richard was delighted to have finished ahead, while Eri was a little crestfallen to find herself doling out again...

One-Nil to the Blues" by Jaime on November 24

After the heartbreaking loss of three weeks ago, it was with some relief that DEH managed to get back to winning ways on Sunday. A slender margin of a solitary goal was the only difference at the end of greatly enjoyable game. Well, the players certainly enjoyed it, the DEH fan I fear was not really caught up in the excitement. Still, what is that they say about women/girlfriends/wives? "They should be seen , but..."

All three gaijins were in attendance this week, Dan having being allowed time out for good behaviour by his missus. For this he was finally reward with his own shirt, some months after his debut. His squad number, after much discussion between agents and management, was decided on as number 50. Although, there seems some confusion as to the origins of this choice. I leave it up to the reader(s) to form their own conclusions. (Dan wanted 69)

Dan had another committed performance, taking up his role as the farther figure of the frighteningly young and spectacularly strong Back Four. Pictorial evidence of this feat will, I am sure, be online as soon as Hurley gets around to it.

Hurley was back between the posts in what is alarmingly becoming a solid position for the veteran. Another improved display was rewarded with the first clean sheet of his DEH career. His all style action was wonderfully captured by the official team photographer (Sawako), as Hurley pounced on a dangerously loose ball. This photo, I am sure will be on display very soon, so keep 'em peeled folks. However, no praise of Hurley could be complete without, once again tipping a hat to the magnificent DEH defenders. "They shall not pass" would be a fitting motto.

The final gaijin, Jaime, had a solid game contributing well and being prepared to shift out wide to take up positions when required. He had a crucial part in the scoring of the goal with a pass of perfection that opened up the opposition's box. Although his most memorable moment was learning what part of the body (accidentally) not to put Deep Rub cream on. This discovery could be very successfully marketed as a contraception.

The game was a tight, but played with much respect and humour between the two sides. No bad tackle, or complaint was uttered and the match was pcontested with a real spirit of the old amateur days, where playing was the highest reward. The camaraderie between the players was highlighted at the interval and the finish, when comments were exchanged about Gooner shirts and living in Coventry, not sure what would be the worse choice... Ok yes I do: wearing the Gooner shirt. Just cringe thinking about it.

Naka, the number 0, (Don't know why-perfection maybe?) scored the winning goal after a patient build up the involved all 5 of the attack minded players and ended with the piercing of FC Takeya's net.

So, upwards and onwards. DEH climbs to mid-table safety and still keeps alive their hopes of automatic promotion. They return again this Sunday, November 29th to play FC AZEEMA in the quarter-finals of the Hiroshima-City League's Tournament. The ground is to be located somewhere in the nether regions of Hiroshima Prefecture, it may even be in a different time zone.

From our Correspondent in the Field.

12th November: Chombo City

Location: Kodama.

Players: Noda, David, Jaime, Ray, Richard, Eri, Kenyon.

Ray joined us for the first time in about a month. Everything started out well for him as he strolled through his first game with mj novices Eri and Kenyon and finished on +65 points. However, after the first game the players drew lots again and Ray found himself with Eri at Noda's table. Noda walked off with over Y8,000 in his pocket...

The evening saw a record number of Chombos - Richard made four, Eri several, and Kenyan one.

David stayed in the red all evening, but managed to keep his losses below Y1,000, as did Richard.

Jaime came second to Noda by finishing the evening on 119 points, depriving Kenyon of his Oya-ship with an "Double Riichi" (a "ready" declaration on the first discarded tile) and going out "Ippatsu". See Kenyon's reaction in the photo...

Jaime, David, Richard and Kenyon played on until about 4am...

"Offside in Own Half" by Jaime on November 14, 2004

Anyone who regularly watches the English Premiership will notice the never-ending criticism of referees and linesmen. It is thankless job, and one does have sympathy with those in the middle. Not only do you receive instant condemnation from commentators and old pros, you are also vilified by the press and the coaches after the game has finished. Fans are also critical, whether you are at the game, or sitting in a Hiroshima apartment building, whenever the game starts to go against you, the ref is the first one that gets it. Well, ok, maybe not the first. Every fan has one player they damn as the instigator of all your team's woes. (Depart the pitch if you please - Darren Flecther).

Due to the increasingly intrusive saturation of live football, mistakes by refs are highlighted in ultra-slow mo, whilst an ex-pro delivers some clich辿d lines questioning the size of the refs testicles. But, refs are now professional, so in fairness, they must also be scrutinized by a higher standard than their amateur days. This is the crux "in fairness" because much of what is leveled against refs are blatantly myopic and stemming from the rabid tabloid journalism that is modern football reporting. The line that is often wheeled out by those in the football fraternity is "efs have to be consistent". This of course is a load of simplified twaddle. Refs are the middle-men. They have to work with the rules that are provided by the governing world body FIFA and the players themselves. This is the key to solving the problem. Firstly, FIFA have to start showing backbone and protect the refs more by not constantly "re-interpreting" the laws of the game. I still cannot fathom why a mis-timed tackle is a booking. Secondly, the players have to stop cheating. If a player dives and this goes undetected, after the game a penalty should be imposed. If fines (real ones, not 0.1% of a weekly wage) and suspensions are handed-down, players will start remembering that it is easier to play football when you are not performing exaggerated twists and twirls.

So far I have introduced my own opinion on the professional game. Alas, I am as guilty as any fan of being hypocritical, short-sighted and well, downright dishonest when it comes to my team. I now turn my wrath on those individuals who official in the Hiroshima City-League. Now, I accept that this is not the pantheon of football ability, indeed a few players aside it is the normal fair to be seen from any Sunday league around the world. Under the rules of this league, players from the previous match must stand in officialdom for the next one. It is a remarkably well-organized system that I have never fail to work. There are always refs. The problem is that those people who ref are woefully incompetent and lacking in the very basic of football rules. This is not just a bitter gripe from a sore loser. I am a sore loser and I do gripe, but I will list the outstanding 10 mistakes affecting both teams from the game I played in today.

1) The popular and often seen "off side from your own half". Twice, no less.
2) Given off side from a goal kick taken by a defender. An extraordinary 3 times.
3) Off side from behind 3 players. This is indeed true and it wasn't me!
4) Back pass collected from keeper. This was a 15-yard back-pass in clear space.
5) Two penalty handballs. One for each side.
6) A free kick awarded because a ball hit the linesman. It was utterly deserved and yes it was I who was the offender. He game me off side from my own half- twice!
7) The cunning and sometimes difficult to spot, holding a player down when trying to jump. Not difficult to spot when it is two yards in front of the ref and the penalized player ends up on the floor with 2 opposing players on top of him.
8) A corner awarded from a direct throw over the by-line. I kid you not.
9) No action taken when a keeper ended up with stud indentations in his stomach from a ball that was rolling on the ground. Think Keane on Haaland (Keeper had to leave).
10) A player allowed to throw the ball to himself. ( This was also me, it was accidental )

This level of incompetence is not isolated. I would estimate from every game I have played in this year, there have been horrendous referring mistakes. I would like to be generous and say that most of them are just that, mistakes. I cannot be as forgiving when it comes to off-side. I believe that the vast majority of players have absolutely no idea what constitutes the laws concerning this rule. They are incredibly basic and lets be honest, those hackers that turn out on a Sunday are not gifted with the type of pace and guile that are going to present too many close calls. If in doubt keep your flag down, especially if you are standing in your own bloody half.

As you have probably worked out I am a striker, and so probably have a slightly contrasting opinion to that of the Defenders Union. In my own opinion I am almost never off-side, and I am always the wronged party. Yet I believe that my criticisms do not stem from a chip on my shoulder regarding the unfairness of a striker's lot. Something needs to happen though. Temperatures can be exasperated by the lack of faith in those refereeing. What can change? Well at a professional level I have suggested a few avenues to investigate. What worries me is that the games I play in will continue to be shaped by a shocking lack of knowledge regarding the fundamentals of the laws. I mean, really, off-side from my own half!

5th November: Tetsuman at Kodama

We were able to make up two tables for the first time in a while tonight and fortunately for us Kodama was not so busy so we were able to play there again.

David was especially pleased as he got to Kodama early and was able to tuck into Mama's Yaki-meshi set.

Jaime, then Eri, Richard, Kenyan and Noda trooped in and we split up so that each table would have experienced players and beginners on it.

At the corner table sat Noda, Jaime and Richard, while David, Eri and Kenyon sat at one of the middle tables.

Shortly after play began Andy, one of the senior teachers from David English House, arrived to check out the game. He occupied the empty seat at David's table.

People's first reactions to mahjong can be rather perplexing to us older hands. With David as starting Oya, play had just got underway when Andy began to pluck the tiles from the wall in front of him and set them up and inspect them. The players looked on with some bemusement, indeed, David was rendered speechless for a few seconds! Andy had no idea that the tiles were needed for the game but swiftly replaced them when put right on that matter.

Eri won the first hand, shrieking with excitement because she had taken the winning tile of David who had to pay her 24,000 points...

David left his seat to coach Andy. Eri also won this hand and would have taken 8,000 points from Andy had he said that he did not feel ready to continue - so the hand was deemed to be merely practice and no tenbou (scoresticks) changed hands, which left Eri as speechless as David had been a little earlier. Andy retired for the evening.

Meanwhile, over on the other table the players were already approaching the end of their first game with Noda racing ahead and Jaime going down the plughole. I think they managed two games before the middle table's more leisurely paced game concluded, with Kenyon just managing to avoid the dreaded Yakitori and David having recovered his lost scoresticks...

Somewhere around 1am Noda and Kenyon departed, the former with his pockets loaded down, the latter in rather a lighter condition.

The remaining four players agreed to make up a new table and continue playing... and playing... and playing.

Around 4am Sawako san and Mr Nagai, the sponsor of the Molly Malone's football team, came to see us, but as it became evident that we were not in any hurry to leave, they departed for their respective beds (we presume).

Mama bore our obsession patiently. David ordered another beer. The game eventually concluded at 7am. After 10 hours of food, drink and mj, David found he owed the table a paltry 30yen while Richard and Eri registered their first wins since taking up the game. Sleep deprivation aside, Kodama's Mama was the ultimate winner, taking 10,000 from David's wallet alone.

Jaime contacted Tim who happened to have just got up after a rare quiet night at home. Tim joined Jaime and David for breakfast at MacDonald's. (What better than EggMacMuffin, Hash Browns and coffee after a night either in bed or in the mahjong parlour??)

Jaime and Tim (who was full of beans after a solid night's sleep) managed to sustain a fascinating conversation on The Election and so forth while David, head lolling, would occasionally endeavour to pull himself upright and interject a "What?" or a "Who?" before flopping back into oblivion again without staying for an answer...

3rd November: Richard does a Richard (again)

Today was "Bunka no Hi" in Japan, a national holiday in celebration of Japanese Culture. What better way to celebrate than to meet at a friend's house and play - or practise playing - Kansai-style 3-Player Mahjong while drinking Kirin beer?

Richard Noone recently purchased his own mahjong set and a mahjong mat. This is always a sign of mahjong addiction in a new player. The mat he bought is a relatively new one to the market, at least in Hiroshima. Most of us who host mahjong sessions favour the rubber-backed mats that can be rolled up for storage over the over-priced four-piece interlocking mats. Richard's mat is a collapsable model that, when assembled, has an outer frame with moulded trays for your score sticks. Very convenient. Your humble blogger has had his eye on one of these beauties for a while and has since gone out and got one of his own!

Anyway, David arrived at Richards to discover that he and Eri had been practising mahjong together, taking it in turns to play two hands at the same time...

We had just started play and Richard had completed a hand or two when Kenyan, true to his word, phoned to say he was on his way. We agreed that it would be better not to gamble as Kenyon was a complete beginner. Strictly training.

It quickly became evident, however, that Kenyon had shot ahead of Eri in his ability to work out the allocation of the winds and by the end of the evening he had been dubbed "the Fastest Learner ever" even if he did not benefit from the generous dose of Beginner's Luck that has been doing its rounds lately...

David left the session sometime after 10pm. The fridges (the salubrious one and the insalubrious one) had been emptied of beer twice over. Richard was in his cups by now and starting to roar...

It turned out that he did not make it to his first class the next morning and so the phrase that was coined in his honour at the beginning of his contract as an English teacher in Hiroshima, namely, "TO DO A RICHARD" has been wheeled out at the end of it.

TO DO A RICHARD = to drink yourself into a stupor such that you miss your morning classes without necessarily letting anybody know.

Sunday 31st October: A Pair of Own Goals...

Chiyoda. Sunday afternoon. Rain. Perfect conditions for the English contingent (Jaime and David) of the DEH team.

This was a league game. Within 5 minutes of k.o. one of our otherwise skillful and pacy attackers dropped back into defence where he diverted a shot that was coming straight to the goalkeeper (David) into the net...

Despite having the lion's share of the possession the boys were unable to score in the first half and the team seemed unusually unbalanced, with everything going down the right and not much happening in midfield.

Then the opposition turned up the pressure and one of their strikers thumped a crossed ball home from just inside the penalty area.

The half-time debate about what was going wrong swiftly bore fruit in the second half. Jaime got nicely back-heeled a ball across the face of the goal and one of our young Japanese strikers slotted it past the goalkeeper. 2-1...

Our boys kept up the pace and continued to dominate the game. Jaime played a part in creating the second goal, crossing the ball, once again from the right, but from farther out, and once again it was nicely slotted home... 2-2.

The frantic pace continued and as both teams looked for the winner. The other team began to find its footing again but everything they threw at us was dealt with by our superb defence or gathered by David, who was shouting himself hoarse from the goalmouth. In one attack one of their strikers got a glimpse of goal from about 15 yards outside the box and unleashed a fearsome shot, but Hurley was ready for it and leapt with a gazelle-like agility that belied his years and turned the ball around the post while diving at full stretch. What the rest of the team didn't know was that he had to contend with the consequent corner while suffering from a bout of cramp in the right calf brought on by so sudden a burst of athleticism...

The game was beginning to look like a draw as the last minute of play approached. Then disaster struck... The opposition mounted their last attack of the game, down their right. They won a throw in and from it tried a head-level shot that Kazu was in line to head away. But - and this is quite unprecedented - instead of hitting it centrally as he usually does, he botched it and the ball skimmed behind him. David threw himself back into the mud with outstretched hand and despairing cry but the ball was perfectly placed to elude him and it grazed the inside of the post and came to rest inside the goal. 3-2 to them.

A last desperate charge by our boys came to naught and all the vigour and elan of our second half performance had come to nought.

29th October: Eri & Richard's First...

A fifth person accompanied David, Noda, Richard and Eri on the short walk from Lang Education Centre to Kodama tonight - a new Lang teacher, Kenyan, an American from the state of Oregon.

Kenyan had no experience of mahjong at all so he sat between Noda and David and David put him to work manning David's tiles while he tucked into his "yaki meshi" and issued directives on which tile to discard.

By the time Kenyan left he had a pretty good idea of the basics of play although the role of the "Yaku" has yet to be clarirfied...!

David finished the only winner in the first and second games, on +77 and +37 respectively. At some stage in one of these two games, however, David gave away the winning tile to Eri. This elicited a certain amount of shreiking and shouting from her, which caused Noda to point out a notice on the wall which said, being interpreted:

"Recently, some players have been making a lot of noise... Please refrain from shouting so as not to disturb other customers..."

Mama had also expressed some alarm as Eri merrily passed David a glass of beer ACROSS the table - a definite breach of mahjong parlour etiquette. The last thing a parlour manager wants is beer spilled into the electrical and mechanical guts of one of her pricey machines!

A third breach of etiquette occurred later in the evening when Eri, who had given up the fags (UK slang) was urged by Richard to take up the habit again to keep her awake. Eri's cigarette, with ever lengthening deposit of ash on the end of it, hovered over the baize of the table provoking the following exchange:

David: "Eri, your cigarette is over the table."

Eri: "I don't care about that."

David: "But I DO!"

Decorum was swiftly restored!

On the subject of cigarettes, Mama had been complaining to David about one of the players on another table who was chain smoking his way through the evening. Mama, who enjoys nothing more than a good grumble, complained that she had to keep the door open to clear the parlour of the chain-smoker's smoke. The draft coming through the open door was "cutting her feet off". While David relaxed over a beer on the sofa, awaiting his re-entry to the second game, Mama confided to him that she was wearing a pair of wooly long-johns "just like an oba-san (aunty, old woman, old bat)... I don't want to be an oba-san, but this draft makes the bottom of my legs cold and so, when all is said and done, I am a bit of an oba-san in these long-johns..."

Anyway, back to the games. Richard finished the first game on -50 despite taking more care to discard safe tiles in the first few hands of the game.

Noda bowed out after the second game, finishing the evening down on -12. He coached Eri for part of the third game and she had a second bout of Beginner's Luck (see 22nd October for the first) mostly at the expense of Richard who finished the game on -41. David also finished in the red, on -1.

The tiles were racked up again and in the fourth game produced just one loser, Eri. Richard finished in the black on +1 and David was back on top on +19.

By now it was 3:30, but the tiles were racked up for a fifth game, during which Eri was more asleep than awake. David ordered yet another beer (no. 8 or 9) and cruised to a +43 victory.

The totals for the evening:

David: +175
===
Noda -12
Eri -49
Richard -110

Despite the magnitude of his win, David still had to hand some of his own cash over to Mama at the end of this long evening. He had won Y5,250 and his bill came to Y7,800; after all, the bill included dinner, 8 or 9 beers and eight hours at the mahjong table! Still, his evening had been nicely subsidised by the other players.

By now it was 5am. Richard and Eri wandered off in one direction and David tottered off in another. David headed towards Jaime's but mailed Tim just in case he was in the vicinity:

"Still out?"

A few minutes later Tim's reply buzzed on David's mobile:

"At Mac." (Mac is a notorious bar with a long history...)

And a little later:

"On to Barco." (A night club that attracts an interesting clientele...)

David continued walking along the river in the direction of Jaime's and the futon that awaited him in the spare room...

22nd October: Introducing Eri

David, Noda and Richard met in the lobby of Lang Education Centre and were joined by Eri, a former English language student at Lang who had expressed an interest in taking up mahjong.

David proposed that we go to the Kodama parlour first - the place is sometimes full but the atmosphere is good and Mama cooks up a stonking good "yaki meshi" with a side dish of miso soup. Happily, the jansou was not so busy and we established ourselves around one of the "talking" tables.

Richard had been prepping Eri up on the basics of the three-player game, so we decided to plunge her in at the deep end and commence play straightaway. Noda was starting Oya, which allowed David (sat on Noda's left) to have dinner in relative peace while waiting for either Richard or Eri to win a hand...

The "rule" concerning "Beginner's Luck" did not seem to be active at the beginning of the evening. The old hands finished in the black in the first game, Noda on +65, David on +22, while Eri came in third on -40 and Richard brought up the rear on -47.

As Richard has now played several games the "Beginner's Luck" phenomenon has ceased to apply to him and he finished the second game in fourth place too, on -40. Eri, however, as a complete beginner, found herself roaring into the lead. Admittedly, this was with some assistance from whoever was not in play pointing out things like "you will be Tenpai if you throw this tile... Go Riichi... Why are you taking a tile from the wall when Noda has just thrown the tile you need? ...Say RON!" This was accompanied by a certain amount of laughter, cries of delight, and at times some unwarranted shreikings of extacy... Eri finished the second game top dog on +33, with Noda on +8 and David on -1.

Eri's Beginner's Luck continued into the third and final game of the evening. Amazingly, she was the only winner, finishing on +26. Richard came in second on -5, David third on -9, with Noda bottom on -12 - in other words the more experienced the player the worse he did in this game!

The final reckoning was:

Noda +61
Eri +19
David +12
===
Richard -92

By now it was about 1:30am and as David was supposed to return home to perform his parental duties on Saturday morning, and as the last train had departed 90 minutes ago, Noda gave him a lift to Furue, halfway to Rakurakuen. From there it was but an easy and not too exorbitant hop home by taxi.

21st October: Hurley Suffers at the Doctor's...

I arrived at Dr. Mogami Senior's flat at 7 o'clock sharp and was ushered into the Mogami "mahjong parlour", where the electronic mahjong table has pride of place in the centre of the room.

Upon ascertaining that their guest had not yet had dinner, Mrs Mogami dispatched the maid to purchase some sandwiches from the local "konbini" (convenience store). In the meantime I made do by attacking the generous supply of peanuts that were served up alongside two cans of beer. This household knows how to entertain their mahjong guests. If you want a beer you are always served two cans. If you take your time over the first can then the second can, which has now reached room temperative, is replaced with two more straight from the fridge.

Perhaps it is all part of a cunning strategy to get the guests to drink too much and lose concentration at the table... Well, if it is it hadn't worked until tonight. Until tonight I had always managed to take some cash away with me when I left the table...

This time, things were different. Actually, some things were pretty much the same. The inevitable mechanical breakdown occurred and time was lost in opening up the table and digging out all the tiles and reloading them into the machine again. That table top gets opened up more times than the bonnet of a Fort Escort in an English Winter. Dr. Mogami Sr. tends to jab impatiently at the buttons while the machine is still mixing and sorting the tiles. O'Hurley, with the expertise of a regular mahjong-parlour player, had to explain that the thing needs to go through a complete cycle with both sets of tiles being loaded into it before the table would be ready to resume play.

Anyway, the thing that was different this evening, both before and after the mechanical malfunction, was that O'Hurley was giving away the winning tile rather too often. It has to be said that Hurley was not on form and everybody commented on it. The only thing that had prevented the Poor Little Cypriot from falling asleep on the tram ride to the Mogami's was the fact that I was propped up against his lovely German language student. Once she had alighted the Little Cypriot's head drooped and he didn't look up for the rest of the night.

The first person to win a hand was Mrs Mogami. She had gone Riichi and everybody was playing safe until the last tile, which I gathered from the wall and, in an attempt to stay "Tenpai", I plucked the untested 4-Bamboo and said "This is very nasty..." I hesitated, but thinking that Mrs M was a dear old soul who generally comes in fourth out of four at these sessions, I thought I would risk it...

"Ron!" she cried. Four thousand points-worth of score sticks changed hands.

That was just the first of several wins by Mrs M, several of them at my expense so I finished bottom of the pile - something I had avoided hitherto.

The trouble with being at the bottom of the pile is that you suffer a double penalty that is added to the debts you have accrued during play... The third place person suffers a single penalty, the second placed person enjoys a bonus and the top player gets a double bonus.

In the second game we all played a particularly defensive hand and I was just congratulating myself on surviving without giving away a winning tile when Dr Mogami jr claimed he had won because his discard row included only Winds, Dragons, 1s and 9s... That was the beginning of his profitable run which once again left me in the red.

The third game went Dr Mogami senior's way, if I remember correctly, but by now I was consoling myself with cold beers supplied from the fridge.

At the end of the evening I was firmly rooted at the bottom of the pack. Dr Mogami jr used my plight as an opportunity to tell me that I was influenced by the 3player game in my choice of discards. Hmm, I wonder...

17th October: St Crispin's Day in Chiyoda" by Jaime

It wasn't Wembley. It wasn't even played on grass, but the pulsating cup game that took place at 10am on Chiyoda Sports Ground Pitch B on Sunday, deserved a more fitting place than an abandoned university ground. The crowd was minimal, an infant, a wife and a girlfriend or two, but what a game on show! What an extravaganza of football! The F.A. Cup has witnessed more famous cup clashes, but none were tighter than this epic between slight underdogs WILD PIAS of Division D and DEH of the league's second tier. It went the distance, and beyond it. Normal time came and went, extra time the same way, and only after 115 minutes in blistering heat was the contest finally decided, when for once English players emerged victorious after the closest of penalty shoot outs.

Eleven penalties were taken, and only the 10th failed to make the back of the net. The poor PIAS player slunk away after adding his name to the pantheon of players, usually of English stock, who have launched footballs into orbit. Hurley, the 'keeper, was supreme between the sticks, only beaten once during normal play. His octopus on skates style of 'keeping may not catch on, but it was effective. One save in particular was magnificent. Rescuing a tipping, swirling and dipping free kick from the back of the net to over the bar. A shout of "England's number 1" rang out, and in this outpost of English exiles, it was indeed true.

The first twenty minutes was dominated by the higher division team. DEH took the lead after 10 minutes, but in truth the lead should have been far more before an out of the blue equaliser quelled their attacks. Missed chances were factors, but the match officials were appalling. A seeming anti-DEH trio, who had refereed their previous game, gave decisions that continually went against Azzuri Blues. How one can be offside when behind two defenders, is still a decision that boggles this reporter. Poor refereeing is a constant menace to our game, but standards must be raised before aggravation erupts amongst the players.

The other two gaijins in the starting line up, although as there were only 11 players it was a forgone conclusion, had mixed games. Dan, playing his first game in 5 months, slotted effectively in at centre back, dove-tailing well with the outstanding player on view, DEH's young Number 5. After the game he admitted that a back strain and ball rustiness had contributed to some unusual errors, but a solid comeback all the same. His presence will be needed if further progress is to be made.

Jaime, the famous number 13, had by his own admission a "first half shocker". Only briefly did we hear that infamous mouth raise the volume with some officialdom back-chat. Although on most occasions when opened it was justified. In the second half he was more into the game. Leaving his traditional centre circle perch to float back and help clear dangerous balls from set pieces. He also drifted wide to try and find space from a well marshalled defence. Only two main chances came his way. The first, after some tidy build up play with the other striker, ended with a shot that just scraped by the post. The second, almost the last kick of the game, was pushed wide after finally getting an accurate and well-timed through ball. Not his best game for the team, but he will be back. The leading marksman from last season has been tugging a bit of extra weight around recently, his determination to lose that will help sharpen those predatory senses.

So extra time came, and the heat, tiredness and in two notable cases lack of sleep, finally caught up with the players. One player was heard to murmur that they should call it quits at half time and just go straight to spot kicks. When arrive they did, the result was decided by one lucky success, Jaime's spot kick just sneaking under the 'keeper, and one unlucky failure. This is football, this is what happens when titans clash, and for those few souls, who had gathered to watch this game, they left knowing they had seen an epic. Memories may dim, but through future alcoholic inebriation, the story of this match will live on through those lucky few who will be able to say, "I was there".

This result puts DEH into the Quarter Finals of the Hiroshima City League Cup competition.

A Dvd containing highlights of this game is available for purchase on this site. Commentary by Hiroko Hurley, Eileen Hurley and Sawako Kawasaki. All proceeds will go to the Kulcha Alcoholics Retirement Fund. (President Dr T Buthodt, MD)

====

By the way, St. Crispin's Day is 25th October. (ed.)

15th October: All Night at Nishi

David was tucking into his Yasai Ramen at Bizenya when Ray came strolling in, just like in the good old days when we would all meet there prior to playing at Akadenwa... Ray was back after several weeks' absence from the jansou (mahjong parlour) scene.

The two of us strolled up to Nishi where we were joined by Richard who arrived brandishing his precious downloaded copy of the Yaku listings and had obviously spent another week boning up on the rules of play...

The "Jaime seat" remained open but Noda arrived next and occupied it and so the four of us commmenced play straight away in the expectation that Jaime would slot in as the fifth participant in due course. However, when Jaime arrived he said he was quite content to sit out of the first game and await the arrival of Miss Sawako, which would enable us to make up a second table.

Ray, obviously feeling refreshed by his absence from the jansou, finished the first game top dog on +29 and turned out to be the only winner, with David just below the bar on -5, Richard next on -9 and Noda bottom on -15.

The lot fell to Ray to join Sawako and Jaime at the second table, which left Richard feeling apprehensive at the first table with Noda and David...

As Sawako is still new to the game it was suggested that she sit where David would be able to check her hand easily from his position at the first table simply by swivelling around on his chair. David found himself hitting a winning streak, taking several winning tiles off Richard, and at the same time preoccupying himself with Sawako's amazing run of luck... David takes a tile, discards, and swivels around in time to stop Sawako throwing out a tile that is vital to the progress of her hand... "You don't need this one; then, if you get this, or this, or this..." The sentence trails off into a few indicative grunts and nods of the head which are met in turn by Sawako:

"Hoh, hoh, hoh... HOH, HOH, HOH, sore wa iin jya!" which, being translated, comes out as something like "Erm, yeah well... OH YEAH I GET IT NOW! That's good isn't it."

By this time David has swivelled back to his own table, picked up a tile and popped it into his hand, tossed out a tile and stuck a 1,000-tenbou score-stick into the "Riichi" hole at which point the electronic table announces "RIICHI JYA!" Then, while Richard huffs and puffs over what to throw out David swivels back to check up on Sawako to discover that she has just drawn the tile she needs to go Riichi on her table. More finger pointing and Hoh-hoh-hoh-HOH-HOH-HOHing occurs, and Sawako sticks a score-stick into her Riichi-hole (so to speak) and the synthesised cry of "RIICHI JYA!" rings out across the jyansou for a second time in quick succession. David then swivels back to his table just in time to see Richard throw out the tile that he needs to go...

"RON!"

So, David goes "Ron!", swivels back to Sawako's table in time to point out to her what she already suspects, that the tile that Ray just threw is the one she needs to go...

"RON!"

Marvellous.

This is how the scores looked when Noda and Ray headed off:

David +49
Ray +25
Sawako +10
===
Noda -16
Jaime -35
Richard -62

(Ray's score is the accumulation of profits from table 1 and table 2, while David and Noda's scores resulted from play on table 1 only, and Jaime and Sawako's scores from table 2 only.)

The four who remained, David, Jaime, Richard and Sawako, made up a table and played on into the night.

This was Jaime's part of the evening. I can't quite remember how he did it, but Jaime surged into an unassailable lead and ended up on +116 which cleared his debts from the previous games and, since 34 of those points were taken from David Jaime was able to take advantage of him while he was in his cups and leap frog the Poor Little Cypriot to end up top for the evening.

Sawako also managed to finish in the black, on +2, which means that Richard was once again paying for his education at the table. Money well worth spent, I might well add.

Talking about money well spent, there was a bit of a fracas when it came to the final reckoning at the till. Nishi is not the most well frequented jansou that we have ever been to, in fact, if it were not for our patronage the place might as well shut on a Friday night since hardly anybody else makes use of it. Unfortunately, the attitude at Nishi seems to be one of "Squeeze them while we can." Jaime, who had not taken part in the first game took umbrage when told that he had to pay for the same amount of table time as David and Richard (who had played throughout the evening). At Akadenwa (until its recent closure) and at Kodama you only pay for table time if you are playing at a table. (We would go to Kodama everytime but because it is a popular place we can't guarantee that we will always get tables there on a Friday evening...) Anyway, Sawako intervened and while the foreign party retreated downstairs and out of the door, Sawako negotiated a partial refund on Jaime's bill and emerged grinning and clutching a 500yen coin.

FINAL SCORES:

Jaime +81
Ray +25
David +15
Sawako +12
===
Noda -16
Richard -62

(Nishi -500)

Friday 8th October: Jaime's Perspective" by Jaime

Jaime did indeed arrive to find the chair he likes least sitting empty and very uninviting. It would be a conspiracy, if it was not for the fact that would accredit more thought process to those playing mahjong than has actually ever been shown.

David, did indeed stay for only one game, in which Richard kindly kept giving Hurley the winning tile. Sometimes Richard was unfortunate, other times his choices were somewhat unwise. As is typical from the Turkish spiv, as soon as his ill-gotten gains were counted, voom! he departure was quicker than that of a rat out of an aqueduct.

The remaining three-some, played on for another three or so hours. Very simply put, Richard and Jaime lost, Noda didn't. Jaime was -70, 52 of those points being taken of Noda in two pay out of 26,000 each. The first also being of a double ron in which Richard also got in on the act, although thankfully somewhat smaller.

Jaime's only moment of glee was when Richard learnt a new tile combination was possible. Noda, the wily old fox that he usually is, (really he should have a long white beard and live in some mountain cave dispensing supposed mahjong proverbs to eager devotees while young virgins swoon to his every demand) cottoned on very quickly that Jaime was indeed going for the Kokushimusou and started hoarding danger tiles. Richard, unaware that such a hand existed, continued to throw out such tiles, eventually the right one fell at the right time and a ron was indeed shouted. Jaime's attempted bluff that his hand has disappeared down the toilet was ignored by both players, Noda because he didn't understand what Jaime was saying and also knew a Kokushimusou hand when faced with one and Richard because he was tenpai. Still Jaime's 13th Kokushimusou of his career was won.

Of course a brief visit to Kulcha was suggested. Both Jaime and Richard continued to say that they didn't want to go to Kulcha even as they climbed the steps and ordered a beer of KK, the excellent Kulcha bar-lady. The usual suspects were all propping up the bar and Tim, was wearing what can only be described as the brightest red sweatshirt ever designed by man, was discussing the possibly of an early night (2:30am) whilst ordering another beer.

Friday 8th October: David's One Game Wonder

David and Noda were the first to arrive at Nishi tonight. Richard, eager to keep on practising the game, arrived next brandishing a copy of the Yaku table that you can download from http://www.hirohurl.net/mahjong/yaku.html.

Jaime arrived last and the first thing we heard from him was an expletive occasioned by the fact that we had left vacant for him the seat he likes the least - the seat that brings him no luck at the table.

David was starting Oya and racked up a few wins that put him into a comfortable position, especially for someone who was only sticking around for the one game tonight. Richard kindly provided him with the tile he needed on several occasions and was assured that it was all part of the "learning process", a necessary investment in the knowledge of the art of mahjong, no pain no gain and so forth.

At one stage Richard thought he had nabbed David when David threw out the 3-Bamboo and Richard cried "Ron!" and revealed his hand. David glanced at it and smiling, declared it to be a "Chombo" with an illegal 8+9 Bamboo combination masquerading as the head! Richard duly paid out the Chombo fine to David and Noda. However, a few minutes later Richard declared "Ron" once again, this time off Noda, and this time it was valid. David happily relinquished the Oya to Richard without having had to pay out a thing so far in the game.

Meanwhile, in the "unlucky" chair, Jaime was beginning to huff and puff and such was his pessimism as he stared that his tiles that he must have gone boss-eyed because he suddenly declared that he had committed a chombo, chucked a couple of score sticks on the table for Noda and Richard to claim and said "I've got fourteen tiles" (i.e. one too many).

"Are you sure?" asked David and counted off six pairs and an odd one to make the required number of 13 tiles. Jaime counted again and, seeing that there were indeed only 13 tiles in front of him he reclaimed his score sticks and the game resumed.

It may have been a little later in the same hand that Jaime declared Riichi and then managed to knock over all his 13 tiles and was reduced to covering them with his hand while looking out for the winning tile which, if I remember rightly, he eventually succeeded in getting.

In another instance of the "unlucky chairdom" Jaime had gone Pon on four sets of three and so he was left with just one hidden tile. At that point Noda, who had also been huffing and puffing for some time, went Riichi. Jaime took a tile from the wall. He now had South and 1-bamboo in his hand and had to discard one of them. Neither was safe. I don't remember which one he discarded, but it does not matter which because Noda happened to be waiting for both of those tiles!

At another point in the game David had got to within two tiles of Kokushimusou but he lacked a White Dragon and three were out already... Richard threw a White Dragon which rendered David's hand useless.

By the end of the game David was the only winner on +92 and was able to pay his jansou fees and jingle some cash in his pocket as he headed for the last train out of town...

===

After I left, Jaime's fortunes were mixed. He discarded a tile and both Noda and Richard went "Ron" so he had to pay both of them ("Double Ron").

In another hand, Richard safely discarded the 9-Bamboo. Then, a couple of turns later he discarded another 9-Bamboo. This time it was not so safe... Jaime declared "Ron" and revealed Kokushimusou. Lesson: Just because something was safe just now doesn't mean it'll be safe even on the very next turn. (How often has Noda caught me discarding the second of an unwanted pair of tiles...??)

Now that there were only three players around the table Richard was playing for the first time without any advice from anybody and managed to go Ron on a tile Noda discarded without declaring Riichi. Progress!

Friday 1st October: Don Pops In

David and Noda were joined at Nishi tonight by Jaime and Sawako. The four of them played out a rather long game that eventually produced just one winner, Mr. Noda. However, the first points went to the beginner - Sawako, with some assistance from Noda, went Riichi on the second tile of the opening game and David gave away the winning tile and 12,000 points.

Richard arrived half way through the game and sat with Sawako so as to help her sort her tiles out. At the end of the first game Sawako elected to sit out so Richard replaced her at the table.

Later that evening we heard a clatter of feet on the steep flight of stairs that leads up to the mahjong parlour. To our surprise Don, who has not been seen in a mahjong parlour since January of this year (see http://hirohurl.net/mahjong/3pmjnews.html), appeared with two young chaps, Dave and Rick.

Who are these geezers and what are they doing here?

Rick is the brother of Jen who is the wife of Barry who was a teacher in Hiroshima for a few years. The two of them (Barry and Jen) came out to Japan in 2002 to see the World Cup. Jen, Barry, Tim Buthodt and I went to see Senegal play Sweden down in Oita Ken, Kyuushu and we had a bit of a night out on the town afterwards, as I remember.

(David, Jen and Barry, 2002: http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/dapahur/my_photos)

As to the next question, "What are they doing here?", well, apparently they have come to travel around for a bit, you know, see Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka and so forth. It is all very laudible in its own way, but I suspect that they might have got stuck in Hiroshima as they seem to have a taste for the social life here... Rick was last seen on Saturday evening head to head in a Two-Dogs down-in-one drinking competition with Simon (the World's Fastest Two Dogs Drinker) so I doubt if much siteseeing was done today...

Anyway, back to Friday evening. Dave said he had played a mahjong computer game, but it turned out that he had played the mahjong tile game called Shanghai. Within minutes of their arrival another table was set up and they were busy learning the ropes and taking advantage of the cheap beer. After they were confident enough to start playing Dave found himself ready to finish after having gone "Kan"... however, since he had not been told that he had to take a tile from the back of the wall after going Kan he found, to his chagrin I don't doubt, that he was actually a tile short and unable to go out at all! Thus he was robbed of a satisfying first victory... The world of Mahjong is a cruel world indeed.

Meanwhile, over on our table, Richard provided us with some comic relief as he went out and revealed his hand to find that he had not completed it. He quickly set his hand up again and we agreed to play on. However, by showing his hand he also revealed what tiles it was that he was waiting for so Jaime avoided throwing the 6-Bamboo. Noda promptly forgot what it was that Richard needed, but managed to complete his hand anyway.

By the end of the second game Noda had lost all of his winnings and then some more as Jaime found his form and won the second game, finishing on +63. However, Noda won the third game. David was last Oya and still had his Yakitori tessera on the table. Jaime went Riichi. David was able to play sagely and safely and got to Tenpai on Chitoi (7 pairs) waiting for the 8-Coins. Richard's turn. Richard is humming and haaing about what to do:

Richard: "I want to throw this tile but I think it is dangerous..."

David (thinks): "Don't throw it, whatever it is..."

Richard: "O.K. I'll risk it." (He throws out the first Red Dragon to show its face in open play...

Jaime: "RON!"

Noda checks the next tile in the wall, which David would have taken if Richard had thrown a safe tile... It is the 8-COINS, which would have given David "Tsumo" and got rid of his Yakitori. Ah well. "If if's and ands were pots and pans", as the old nursery rhyme goes...

That little piece of Beginner's Folly on Richard's part left David on -27 (Yakitori) and sank Richard into the red, thereby ending the run of beginner's luck that we have seen recently.

The final results:

Jaime +41
Noda +31
===
Sawako -7
Richard -23
David -42 (Yakitori)

After the game was over, at about 2:30 am, Jaime, Sawako and David ambled over to Kulcha, but as the bar was shut Jaime called up Tim to see what was happening. I am SHOCKED to have to report that Tim was AT HOME, IN BED, FAST ASLEEP when the phone rang.

Japanese Mahjong Terminology by David on October 3, 2004

I received an e-mail the other day enquiring about Japanese mahjong terminology. The enquirer, Chris Stamper, wanted to read the options menu of a Japanese mahjong computer game. Here are some of the terms that you may need to know:

FUTENPAIFU or NO TEN BAKKIN = No Tenpai fine. When at the end of a hand there is no winner each No-Tenpai player pays 1,000 points to each Tenpai player. If nobody is Tenpai then nobody pays!

KIRIAGE = Rounding up points when paying out (i.e. 500 points is rounded up to 1,000).

KUITANYAO = Open Tanyao is permitted. This option means that you can claim Tanyao even if you have opened your hand by going Pon or Chi in the 4-Player game. (There is no open Chi in the 3-Player game and Kuitanyao is also not permitted.)

RENCHANJOUKEN = Establishing the conditions that apply when the Oya wins several hands. Usually, if the Oya wins several hands in a row he then RYANSHI occurs and players have to complete their hands with TWO YAKU. If agreed beforehand, when the Oya wins 8 hands in a row then PAARENCHAN kicks in. PAARENCHAN gives the Oya the right to finish with TSUMO OR RON on a hand whether or not it contains a Yaku. He scores YAKUMAN if he completes his hand.

SHIROPOCHI = WHITE DRAGON BONUS. Some mahjong sets include a fifth White Dragon (HAKU) tile with a "jewel" embedded in it, or otherwise decorated. If you replace one of the regular White Dragon tiles with this one you can agree to award an extra DORA or bonus point...

TSUMIBOUKATEN = Each time the Oya wins he places a 100-tenbou score stick on the table. The winner of a hand gets a bonus of 1,000 points for each score stick that is on the table. He gets it from both players if he finishes by going "Tsumo", and from the losing player if he finishes by going "Ron".

WAREME = The player whose wall is broken at the beginning of a hand scores double if he wins. (See the "Four Player Variations" post of 14th august in the "General" category.)

Sunday 26th September: Post Match Mahjong

SUNDAY MORNING: FOOTBALL
I arrived at Yokogawa at about 8:45a.m., half an hour late. Jaime told me to be there at 8:15 to give us plenty of time for the drive to Chiyoda, out in the countryside north of Hiroshima, where we were to play football for the David English House football team.

Apart from the fact that I was simply late, as usual, I had also calculated that since Jaime usually tells me to be at a place a quarter of an hour earlier than is strictly necessary not too much harm would be done if I arrived a quarter of an hour after the actual meeting time of 8:30.

Anyway, I clambered into the back of Sawako-san's spacious SUV (or whatever) at 8:50 and off we went.

Back in 1993, when David English House's rival, Lang Education Centre had a staff of 16, eleven of whom were blokes keen to play footie on a Sunday morning but unwilling to eschew their binges in Top Five and Mac of a Saturday night, the former boss of Lang Education Centre, Tomihara, agreed to shell out on 11 purple (purple!) shirts and Inter Milang was born!

After a brief spell in defence, I volunteered for a stint in goal, resurrecting a career that was born - and died - at Sandhurst County Primary School in Kent (1974).

Sandhurst CP 1 - Goudhurst CP 5.

In 1993 I discovered that I was still a master of the featherlite dive - the one that lets the ball go under your body and into the goal. Still, when Inter-Milang played the David English House B team, Red Star, we won and my contribution was a fine diving save. Most of the B team were in a similar state to the Inter-Milang boys when they turned up at the football ground on a Sunday morning - not surprising really, since the two teams spent most of their Saturday evenings out drinking together - or at least drinking in the same bars.

DEH, by the way, set up the city league and the David English House boss, David Paul, is hoping that we, the current DEH team, can bring back the glory days. I'd be tickled pink to be an old blighter of 42, and playing in the "A" Division, I must admit...

OUR TEAM: Despite its being an English language school team, it has only two regular foreigners in its ranks. It's like this: there's an old, unfit, foreign geezer at the back, there's an aging unfit foreign geezer at the front, and between the two of them a team of young, fit, skillful, hardworking Japanese players... It seems to work and we are aiming for promotion to the "A" Division this season and a good cup run...

We arrive with a few minutes to spare and find out that, once again, there are only ten of us present and no goalkeeper. Once again O'Hurley volunteers to go in goal. 0-0 at half time. Thank goodness for a solid defence and players that can take goal kicks. Half way through the second half, the other team scores. Then, ten minutes later Jaime equalizes. Excellent! Then the other team throws everything at us. O'Hurley makes a last minute comedy save, stopping the ball and landing on it bum first, after which it somehow wriggles out from between his legs and over his flailing body. David Jaimes couldn't have done better. Still, I saved it. One of our players comes up to congratulate me. I "think it is all over" as the famous commentary goes... one glove is off - oh but bugger me if it isn't all over and the other team is about to take a corner... Somehow we hold on and on the final whistle the score is 1-1.

One win, one draw; we are still gunning for promotion.

===

SUNDAY LUNCHTIME: OKONOMIYAKI
It's a marvellous thing to have a bird with a roomy motor who's willing to drive you and your mates around. Well done, Jaime! We made a brief beer-stop at a local offy and then off we zoomed down the motorway back towards Jaime's part of town and our local post-footie-okonomiyaki restaurant.

When it comes to okonomiyaki it has to be nikku-tama-soba-ebi-cheese plus nama beer. Cheese is the vital ingredient. If you find an okonomiyaki shop that doesn't offer cheese NEVER GO BACK THERE AGAIN. Yes, you miserable little okonomiyaki shop in Itsukaichi, I am talking about YOU.

===

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: MAHJONG
Well, actually, we had a bit of a snooze first. Then Ray arrived and we settled into an afternoon of mahjong, which, it is noteworthy to mention, was alcohol-free until Tim arrived with 6-packs of beer and loads of snacks a couple of hours later...

The seating arrangements at Jaime's "jansou" are worth a mention too. Jaime was sat on the bed facing the tv across the mahjong table. Ray was to his left on the old and rather uncomfortable wooden-framed sofa that was bequeathed to Jaime when he first moved into the flat (but I begin to digress onto other matters...) with a good view of the tv. Sawako, who was about to play her first game of mahjong, was sat on the tatami floor opposite Ray. I was in my customary place, on the tatami floor with my back to the tv. This position can be a disadvantage if the tv programme is any good - you have to screw your head around to see what's going on on the screen and are therefore likely to miss what is going on on the table... HOWEVER, I consider it more of an advantage because most of what is on tv is rubbish and if your back is to it you are less likely to be distracted by it...

This afternoon we were treated to the Shanghai Grand Prix, which, fascinating though it may be, is easily ignored when your back is to the tv. The greatest danger is that the droning noise of the cars might send you back to sleep... This did not happen however.

Sawako was expecting to start playing the game at the start of the game. But, since the dice selected David as Starting Oya, Sawako was out of the first few hands... Actually, Sawako was out of the first 8 hands as David proceeded to win several games in a row and was aiming for Paarenchan. The other players' trays were looking rather empty. I believe that Ray then made a hand and so David relinquished the Oya in a very comfortable position and shifted over to coach Sawako.

Jaime was beginning to sweat, but then while going for Toitoi he suddenly let out a cry of "R-O-N!!" that could be heard half way down the street I should think and off the table flew his Yakitori tessera.

Then, on the South round a similar scenario developed. David once again racked up several 100-tenbou and once again didn't quite make it to Paarenchan. Still, his tray was bulging with loot, unlike Ray Bolger's... But Ray was doing better than Jaime - at one stage Jaime was on -120... but he clawed his way back to -90.

But David was not the only player to finish in the black. He finished on +126, but Sawako, taking advantage of Beginner's Luck - the third rookie player to do so in the last three sessions - ended up on +10 and prudently went home.

The second game was adjourned on the arrival of the pizza-delivery boy. When it was resumed, Jaime and Ray managed to lessen their debts. Jaime finished top on +35, Ray on +4 and David on -39, so the final scores for the afternoon were:

David: +87
Sawako: +10
===
Ray: -32
Jaime: -65

===

SUNDAY EVENING: YES MINISTER

The day was polished off drinking Tim's beers while watching several of the old Yes Minister series on DVD (see www.yes-minister.com).

Friday 24th September: More Beginner's Luck at Nishi

Yasu joined us at Nishi tonight so he, Noda and David started the first game. Noda and David ordered some "cup ramen" and a particularly good brand was served up, which caused some distraction at the table.

Nevertheless, once the ramen was finished, David surged ahead to finish on +69, which, depending as always upon the circumstances, can be a pleasant place to finish indeed.

By now Richard Noone, hungry for more tableside experience, had arrived and slotted himself into the spare seat. With a bit of coaching from whoever was not playing the hand, Richard did ok and finished on +1. However, David failed to finish at all and found himself stuck with the dreaded Yakitori still on the table.

Noda, who ended on -18 in the first game, ended on -10 in this game while Yasu, who had been down -51, emerged victorious in this game on +39, not quite good enough to get him out of the red just yet...

There was a remarkable turn of events in the third game. Richard, with some guidance, found himself with a winning hand on several occasions. Such was his run of "Beginner's Luck" that by the end of the game BOTH Japanese players had failed to win a single hand and were left with their Yakitori tessera on the table. David crept into the black on +2. Richard finished on an amazing +95, which drove Yasu and Noda deeper into the red.

By this time Jaime and Sawako had turned up. This was a bit of a surprise as it was Sawako's birthday and Jaime had treated her to dinner at Toriwaka's... Anyway, this meant that Jaime was now able to join in the last game, replacing Noda-san, who finished on -87.

There was some debate as to whether bringing one's date along to the mahjong parlour was considered lucky or unlucky as far as the game (not the relationship) was concerned. It was also remembered that Jezz, a former resident of Hiroshima and a regular member of the Cock's-Eye Club, always used to insist that his Mari-chan brought him good luck at the table...

Play resumed and fortunes changed once more. David called for more beer but Mama-San had fallen asleep in the back room and so Jaime raided the refrigerator behind the counter so that David could refill his glass. This did not adversely affect David's play, or if it did, he didn't notice.

Yasu revived to finished on +33, David crept a little further into the black, finishing on +7 and Jaime broke his Nishi-duck by finishing in the black on +8. This left Richard as the only loser, and quite right too for a beginner! He finished on -48 and with his Yakitori left on the table.

I don't think there has been another evening where four players failed to complete a hand in a game. The result favoured Jaime in that as each of the other players had been stuck with Yakitori they cancelled each other out. Since Jaime had not been at the table when David, Noda and Yasu got stuck they did not owe him anything. So the only person who had to pay a Yakitori fine was Richard, namely, Y200 to Jaime.

So to the final reckoning:

David +48
Richard +48 - Yakitori fee to Jaime.
Jaime +8 +Yakitori fee from Richard.
===
Yasu -17
Noda -87

It was a comprehensive victory for Johnny Foreigner.

Once Mama-san had woken up, there was some confusion at the till as nobody could remember how many beers they had drunk, or at least, David couldn't.

Friday 17th September: Beginner's Luck at Nishi

Noda, Yasu and I arranged to meet at Nishi tonight but when Yasu pulled out it looked as if we would have to cancel the game. Luckily, David was able to round up a couple of teachers at Lang Education Center to make up the numbers: Richard Noone, who has played a few practice games before, and John, a newish teacher at Lang who had never touched a mahjong tile in his life but who, being a bit of a games-player, was keen to give it a go.

When John ascended the steep flight of steps that leads up to the mahjong parlour he liked what he saw - a rather tatty room with smoke-stained walls, just the sort of place to hang out and drink a few beers in.

We agreed not to play for mula tonight, although John argued that he would be happy to rely on beginner's luck and a bit of help from whichever player was out of the hand.

After we had ordered up some beer and gone through the basic rules of the game we got stuck in.

John certainly had beginner's luck on his side (albeit with a bit of coaching) and finished the game in the black along with Noda.

Richard struggled away but managed to get rid of his Yakitori.

Quite a bit of the evening was spent going over what had happened or discussing safety options after someone declared Riichi.

While David was checking John's hand after he had declared Riichi an unusual case occurred, one that I do not think I have covered on my 3pmj rules website... John had a 345-555 combination of Bamboo and was waiting for one of two tiles elsewhere in his hand. He drew a 2-Bamboo. As he was not waiting for it to complete his hand I advised him to throw it but Noda pointed out that he could in fact add it to the 3&4 Bamboo and declare Kan on the 5555 set because it does not alter what he is waiting for to finish. I knew you could declare a hidden Kan after declaring Riichi, but I did not realize that you could effectively add a tile to one end of a run-or-three and RELEASE a tile from the other end to make a hidden Kan - but you can (provided you do not thereby alter the tiles you are waiting for).

Anyway, after the end of about 5 beers and several hours of play, Noda was top, John second, David on -25 and glad we had not been playing for real, and Richard was somewhere below that.

John seems keen on the idea of putting his readies on the line next time and Richard felt that he had made progress towards proficiency and is also keen to continue playing...

Thursday 16th September: Brisk Pace and Plenty of Beer at the Mogamis'

This morning I was soaking in sweat in the late summer heat; this evening I was dripping with rainwater as I dashed through an early evening storm on my way to the Mogami residence.

I dried off in no time and found myself seated comfortably at the mahjong table with a supply of beer and peanuts to hand and Mrs Mogami urging me to drink her fridge dry...

This was our first game for a couple of months. Mrs Mogami looked very well and cheerful after her holiday in Alaska.

Despite our lack of practice in recent weeks, play proceeded briskly enough although there were some delays while scores were calculated at the end of each hand.

There was only one table mishap when a 1000tenbou disappeared into the bowels of the electronic mahjong table along with the tiles when Dr Mogami Senior was a little previous in pushing the button. That is where the long thin hand and arm of The Poor Little Cypriot come in, well, handy, snaking into the guts of the machine to retreive the wayward blue scoring stick...

There were also a couple of Chombos. The first from Dr Mogami Senior, who, flush from a big hand and engaged in something of a sharp debate with Mrs Mogami about whether or not it was skill or luck that had done it. Mrs Mogami erred on the side of Dame Luck while Dr Mogami Sr erred on the side of Master Skill. While exppatiating upon that topic he tossed out the 4-Coins only to exclaim, a few seconds later, that it was not the tile he had intended to discard. Just after that Dr Mogami Senior went "Pon" on the Haku (White Dragon) and discarded a tile. Then he noticed that he was a tile short and realised that he must have failed to take a tile from the wall at the beginning of the hand when he was debating the matter of "luck or skill" with Mrs Mogami...

The other chombo of the evening was of the opposite sort. Somewhere in the third game and several beers down the hatch I opened my hand with a "Pon" or two only to notice that I had one tile too many! The other players were unwilling to abandon the hand and did not request that I pay a fine (although I offered). So I said that I would carry on playing but would not complete my hand.

Apart from those mishaps everything went smoothly. I came top in the first game. Dr. Mogami Junior came top in the second game and Dr. Mogami Senior came top in the third game. Mrs Mogami came fourth in all three games and so was the only one in the red at the end of the evening...

3rd Sept: Lively Atmosphere & Good Grub at Kodama

Since Jaime's declaration at the end of last Friday's game (see previous post) we decided to return to Kodama and if it was full (as, unlike Nishi, is often the case on a Friday evening) we would try a new place...

Kodama had one table free. The place was buzzing. We squeezed in and Noda and I ordered beer and dinner. Unlike Nishi, Mama-san cooks dinner herself. She serves up a delicious yaki-meshi, generous in quantity and with a side dish of miso soup.

Jaime joined us a little later and we got down to business...

===

Actually, Jaime and I spent several minutes discussing the game of cricket that the group of foreigners who congregate in Kulcha bar (near the Starbucks that is opposite Daiei) had played on the previous Sunday.

The British Lion was pitted against her Colonial Offspring. Hurley, the Lion's Last Stand, out for a duck second ball. Mind you, he made a better job of bowling, especially when you consider that he has not picked up a cricket ball since... well, for a very long time indeed. Hurley bowled Anker the Kiwi first ball! A couple of wides followed, but then another fellow was bowled and caught. Marvellous.

However, neither that nor the stirling all-round performance of Captain Jaime Selwood was enough. Nor was the batting prowess of Ben up to what we had been led to expect.

Suffice it to say that the Lion's tail was thoroughly tweaked by a combination of Upstart Nations and her nose given a bit of an unpleasant tweaking by her disrespectful offspring.

We hope to play another game this coming Sunday, 12th September (as I write) in Chuo Koen, from 2pm...

===

Anyway, after we had chewed the fat about the cricket, we got down to business. Noda was a little anxious to leave at a reasonable time as he had to get up at 6am the next morning. The first three games flowed fast. David took an early lead, Noda was down -18 and Jaime down -6. The second game, also a fast one, saw Noda creep up into the black on +2, with Jaime down another modest -6 and David giving away 14 points but still in the black.

Then we came to the third game and things began to change. This game was also quite swift, but Jame emerged as the only winner on a healthy +57 which put him into the black and sank David and Noda into the red. (It was sometime during this third game that Jaime felt confident enough to order a beer!)

As the three games had gone so quickly it was agreed that a fourth game would not go amiss. If it flowed as swiftly as the previous three then Noda would be home and in bed by 1:30am...

However, the fourth game turned into an epic... The Poor Little Cypriot seemed intent on giving winning tiles away to Noda. One utterly absurd discard was the 5-Bamboo when it was pretty obvious that Noda was not only going for Bamboo but also Tenpai. The old complacency crept in: "Don't need this... probably be alright..."

"RON!"

Oh dear. How much? As much as that? Dear oh dear, the Poor Little Cypriot's tray is looking a bit empty... A few more such idiocies later and the PLC owed Noda something like 30,000 points and Jaime another few thousand points! Time for another beer.

Noda had, in the meantime, racked up 8 100-Tenbou as Oya. Fortunately for David and Jaime Noda was not on Paarenchan as some of the hands had ended with no result. David, who was somewhere in minus triple-figure territory, won the hand and repaid his outstanding debt to Noda, which now left his tray merely empty. David was now Oya and made a better fist of a last stand than he did during the previous Sunday's cricket match. He struggled back up into the lower double-digit negatives.

Meanwhile, Jaime had been giving ground and found himself giving back his recent winnings and some more... In short, there was only one winner tonight, and that was Noda-san. He turned a score of -33 after the third game into a final score of +64 while Jaime ended up on -25 and David followed with the baggage on -39.

The Reckoning:

Noda: -18, +20, -35, +97 = +64
Jaime: -6, -6, +57, -70 = -25
David: +24, -14, -22, -27 = -39

The fourth game had outlasted the other games in length, and indeed, we managed to see off all the other customers. Gradually the buzz - and the constant ejaculations of one boistrous fellow on a nearby table - ceased and we were left to ourselves. I presume Noda did get some sleep when he got home, but it can't have been very much.

27th Aug: Jaime Clobbered at Nishi

Noda, David and Jaime met up at Nishi Jansou. Once again we were the only customers. Does Nishi have any other customers? Perhaps, as the lady seems to live in rooms behind the counter she regards the mahjong area as her front parlour and treats any customers who come in and play as something of a bonus.

The first game started badly for David but he managed to claw his way back on the last Oya and finished ahead of the pack on +21, with Noda scraping in on +4 which left Jaime on -25.

In the second game Noda came top and was the only winner on +28. David was still in positive territory, dropping a couple of points. Jaime, however, doubled his negative position... Still, nothing that one can't get out of in the third game...

Ah. Well, it didn't quite work out like that. The last game alone may well have been Jaime's worse performance on record (I haven't checked). The Poor Little Cypriot called for more beer and he and Noda proceeded to storm ahead, largely - erm, no more or less exclusively, at Jaime's expense. Jaime was fuming at one stage when Noda pipped him to the post, but we shall have to await his comments because we have forgotten the details.

Anyway, the game eventually ended with David on +71, Noda on +49 and Jaime on ... -120. The totals were as follows:

David: +21, -2, +71 = +90
Noda: +4, +28, +49 = +81
Jaime: -25, -26, -120 = -171

Jaime's comment on the evening, indeed, on his record at Nishi Jansou:

"I'm never playing here again."

20th August: Churenpooto!

Noda and David met up at Nishi jansou and were joined by Tetsuya, who has not played mahjong with us for several months.

Earlier this evening Tetsuya had won some cash in a pachinko parlour and was feeling confident... It certainly was Tetsuya's night. He took Y1,500 off Noda and Y2,500 off David over the course of four games.

However, there was a dramatic turn of events in one hand of the third game. Noda was tenpai with a Pinfu-Iipeiko combination. Not only that but he had two red 5-Bamboo bonus tiles as the head and was waiting for 3, 6, or 9-Coins to finish. He discarded the 6-Bamboo and was about to declare "Riichi" when David cried "Ron" and threw down his tiles to reveal...

CHURENPOOTO! It was a Bamboo hand consisting of 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 7, 8, 9, 9, 9, waiting for a 6-Bamboo to finish and not a single Bamboo tile in the discard tile. The hand scores Yakuman (because it is completed only with the 6-Bamboo) and Noda paid David 36,000 points including extras (as David was not Oya)...


David's Churenpooto...

... and its effect on Noda!

That is the first time that we have seen this hand in all the years that we have played 3-player mahjong here in Hiroshima.

Despite that, however, David was only up by about +2 at the end of the game and down in all the other games... and left with his Yakitori on the table in the last game!

13th August - Jaime Demasted at Jaime's

The same three fellows sat around the same mahjong table (more correctly a mahjong mat on a kotatsu table) in the same room of the same flat (Jaime's) as had gathered there the previous evening (see the report beneath this one on the blog), namely, Jaime, Ray and David...

Ray proposed a pauper's 20yen-per-1000 points rate, and then found himself in the black for much of the evening!

Things appeared to be going Jaime's way once again and it was notable that on this evening when David was not constrained by having to catch the last train, the games flowed swiftly, until it emerged that no-one was ahead at the end of the South round of I forget which game.

Half way through the evening Jaime was definitely ahead and David was grinding his teeth as he got himself to Tenpai only to hear Jaime claim another of his discards with a cry of "Ron!".

However, David began to stage a recovery. When Jaime noticed it he sought to counter it with an off-table parry; he put on a video of Master and Commander hoping that it would distract him enough to cause him to lose his recent gains. It had the opposite effect, though, inspiring him to new heights of endeavour. Nor did he need to constantly look at the screen since he has seen the film twice at the cinema.

Soon, cannons blazing to everyone's "surprise", the Poor Little Cypriot was Oya and had six 100-tenbou racked up on the table and the good ship Jaime was demasted. At that point an Oirish vessel drew alongside and blasted off a broadside of its own. The damage was terrible. By the end of the evening the Poor Little Cypriot had won himself 200 yen back from the previous evening's losses. I don't remember whether the Oirish had sunk or sailed off victorious.

"Thursday Night Mahjong" by Jaime on August 13, 2004

The 3 hardcore Gaijins met up at Jaime's flat for a quiet game of mahjong on Thursday night. Only 1 and half games were played as David was behaving himself and caught the last train home. A trend seems to been have established where I win outside of a jansou and get crushed when playing at one, therefore I propose more "On the Road" mahjong games. Although the losses amongst Ray and David were quite small.

One additional bit of news from the evening, was that I was unaware as to the extent of my friends' involvement in Internet Artwork. They seemed such nice, God-fearing boys.

Oh and finally....news from Tim. It seems that Ray, Neil and myself are not quite as safe as we imagined from the dreaded walk up the aisle.....

Comments

Comment posted by Jaime, on August 17, 2004, 5:14 am
Censorship! Taking the lead from his Turkish Cypriot birthplace,the editor appears to have adopted some dark political techniques. A man should make no apologies for what he does to earn a living.

Comment posted by David, on August 15, 2004, 8:09 am
Such were the distractions of this game that every player managed to have either too many or two few tiles at some stage in the evening. I found myself down to 11 tiles... Jaime had 14 at one point (after discarding) and Ray managed a record 15...

I should point out that our discussion of Internet art was entirely hypothetical, at least in my case...

4-Player Variations by David on August 13, 2004

While holidaying with the sister-in-law's family in Gifu-ken I fell into post-bbq conversation with her husband, Tanaka-san, about mahjong.

DISCARD ECHIKETTO

Tanaka-san told me that Tokyoites are sticklers for etiquette. The official Japanese mahgong rules state that a player's row of discarded tiles should never exceed more than six. On discarding the seventh tile a new row should be formed below the first row. Once a discard row has six tiles in it a new row should be formed. Abiding by etiquette is felt to lessen the likelyhood of irregular play when gambling.

The situation is quite different in Gifu-ken, and in Hiroshima-ken, at least in my experience. Players are pretty easy going about the length of their discard rows so that sometimes a player will go a whole game without bothering to start a new row simply because there is room for the first row to continue expanding, or he may start a new row any time the row begins to get tangled up with another player's tiles or with the tiles in the wall.

OSAKA WARIME...

Tanaka-san also told me that in Osaka there is a practice called Warime. It adds to the risk of a gambling game quite considerably I should think. It is quite simple. The player whose wall is broken at the start of play gets a DOUBLE SCORE if he completes his hand!! EEEEKKK!!!

If he happens to be Oya and finishes he will get the basic score, plus 50% Oya bonus and the total will be doubled... Big money or what?

However, I suggested to Tanaka-san that this must induce the Warime player into taking larger than usual risks which therefore gives the other three players a better chance of completing their hand... if they are not intimidated into shutting down the hatches and playing safe too early!

A few days later Tanaka-san got his son to wheel out the Play Station and set up the mahjong game for my entertainment while Dear Sister-in-Law kept me supplied with beer... The results were quite encouraging despite my having to squint at the distant screen to see what I was doing. Played four games, top dog in the first two, bottom in the third and back up top in the last at which point I thought it wise to retire... Good practice, but not a patch on real play.

The photo shows Little Eileen taking a lively interest in her father's game of Play Station mahjong.

July 30th: "The Hurley Squeeze" by Jaime

Just to add further enlightenment on Friday evening's play and the Mac/Cat-Girl/David/Squeezing incidents that occurred later on. First the Mahjong, my own perspective on the mahjong was the old "game of two halves" cliche'. Slaughtered in the first two games, the Light Brigade suffered smaller losses than I did. I was sitting in the chair during the last hand really wanting to go home. Get out while I could and the such. Of course, when a 3rd game was proposed, I couldn't muster the fortitude to shift from my seat and besides one more game wouldn't really hurt.....Thank whoever, I managed to claw my way back respectability, but sadly notinto the black. I finished around 210 yen down. The bill from Mama-san should have been more than we paid, but the lady was sound asleep for some parts of the evening and, well, it would have been rude to disturb her, and besides opening a beer can isn't really that difficult.

As for Mac, Hurley and myself after bidding goodbye to Noda-san and a happy Ray, who were weighed down by their winnings, wallets barely fitting into their pockets, we headed off into the night to look for Tim. In what has to be a rare moment of clarity, Tim had decided to go home early that night. Thus, we ended up at the only place we really should be on nights like this...Mac. Upon entry we were jumped on by a smallish and very familiar figure who shouted out various bits that were thankfully mostly incomprehensible. Hurley, not known for his shyness, then proceeded to squeeze Cat-Girl's extruding parts. All this was greeted with the usual Cat-Girl giggle. After beer had been acquired, we headed to the dance floor where Hurley and Cat-Girl continued their animated dancing. So married people do tend to have more fun, although not necessarily with their own partners.

One final agreement had also been reached by those sitting at the mahjong table earlier in the night, that none of us would need to get married (or re-married), unless Tim did first. Of course, the same safeguard used to be invoked about Hurley...

5th August: In the Black at the Mogamis'

Dr Mogami Sr played an artful first game. I had been doing well and basking in the congratulations of Mrs Mogami and Dr Mogami Jr, but when we came to add up the final score a chuckling Dr Mogami Sr emerged as the top dog and I had to make do with second place and no winner's bonus.

The second game was interrupted when somebody pressed the button before all the tiles of the finished game had been shoved down the hole in the middle. The flaps closed, Dr Mogami Sr endeavoured to keep them open and stuff the tiles in and the mechanism promptly jammed. We lifted up the table top, like the bonnet of a dodgy second hand car, and peered into the guts of the machine. Both sets of tiles lay in the central depository and had to be sorted out by hand and reloaded into the machine. Once that had been done the table whirred into life and we were off again.

The second game was a battle between the two doctors for first place. Mrs M found herself to be out of score tallies and had to borrow from Dr M Sr.

At the end of the evening when the final score was declared (after some scrathing of heads over the arcane method involved) and the men folk, in order of seniority, were all discovered to be in the black, with the guest winning 150 yen from Mrs M, which Dr M Sr magnanimously paid out of his winnings.

July 30th: David Crashes at Nishi

Four of us - Noda, Jaime, Ray and David - played at Nishi tonight. The place had been tidied up a bit since our last visit but business was as slack as ever. Just as well really as Mama-san prefers to disappear into her room behind the counter and must be summoned out by cries of "MAAMAAAAH!!!" whenever you need more beer.

The Poor Little Cypriot found himself in need of several beers and later found this a convenient excuse for his first crash in several games. Down a bit in the first game, down a bit more in the second game, down more again in the third game, and down and out by the end of the fourth game.

Jaime's night was heading down the tube even faster in the early stages, aided by a masterly "Riichi-chombo", but midway through the evening his fortunes reversed and he finished the evening just short of breaking even.

Noda came top. Ray came second.

Jaime and David bumped into Cat Girl in Mac bar later that same evening. David has a distinct memory of repeatedly bumping into Cat Girl on the dance floor.

8th July: Victory at the Mogamis'

I arrived at the Mogamis' apartment a little bit late and laden with a bag of beers and peanuts. Mrs Mogami welcomed me into the flat while at the same time forbidding me to bring gifts ever again...

At the table Dr Mogami Sr. offered invited me to select a tile and I pulled East and elected to sit in the seat opposite to my accustomed position. Dr M. jr took the South seat, Mrs Mogami the West seat and Dr M sr the North seat.

While the players arranged themselves I paused to take stock of what I had learned so far...

In the four player game that the Mogamis play there are no Yakitori, no Season bonuses and no bonus is awarded for possessing a Red Five on going out.

Each player begins the game with 20,000 points.

Getting to Mangan produces a big increase in income. However, you can do well on lower scores too by taking score sticks from three players and scooping up any Riichi-tenbou that are on the table.

If you can avoid giving away a tile that somebody needs to go out then you probably won't suffer too much damage, providing you can go out yourself from time to time...

Risk is calculated a bit differently in this game than in the three-player game. In general it appears that you can take a chance or two more in this game than in the three-player game with a reasonable chance of getting away with it...

We only had time for one and a half games tonight. In the first game I was able to retain the Oya for several hands which is essential if you are to build up a strong position over the evening... that put me 3,000 yen to the good.

Then in the second game Dr Mogami sr, who had had a quiet first game, suddenly won several hands in a row which caused me to begin huffing and puffing to myself about the need to finish off this game in order to catch the last train home... "Tsumo!" Damn, Dr M sr just completed another hand... Chuck out any old tile, try and complete a hand, don't need this 7-Bamboo... "Ron!" Eeek! Once again Dr M sr completed a hand, this time at my expense - that was the only time in the whole evening that I gave away a tile, but it hurt even doing so once!

Dr M jr suggested that we play until I had to leave and then calculate the score and sort out the bets. That was decent of him as he was the last Oya and it was not certain that he would ever get a chance to play as Oya in this protracted game. However, I managed to complete a hand on Tsumo and recoup some of my losses, after which Dr M jr swiftly completed a hand and then completed a couple more in quick succession before the game ended exactly half way through.

That left me down in the second game, but able to walk away with Y2,750 in my pocket. Dr M jr also walked away with a few coins jingling in his pocket.

Both our host and hostess were in the red but the arcane laws of married life were called into play and our host had to cover the whole bill himself. Married men, never gamble in your own house with your wife at the table. If she wins she takes your money; but if she loses, you must cover her debt.

2nd July: Kodama Mama Remembers Neil!

One of our former regular players, Neil, moved to Hokkaido some time ago. He came back to Hiroshima for a week and was able to join us at Kodama on Friday evening.

To tell the truth, it was his second game in Hiroshima, the first being held at Kulcha bar after celebrating Tim's thirty-somethingth birthday party at a nearby beer garden. It was not a beer garden that most of us would have chosen, but Tim, blessed with great insight in some matters, was determined that the rainy season would not wash out his beer garden party and picked a beer garden with rain covers. Good thing too because it poured with rain about half way through the session. We knew it was raining, aside from the noise of the rain on the plastic sheeting that served as a mobile roof, because Neil arrived half way through the session soaked to the skin.

Anyway, when time was up we headed over to Kulcha where Jaime, Hurley and Neil set up the mahjong at the middle table. We only played a couple of games and Jaime won them - he has a knack of doing that at Kulcha - mainly at the expense of Neil by way of welcoming him to Hiroshima.

So, when Neil turned up at Bizenya for a pre-match bowl of ramen, he was looking forward to getting his revenge. Also at Bizenya were: Noda, Ray, David and Jaime. We all strolled up to Kodama and agreed to play 3-Player mahjong five-handed.

Mama greeted Neil who expressed his customary surprise at the notion that anybody should ever remember him again after not seeing him for a while. Mama's memory was spot on - "He came to the memorial game for your friend two years ago, didn't he?" she asked, without needing any answer from me.

And so play commenced... And the first game ended with David up +45, Noda up +16 and Ray up +8. Jaime was down -27 but not so far down as Neil who crashed to -42...

Still, you never know what the next game might bring...

Erm, well was it not this game in which Jaime committed a "Tsumo Chombo" which was only announced after he had added up a hand full of bonus tiles...

The game saw a change in the rankings, but not at the top: David ended up +59, Noda was up +21 and Ray was up +9. In other words, each of these three players had improved on his score in the first game. This left the other two in an even deeper hole. However, since Neil had "only" lost by -36 he had managed to jump a place and push Jaime down to bottom on -53.

Neil bowed out for the evening on -78 and Jaime on -80. Since Noda did not have to work the next day the other three agreed to stay for another game.

During the course of the third game Ray saw his positive run come to an end and saw his +17 converted (by a loss of -33) into -16 for the evening. Noda came in top on +27 and David added to his winnings with +6.

So Ray paid up Y480, paid his Jansou fee to Mama and strolled home while David took his Y3,300, gave it to Mama to cover his fee and went and found Tim in Kulcha and those two fellows spent the rest of the evening considering the merits of Kulcha, Mac and Jamming and also spent a fair amount of time admiring the Black Sea Coast. Naturally a fellow needs breakfast and this time we made it to MacDonald's on the Hondori and also took the occasion to have a little after breakfast nap prior to bedding down over at Peace Park... In retrospect I think Tim must have disliked the idea of my using his soap...

25th June: Back to Kodama

Ray, David and Jaime met up in Bizenya for a pre-session bowl of ramen. Yasu rolled up a little later and we decided to try Kodama-jansou tonight.

Kodama is often busy on Friday evenings but tonight there was a free tables - free, but covered in junk. Mama welcomed us with some of her customary grumbles - "Uh, what did you come tonight for?... I'll have to prepare this table." Nevertheless, Mama did not hesitate to get the table ready and we had just got underway with our first game when Noda joined us.

Noda was happy to sit out of the first game and produced an "English Jokes" book complete with Japanese translations. Yasu was a little perplexed at the degree of multi-tasking that that book introduced to our play... Listening to jokes or trying to guess (or remember the answer to) riddles while perusing the generous range of adult mags while snacking and drinking while attempting to build a hand...

  • Symptom: The opposite wall is covered with flourescent lights.
  • Diagnosis: You have fallen over.
  • Remedy: Get up and have another beer (or something)...

All this made for a good atmosphere at our table, but it was also good to be back in a parlour that has a clientele - the other tables were all full and buzzing too... Every so often the table with the electronic voice feature would cry out "Riichi da zou!" and sometimes also follow it up with "Okake Riichi!", which really has to be heard to be appreciated.

Towards the end of the first game Noda's dinner arrived - a steaming plate of yaki-meshi and a bowl of soup. Mama's cooking is one of the perks of this joint.

Amid all this distraction it is quite amazing to report that it was not one of the chattering foreigners who was left with his Yakitori on the table but the taciturn Yasu... Indeed, two-thirds of the foreign contingent ended the first game in the black - Ray on Lucky Seven and David on +45 despite having given away the Haku tile to Jaime who completed a San-anko hand with it... Jaime ended down -17, which turned out to be his best result for the evening...

Noda joined the second game and the second-placed player - Ray - sat out. In this game Jaime found himself pipped at the post several times and several times cried out "I was tenpai"... Tim sent a message via mobile phone to tell us that he was in Kulcha bar, as if there had been any doubt. David continued his run with a series of high-scoring hands; his favourite was to go out on the only remaining Chun (Red Dragon) tile in the wall and complete a Sho-Sangen hand. He came top again and found himself sitting on a comfortable total of +109 while Yasu had finished on +6 to claim second place and so sat out of the third game.

Ray was back in the third game and had to suffer advice from Yasu and occasionally from David also... The most notable pieced of buffoonery of the evening occurred at this juncture. Noda, Jaime and Ray were all Tenpai. Ray was waiting for Haku (Dragon) and a three of coins - at least that is what it appeared from my cursory glance at his hand. Noda drew and discarded the Haku tile. Ray hesitated - it appeared that he had not noticed. Jaime was about to draw a tile when David interposed with a "Wait a minute..." and both David and Yasu urged him to go "Ron"... He still hesitated a little, then turned over his tiles... and Noda pointed out that it was a "Chombo" (illegal finish). The very thing that Ray had been hesitating over had been overlooked by Yasu and David - Ray's discard tiles contained a 6-Coins which was also one of the tiles he was waiting for, which made a finish by "Ron" illegal. Er, sorry about that... Still, had Noda finished, it might have been more expensive!! Once David was back in, Yasu, who was sat between him and Ray, could divide his advice between both hands. At one stage he advised David to discard an 8-Coins and wait for the 1 and 4-Coins - but David, more diligent in surveying his own discard tiles noticed one of those same tiles nestling there... and discarded another 1-Coins and went Riichi so as to wait for a 2-5-8-Coins finish to complete his head. The 8-Coins duly arrived.

It is notable that with Yasu's aid David finished down -15 on the last game of the evening. Noda came top in the last game and so moved into second place for the evening on +33. Ray slipped from black to red, with Yasu ending further in the red and Jaime the furthest...

............. Game 1 ... Game 2 ... Game 3 ... Total ... Cash
David....... +45 ...... +64 ...... -15 ......... +94 ..... +Y3020
Yasu......... -35** ... + 6 ........ - ............. -29 ...... -Y2070
Ray........... + 7 ........ - ....... -19 ............ -12 ...... -Y 160
Jaime....... -17 ...... -46 ...... -23 ........... -86 ..... -Y2380
Noda........... - ....... -24 ...... +57 .......... +33 ..... +Y1190

** = "Yakitori".

24th June: A Bit More Flow

Mrs Mogami ushered me into the family mahjong room with a broad smile and told me "I was nervous last week because we had not met you before, but I'm not at all nervous tonight..."

She set before me dishes of almonds and pistachios, and all the beers that I had left behind on the previous occasion...

We agreed to play for money tonight at a rate of 100yen per 1000 points. Dr. Mogami explained that this would work out at about the same as playing at 50yen per 1000 points in the 3-Player variation that I am more familiar with.

I am pleased to report that play flowed much faster this week. There were some pauses between games while Drs Mogami senior and junior attempted to agree on the score. Dr Mogami senior used an arcane method of finger counting with each finger doubling up the score while Dr Mogami junior found it simpler to consult a chart in his Mahjong book.

In the first game I was fortunate enough to complete several hands, retain the Oya for seven hands, and I also managed to avoid giving away the winning tile throughout the game.

At the end of the first game I ended up the only winner with a comfortable lead of 4800 points or so.

In the next game I went out on my best hand of the evening, which went "Chi... Chi... Ron" and gave me Manzu Honitsu with a few dollars at the expense of Dr M jr.

However, that was the only hand I won in that game and I gave away the winning tile about three times in a row... I had reached a certain carefree state - the effects of the fourth and fifth beer and the 4,800 point cushion began to tell. I brandished a 7-bamboo that I needed to discard in order to stay "tenpai", announced that it was very risky as Mrs Mogami had gone "Riichi"... and tossed it out only to have my observation verified by her cry of "Ron!"...

I came in fourth, so finished top and bottom in the two games we played. However, I was still able to head off for the penultimate train with 3,000 yen snugly folded into my pocket...

20th June: Mahjong Shock! Lightfoot Wins!!

Last Sunday lunchtime a certain fellow by the name of Lightfoot was caught by the Hurley family in the act (if it may be so called) of lurking outside Saezeria, a cheap Italian restaurant in Rakurakuen. Can the Lightfoot ever BE anywhere without appearing to LURK?

Anyway, into Saezaria they all went and the first thing Hurley ordered was a chilled bottle of Verdicchio. Lightfoot muttered something disparaging about lunchtime drinking but this did not appear to deter him from testing the virtue of the bottle. I do not blame him because at Saezeria the Verdicchio comes good and cheap - barely 1,000 yen for a bottle; it must cost more than that to ship the stuff from Italy, and yet, that is all they charge.

In spite of Saezaria's economical prices all the essential ingredients are imported from Italy; the Parma ham comes from Parma; the Parmesan from Parma too, the Pecorino from Lazio and so on. To paraphrase that notable gourmet Roland Petrov, "They are virtually giving the stuff away..."

The service is always a bit dodgy at Saezeria, not unfriendly, just sloppy and rather hopeless in a disarming sort of way; thus we were served quite promptly with everything we had ordered but we lacked the means of eating it withal, not a piece of cutlery in site.

Anyway, after lunch had been dispatched we ambled back home, turned on the tv to watch the repeat of Holland v Czech Rep and set up the mahjong tiles, against which task Little E. bent all her destructive powers, mixing up Mrs H's hand with the wall, not necessarily to Mrs H's advantage.

We uncorked a bottle of Verdicchio and noted how inferior it was to the stuff they sell at Saezeria and in order to verify this observation we tried a few more glasses of it.

Now, the last time Lightfoot played mahjong was in April 2003 so he bumbled around for a bit and disrupted play with premature ejaculations to the effect that he had completed his hand when he hadn't, and he REPEATEDLY took his tile from the wrong end of the wall and no amount of cold beer (happoshu, actually) could make him desist.

Then, just as the Poor Little Cypriot was building a nice hand, Mrs. H chose to discard the 2-Bamboo and Lightfoot nearly choked on his tongue and cried out something like "Oi thazzit!", which is to say, being translated, "RON!!" And there he sat, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, with a perfectly formed Suuanko hand that took 48,000 points off Mrs. H. and wrapped up the game in his favour.

It is a fortunate thing that Mr. H (aka the Poor Little Cypriot) has instituted a No Gambling rule for family games at Rakurakuen, otherwise HE would have had to have forked out to cover Mrs. H's debt.

Comments

Comment posted by Ardle, on June 27, 2004, 9:22 am
Yes, a great victory indeed for Herr Lichtfuss over at the Gypo's Lair. If only the Old Curmudgeon had bothered to inform me of the rules beforehand we might have been a little more clued-in as to the potential greatness of the hand. Bah! Hamburg!

Comment posted by David, on June 27, 2004, 1:09 am
It turns out that Lightfoot's "Suuanko" was nothing of the sort! You can only get Suuanko by going "Tsumo". What he had was San-anko, which is still not a bad hand, but not worth 48,000. Just as well we were not gambling!!

3rd June: Mahjong at the Mogami's

One of my regular History Class students, Dr Mogami, explained to me the other day that the 3-Player Mahjong that I play is a variation particular to the Kansai area and that people from the Kanto area of Japan, and for that matter from all other parts of Japan (he is from the Tohoku area) do not play 3-Player as a rule, but stick to the classic Japanese 4-player game.

That would explain why there are so many books available on the subject of 4-Player Mahjong, but none on the 3-Player variation that is popular here in Hiroshima.

Dr. Mogami explained that Kantoh people felt that the 3-Player variation was too fast and too risky (one name for the game is "infura maajan", or "Inflation Mahjong"...).

Dr. M. added that he preferred the 4-Player game and that there were several extra Yaku available in this game. He told me that he played mahjong with his parents and esteemed uncle twice a month.

Before I knew it I found myself invited to join them on 3rd June - and that is what I did.

Dr. Mogami Senior has acquired an electronic table, which occupies pride of place in the sitting room of the Mogami apartments. Unfortunately, Esteemed Uncle was unable to attend the session this Thursday and to the task of calculating the score fell to Dr. M. Jr. and, again, unfortunately, this task proved to be rather a taxing operation for him...

Anyway, off we went, plod, plod, plod. The Poor Little Cypriot got in an early "Riichi" waiting for the 7-pairs hand (chitoi), but nothing came of it. Indeed, it seemed that as soon as someone got around to going Riichi everybody else played as safely as possible...

But then, Dr. M. Sr. broke through and strung together a series of wins that left the Poor Little Cypriot out of pocket by the end of the evening...

It was difficult for him to stop playing as if he were playing the 3-Player game... This is despite the fact that he has played quite a lot of 4-plyer mj on the computer. (Mind you, a glitch in the computer programme causes it to throw out the same tile as the one it goes "Chi" on whenever it goes "Chi". Crazy, or what?) The two games feel quite different and I think different considerations must come into play, but I am not yet sure what those considerations might be... I shall have to go back to E. R. Whitney's "A Mahjong Handbook" for enlightenment and inspiration...

Nevertheless, it was a very sedate and enjoyable affair that started early and ended in time for the PLC to catch the second-to-last train home from Yokogawa... I look forward to future games in the company of the Mogamis.

11th June: A Modest Evening at Nishi

Jaime, David and Noda played at Nishi tonight. Jaime ordered a dish of yakisoba and his verdict on it was that it was "pretty good".

Compared to last week, Nishi was bustling with life tonight - that is to say, one of the other two tables was occupied by a party of salarymen.

Jaime took the early lead tonight with a series of quickish finishes on smallish hands that were not hindered by his wolfing down of his dinner between turns...

Hurley's mid evening beer-and-peanuts revival once again mainifested itself as he came top in the second and third games.

Then, in the fourth game, Noda and Jaime gouged a big hole in David's tray and the evening finished with Jaime down -23, David in the black on +10 and Noda top (again) on +13.

4th June 2004: First Session at NISHI Jansou (Not Far From the Now Defunt Akadenwa...)

On the evening of Friday 4th June I met up with Ray at an okonomiyaki joint on the Hondori and Cyborg joined us there for a beer and a chinwag about a certain language school just around the corner from the now defunct AKADENWA...

Ray and I then strolled over to NISHI jansou where Noda was waiting for us.

NISHI is an amusing place... It is a second floor mahjong dive at the top of one of the steepest flights of steps you are ever likely to encounter in your life. On gaining the second floor one finds oneself in an open space with tobacco-yellowed walls and yellowing linolium on the floor. The resident Mama-san emerges from her lair to greet the customers (i.e, us three - her sole custom for the evening...) from across a counter. Mama-san was not quite as yellow as her surroundings; she seems a friendly and retiring lady.

The parlour has just three functional tables. There are other tables in the room, but these serve other useful purposes, such as their being convenient repositories for a set of lamps that look as if they will never ever be of use to anybody again...

Don't get me wrong... I was perfectly happy in my new environment - it had almost everything one could desire of a mahjong parlour: a certain "character"; tables that worked smoothly (unlike Akadenwa's infamously cantankerous machines); the beer was cold and cheap and the snacks were edible - little bowls of crisps, and peanuts with the third beer... and the lady, when successfully summoned from her hideaway, ordered up bowls of steaming noodles or plates of yakisoba and so forth for the hungry...

As for the games that night, I spent the middle part of the evening rather sleepily giving away my early winnings. Then, after Mama-san had brought over my third beer and first dish of peanuts, I began to revive...

Nevertheless, Noda came top again. I came in second with a 600yen subsidy on the evening's play, and Ray did us both the honour of handing over the loot...

April...

Even less happened in April than in March... David followed Ray into self-employment, then clocked up a healthy +133 throughout an evening in which all the players were consistently winning on large hands. This was Friday 16th. Master joined us (Ray, David, Yasu) for the last game of the evening and suddenly David found himself with an empty tray so settled for +83 for the night... Ray - erm, well, his day's private earnings went down the mahjong drain I'm afraid...

March...

As I remember, the first game we played this month was on Friday 5th. I recollect little about the game, except that I headed to Kulcha a little ahead and celebrated with a glass of wine (because as it was Lent I had instituted a beer fast...). Somehow or other Tim, Jaime and I ended up in Mac by which time the virtue of several more glasses had been tested and proved not wanting. The next thing I remember is chatting to Yorkshire Andy about the Miners' strike of 1984 over breakfast in Exchelsior at 7 o'clock in the morning. Now, Exchelsior, which is on the Hondori, is a very civilized place at that time in the morning. They serve wine for breakfast and so it would have been churlish not to celebrate this fact while Tim slept in one of the comfy seats. Before we knew it it was 11:20am, so I polished off my last glass for the evening (er, morning) and popped - with perhaps a slight totter - over to that illustrious establishment where I used until recently to work, Lang Education Center, and said a cheery "Glood Morgnig" to my students.

It seems that very little mj was played until the end of the month when we gathered at Akadenwa once again and Ray sought some inspiration in a pot of instant kimchi ramen.

STUDY ENGLISH WITH RAY
IN YOKOGAWA!!
Call this FREE DIAL no:
0120-222-248

Ray Seeks Inspiration
The next evening Tim and Jaime, formerly employed at Lang Education Center, David, Simon, Richard, Matt and Nelson, current employees at Lang, gathered at Suikouden to celebrate the end of Ray's innings at Lang's sticky wicket.

Anyway, after the meal we strolled up the street to Kulcha where Ray, Jaime and David set up the mahjong gear on the table by the window overlooking the street. David popped into D-Bar across the road to get a cigar... and spent the evening giving away his hard won winnings from the previous night. But it was still heaven: Beer, mahjong, and a good smoke while the bar buzzed with life all around us. Marvellous.




February 22nd 2004 - Mahjong Training at Kulcha!

A week ago Friday Alex, who manages the bar at Kulcha, said he'd like to learn to play mj and proposed that we hold training sessions at the bar on a Sunday afternoon. Excellent idea! Several others expressed interest and so we agreed to hold our first training session this Sunday afternoon.

On the day, David, Jaime and Tim (!!) brought their mj sets to Kulcha, but only two students were present: Alex, who was a complete beginner; Richard, who has played a couple of times before (see 2001 mj news reports)...

The first task that faced David when he arrived at the bar at the agreed hour (2pm) was to wake up the barman who was recumbent upon the sofa where he had fallen earlier - much earlier - that morning. Alex, his first words of the day:

"Is it two o'clock already?"
In due course a mahjong mat was set up on the corner of the bar; Alex composed himself behind the bar; Richard, David and Jaime took up their positions at the bar; Tim coached the beginners, drank and poured drinks as and when required, oh, and also practised basketball dunks with an imaginary ball around the bar when there was nothing else to do...

The most notable incident occurred when Jaime claimed the 5-Bamboo by going "Pon". Tim, behind the bar with Alex, suggested that he discard the remaining 5-Bamboo:

Tim: "It's probably safe... Yes, that one - it's absolutely safe."

(Alex follows Tim's counsel and discards the 5-Bamboo.)

Jaime (completing his hand with the 5-Bamboo): "Ron!"


Alex & his hand; Jaime ponders; Tim coaches Richard...
Tim replaced David in the second game. The whole affair lasted about seven hours (which meant it was too late for Tim to join the other Kulcha regulars for a game of basketball at the Nakaku Sports Centre). It was a sociable afternoon with one or two Kulcha staff and regulars popping in from time to time. Happy hour had kicked in before the end of the last game, though whether it helped the game along or hindered it, I cannot say...

Mahjong and beer on tap (with half-price spirits to follow...): a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We must do it again soon... And if Sharon were to open his kebab hut on a Sunday afternoon, it would be perfect!




February 20th 2004 - Noda Bottom with Yakitori...

Tonight Noda, Yasu, David and Jaime played three games. The first game was notable for Jaime's huffing and puffing as his game went down the plughole and he faced financial ruin - at least for that evening - when his ballooning mahjong debt appeared to embarrass his thinly stocked wallet... It certainly embarrassed his tray, which emptied out before we had had chance to agree on whether or not we were playing the dreaded "empty tray" rule (game over when somebody's tray is empty)... We agreed to continue playing, and Jaime got rid of his Yakitori, and ended up on -54!

The second game was notable for Yasu's 6-Yaku Chinitsu hand that he came close to pulling off Churenpooto. If I remember rightly, Noda had to pay out on that hand. In fact the second round is also memorable for the fact that Noda failed to win a single hand and ended the game with his Yakitori tessera on the table, thereby subsidising David and Jaime's smallish losses to the rampaging Yasu!

Yasu also won the last game and finished the only winner of the evening, with Noda bottom and David and Jaime (now a relieved and relatively happy chap, being down a mere -16) sandwiched in the middle.

David headed off early on Jaime's bike (thanks Jaime!) to catch the last train home from Yokogawa (12:07am). He made it.


Yasu's Chinitsu...



Noda's Yakitori!





January 16th 2004 - Satoru Joins the Party...

David invited a few of the blokes to celebrate his birthday over some beers and a variety of dishes at Isshin Tasuka Sashimi Izakaya.

Afterwards, the party joined Noda, Yasu and Master over at Akadenwa. Satoru, David, Ray and Jaime played at the middle table while Don, Simons Capper & Smith, Richard and Matt looked on.

Satoru, who has not played mj for quite a while, put on a good show of hesitant bumbling at the start of the game. It was a lively evening, with plenty of amusing and distracting chatter between players and onlookers, which is always dangerous for the players as they can easily be lured into making mistakes by not paying proper attention.

The best example of that came midway through the evening's play. There was plenty of chat and seemingly little action in the game. Ray plopped down a 1-bamboo and Satoru (the guy who is "a bit rusty", remember!) cried "Ron" and revealed Kokushimusou! Not only that, but as table Oya he earned himself a 50% bonus from Ray, who's tray was suddenly rather empty. The photo sums up the situation beautifully. To make matters worse for Ray, he was left with his Yakitori on the table at the end of the game. Satoru was top.


Ray Counts the Cost of Kokushimusou...
David and Richard look on; Master, Noda and Yasu play at the Bogside table.

We played a few more games with different combinations of players. Satoru did not do so well over the rest of the evening and Ray staged a last-game recovery. Apart from that the details of the games are a bit hazy as the chatter was quite lively and somewhat distracting!


L to R: Satoru, Don, Jaime, Yasu, Ray, David, Richard, Matt.





January 15th 2004 - Jezz Takes Up Hong Kong Mahjong...

I found the following message in my Inbox today:



Hello Mr Hurley,

I am just getting ready for Chinese New Year (for which I get a two week holiday from work ;-) starting this Saturday. I'll be heading for Shanghai - and will taste the delights of Shanghai style Mahjong there.

However, I have quickly learnt how to play Hong Kong Mah-jong (and I have my own table and set in my flat), and have taught a few others how to play (3 gweilos/gaijins and a local).

The Hong Kong game is MUCH, MUCH simpler than any version of the Japanese game that we play have played. I plan to send you the rules for possible inclusion on your web-site. Although I miss the complexity of the Japanese game, it is also quite nice to play the simpler version, as it is far more social.

However, Mah-jong is much more popular here than in Japan, and is very much a family game. It seems to be something that you do with your hands whilst chatting with your family and friends. Especially on a Sunday, you can hear the loud shuffling noise of the tiles, whenever you walk around outside.

The photo attached was taken on Christmas Day. I'd been invited to the wedding of the son of my colleagues at the Peninsular Hotel, which is the No 1 hotel in HK (yes, it IS that posh). The wedding invitation was for dinner at 8 pm (and the wedding banquet is a story on its own), but I was asked to turn up at 5 pm for the pre-feast Mahjong playing. At the hotel, we were led into a large room set up with about twenty Mahjong tables for the guests to use (whilst being served tea). My school colleagues and myself took over two tables. I was placed on the one with supposedly the lower standard of players. At the end of the 3 hours or so, I was the biggest winner, about HK$50 up (about 4 quid) - much to the amazementamusement of all concerned (I'd only just learnt the HK rules).

There are other Mahjong stories, but they can wait...

Jezz

Here is the photo that Jezz attached...

Hong Kong Mahjong, Peninsular Hotel, HK
Jezz at the Mahjong Table, Peninsular Hotel, HK.

Here is a link to Jezz's rules for Chinese mahjong: mahjong.hostrocket.com





January 9th 2004 - David Back on Form as Jaime Rejoins the Fray...



Jaime returned to the fray tonight; in fact he arrived just in time to slot himself into the first game of the evening along with Noda, Ray and David.

David was the only winner in the first game. Noda broke even and Ray set the tone for his evening by coming bottom. Ray followed this up by being the only loser in the second game; David came top again, just pipping Noda to the post. Noda was up +15 (15,000 points), David +15 and five 100 tenbo (15,000), which earned him top spot and the bonus from the pot to bring him to a total of +36. It was during this game that David went "Kan" while he was Tenpai and pulled the tile he was waiting for from the back of the wall to go out Rinshyan-Kaihou.
David goes "Kan - Tsumo!"


Noda retired for the evening but Ray, Jaime and David played another game before heading for a nightcap at Kemby's. Once again David finished first and Ray last...

Game
Ray
Noda
David
Jaime
1
-15
0
+36
-21
2
-64
+15
+36
+13
3
-11
-
+18
-7
Total Score
-90
+15
+90
-15
Cash
-¥2700
+¥450
+¥2700
-¥450


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