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Hello, this is Kei!
I am going to explain about 「MAHJONG」
▼ What is 「MAHJONG」？
「MAHJONG」 is a board game played by four players around a square table, but you can also play alone against the CPU on arcade machines or online games.
It’s a battle of brains, with a strong element of luck, and amateurs can beat professionals, but the more experience you have and the more you play, the more proficient you become. I’ll explain it in order from now on, so let’s get a rough image here.
In 「MAHJONG」, you use pieces called “Tiles”. There are three types of tiles with numbers and seven types of tiles with Chinese characters, and the numbers range from 1 to 9. In 「MAHJONG」, there are four identical tiles, so there are 108 pairs of numbered tiles (3 x 9 x 4 = 108 pairs). In addition, there are four tiles of each of the seven types of kanji, 7 x 4 = 28, which means that 108 + 28 = 136 is the total number of tiles used.
Mahjong is a game of aligning the 14 tiles in your hand into a specified pattern, and the object is to see who can align their pieces into the completed pattern the fastest. Basically, the completed pattern consists of four sets of three tiles and one set of two tiles.
At the beginning of the game, the players are dealt 13 tiles, and in order to get the perfect shape, they draw one tile and discard the one they don’t want.
There is a bar that shows who has how many points, and that bar is called a point bar. At the beginning of each game, five different types of plastic bars (100 points, 500 points, 1,000 points, 5,000 points, and 10,000 points) are evenly distributed among the players, and the number of points on hand decreases or increases depending on whether you win or lose the game. It varies a bit depending on the rules, but generally speaking, you start with 25,000 points.
▼ Types of tiles
The first is Characters. You should be able to recognize it when you see it, because the number is written in Chinese characters on the tile.
The second one is Circles. You can easily tell what is Circles at a glance. The tiles with the “●” design on them are the cylinders.
The motif of the Bamboos is a bamboo with a hole through which an old coin (like a Japanese 5 yen or 50 yen coin) can be threaded, which may be a little more complicated than Characters and Circles.
Among the honor tiles, the tiles marked with the direction (East, West, South, or North) are the wind tiles.
The three remaining tiles in the set of honor tiles. They are “White”, “Hatsu”, and “Zhong”.
There’s nothing written on the “white” tile. In other words, a blank tile is “white”.
▼ Flow of 「MAHJONG」
【1】Parent and Children
In 「MAHJONG」, the game starts with a parent, and then the game is divided into three children with one parent. Whether the parent wins or loses, the point value is 1.5 times that of the children. In other words, winning is big, losing is painful.
Once you become a parent, you remain a parent until you lose the game, but if you lose, your rights shift to the left.
【2】Battle for completion
At the beginning of the game, a pile of tiles is prepared in front of each of the four players. A pile of tiles is a double-tiered pile of tiles with the patterns face down.
When it’s your turn to go left, you add a tile from the tile deck to your hand. This addition is called “self-draw” or “tsumo”.
When you do tsumo, you have 14 tiles in your hand, and you discard the one you don’t need. This action is called “Discard”. The discarded tile is placed in front of you in a way that other players can see the design.
Taking one tile and discarding another is called groping. As a side note, since the parent has 14 tiles in hand from the start, the first round is only for discarding.
【3】Win when getting it right!
The winner of the game is the person who completes the game the quickest after repeated groping. At the end of the game, the score is calculated, and the exchange of bets is completed before moving on to the next game. The score is calculated according to the hand’s composition and so on.
▼ Completion of 「MAHJONG」
This is a collection of tiles with three numbers in a row. This means “1-2-3” for Characters, “4-5-6” for Circles, and “7-8-9” for Bamboos.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind: first of all, you can’t make a sequence of numbers like “8-9-1”.
Also, you can’t use different types of tiles to match up the numbers, such as “5” for Characters, “6” for Circles, and “7” for Circles.
To collect three identical tiles. In the beginning, I explained that there are four identical tiles in 「MAHJONG」, and collecting three out of the four is called Triple.
This can be any number or honor tile! For example, you can use three 6’s of Characters, three 8’s of Circles, or three South’s of wind tile. To complete the game, you need 4 sets of 3 tiles, which can be either Run or Triple.
A combination of two sets of the same tile is called Head. The complete 「MAHJONG」 system is “3 tiles in 1 pair (Run or Triple) x 4 + 2 tiles in 1 pair. There are a few exceptions, but for now, this is all you need to know.
▼ What is Hand of 「MAHJONG」
Actually, you can’t go for it even if you have a completed pattern. This is important to know, but in 「MAHJONG」, you can’t go for it without Hand. In other words, you need to have four patterns, one Head, and one Hand.
There are 37 different types of Hand in 「MAHJONG」, so it must be difficult to learn them all at once. Here are three of the most frequent Hand that you should learn first. After that, you can gradually learn them through practice!
【1】Reach rate of appearance 43％
The first is Reach. Before learning about Reach, I’d like to introduce you to one more term. It’s called “Tenpai,” and it’s the state where one more tile is needed to complete the pattern. And, when your hand is in this state, if you declare ” Reach ” and put your 1,000 points on the table, you will get the Hand. Easy, right? This is the most frequently played Hand.
I’ll also explain the two different ways to get a win in 「MAHJONG」. In 「MAHJONG」, there are two ways to win: Tsumo-Win and Ron-Win. “Tsumo-Win” is when you have declared Reach, and when your turn comes, you draw a tile by your own hands.
On the other hand, if someone else discards the tile you want, it’s also a win! In other words, if someone other than yourself declares Reach, you have to be careful about the tiles you discard as well.
【2】All Simples rate of appearance 21％
Before I explain this one too, let me introduce a term: the number of tiles from 2 to 8 is called the middle tile. When you complete the pattern using only the middle tile, you have All Simples. In this case, the patterns can be Run or Triple!
【3】All Runs rate of appearance 20％
All Run is when 4 tiles are arranged in Run. There is also a requirement that the head must be a tile other than Hand tile.
There is one more restriction: it has to be double-sided wait. In 「MAHJONG」, there are many different waiting styles. A waiting pattern is a pattern that can be completed with one more tile.
You don’t need to know how to do this, but since it is related to the establishment of All Runs, I’ll tell you about double-sided wait.For example, if you have a 4 and a 5, and you want to make a Triple, you should wait for both sides.
▼ What is 「MAHJONG」 parlor?
「MAHJONG」 parlor is a place where you can pay a fee to play 「MAHJONG」. Here you can find all the necessary equipment for 「MAHJONG」, such as tables and tiles, and since there are many 「MAHJONG」 enthusiasts, it is a great place to study and make friends.
【1】 Free「MAHJONG」 parlor
“I know the rules, but I don’t have any friends to play 「MAHJONG」 with.” Free 「MAHJONG」 parlors are the solution to this problem.
If you want to play 「MAHJONG」 now, but everyone’s schedule is full, go to a free 「MAHJONG」 parlor! 「MAHJONG」 is basically played with four people. So you may find phrases like “Free 「MAHJONG」 welcome” and “One person OK” on the sign.
For each game, you pay a fee to the parlor. The amount of the fee depends on the rate of the game, but that’s up to the members to decide on a case-by-case basis!
【2】Set 「MAHJONG」 parlor
Set 「MAHJONG」 parlor is a parlor used by a group. Four friends go to the parlor and play together. You pay for each hour of play. However, there are also parlors that have both set and free 「MAHJONG」 tables!
【3】No rate 「MAHJONG」 parlor
This is a free 「MAHJONG」 parlor, but you don’t have to bet. If you want to try 「MAHJONG」 by yourself, this is a good place to start. If you start off by playing 「MAHJONG」, you might be taken for a sucker, so be careful!
【4】Healthy 「MAHJONG」 parlor
This is 「MAHJONG」 parlor where there is no betting, no drinking, and no smoking. It seems to be popular among seniors. You can either pay a per-game fee or a half-day or full-day free time system.
Now that I’ve introduced the four types of 「MAHJONG」 parlors, I’ll explain the fees at the end. You can either pay per game (this is free) or per hour (this is a set).
The price for a free game is 250-500 Japanese yen.
The price for a set is 200-400 Japanese yen.
If you are a student, you can play for half price in many places. Don’t you think that’s pretty reasonable?
▼ Attraction of 「MAHJONG」
【1】Even an amateur can win
Even an amateur can win.
「MAHJONG」 is a game where you have to arrange your tiles, including the Hand, into a complete pattern as quickly as possible. When you are first dealt the tiles, you can be super lucky and say, “It’s almost complete!”. If that happens, even a beginner can beat a pro. However, the more times you play, and the more evenly the tiles are distributed, the more the difference in skill will appear.
【2】It’s sure to be a blast!
A game is a game, but one of the attractions of 「MAHJONG」 is to play while chatting with your friends around the table. Of course, you can have a lot of fun at a set 「MAHJONG」, but you can also make a lot of friends at a free 「MAHJONG」 through 「MAHJONG」, so I really recommend it.
Furthermore, it does not matter what age you are, so even if you are a grandfather, you can still have fun playing. It’s not too late to start playing 「MAHJONG」 as a lifelong hobby!
【3】You could become a pro!
If you take the practical and written exams and achieve the required results, you can belong to a professional 「MAHJONG」 organization, and since there are exam sites all over the country, even people living in rural areas can try it out.
The prize money for a big tournament is about 3 million Japanese yen. For local tournaments, the prize money can be as little as 100,000 Japanese yen. That’s why many professionals have a second job, running 「MAHJONG」 parlor or teaching 「MAHJONG」 classes. It’s hard to make money only from 「MAHJONG」, but there are some professionals who make more than 10 million Japanese yen.
▼ Who’s suitable for 「MAHJONG」and who’s not?
What I think is suitable for 「MAHJONG」 is a person who likes to study hard and has self-control. 「MAHJONG」 can be influenced by luck, but at the same time, it is all about ability. You need to reflect on the day’s game, why you lost, what went wrong, and make use of it next time. This is the only way to get stronger. Also, since there is money involved, you have to have self-control.
On the other hand, if you’re the type of person who has no self-control and gets upset easily, this is not for you. Also, since it’s a four-player game, people who want to do something quietly by themselves won’t like it.
At any case, the best thing to do is to try it out first.
How did it go, guys? Did it make you want to try 「MAHJONG」?
It’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you can enjoy 「MAHJONG」 for the rest of your life, and while there are many games in Japan, there are few that are as affordable as 「MAHJONG」!
If you get good at it, you can build a golden route from 「MAHJONG」parlor to the nightlife.
So, let’s meet at 「MAHJONG」 parlor somewhere sometime!
See you soon, that was Kei!