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Mahjong Watch News

Oogai Hiromi Pro's Mahjong Manner Lecture No.8

December 18th 2015

No. 8

~ The following article is from “Mahjong Kai No 11” ~

There are varieties of trouble and sometime not all parlors deal with them same way.
Oogai pro sorts the type of troubles that frequently occurs.  We shall refer to Oogai pro’s judgments and remember all of them. Try to be a good player with good manners!

Interaction with the Korean mahjong community

The other day I made a visit to South Korea. The main objective was networking with the Korean Mahjong League.

Although I say networking to sound cool, I basically just went to play mahjong.

The ruleset was the most commonly used ruleset in Japan, with both ippatsu and ura dora. The establishment of this same ruleset in Korea is no doubt in part due internet mahjong. However, it is also possible because of the hard work of many Korean and Japanese mahjong players. I would like to express my gratitude to those players.

As a side note, I would like to mention that as gambling is illegal in Korea, there was of course no rate.

Also, unfortunately for me, all tables were non-smoking. I was told that there are around three different mahjong establishments in Korea that are like this.

I arrived at the store past 8 p.m. At first, only two tables were being used. However, after 9 p.m., business was booming.

“There are so many people even though it’s a weekday!” I thought innocently. I was about to go back to my hotel after finishing two hanchan when the president of the Korean Mahjong League told me, “Everyone came today because they want to play with a Japanese pro! I don’t suppose you could play a little bit longer, could you? If possible, with everyone?”

Of course, my pleasure! And that’s how I ended up playing until 6:00 in the morning.

I had zero communication problems while there. That is not to say that I am proficient in Korean, but rather that they have studied Japanese. Their calls and point values were all spoken in splendid Japanese. “Tsumo, sen sanbyaku, nisen roppyaku.” I, on the other hand, can only say “Annyeonghaseyo.”

Manners are advancing?!

As for the mahjong, unfortunately Korea may not have yet reached Japan’s level. For example players thinking, “I need to at least get rid of his ippatsu!” and calling pon on the riichi tile at the cost of their own hand, or players calling riichi in a situation where damaten would be enough points and losing an easy win.

These kinds of problems will be resolved with experience. As for the essential manners, there may be a slightly larger gap between Japan and Korea’s levels.

For example players discarding before revealing their tiles when calling pon or chi, or accidentally showing tiles from their hand due to sloppy handling. Sometimes when another player won, some players would show their hand and start looking at the uradora or at the next tiles in the wall without even checking the winners hand.

And so, I sat quietly through all of this. It was very strange to me, but as an outsider, it was a bit hard to say anything.

Even if I can teach them the etiquette, it would be difficult for me to explain the reason behind the etiquette. Even so, the next time I go, I think I will end up meddling a tad.

Something is off with manners when accidentally showing tiles

Now let us talk about accidental tile reveals.

Lately, I believe mahjong parlors that say, “There is no rule for accidental tile reveals. However, please do not take advantage of this,” have been increasing.

Before, I seem to recall the rule, “If it is pointed out, you cannot win that hand,” being the most common. I guess it is difficult for customers to call each other out, and it is better for the business if they do not have to make the decision, so I do not intend to say anything bad about this trend. I just would like to point out that now, you can win even if you accidentally show a tile.

Even among this trend, there are still players who will inform other players when they have knocked over a part of their tiles or a part of the wall. I will say that it is usually young people though.

They announce the tile they knocked over by saying, “I accidentally showed the ____,” or “____ check.” When I tell them, “There’s no rule for accidental tile reveals here,” they proudly reply, “No, I’ve decided that I won’t win off a tile that I showed.”

I can respect that spirit! However, it always seems like the ones that say that are the ones that often reveals tiles. They do it extremely often, as if they have a quota of one tile per game.

Every time it happens, they say “_____ check,” and put on a triumphant expression that seems to be saying “look how good my manners are!” Whenever this happens, I think to myself “Hmmm, this isn’t quite it.”

When you drop someone else’s tsumo tile, the first thing you should say is, “sorry,” not what tile it is, right? If you knock over what would be your own winning tile, you are not troubling anyone. Even so, it certainly has the possibility of ruining the integrity of the game. That is why I think the first thing you should do is apologize. However, the majority of people that adopt informing other players they have knocked over a tile into their creed fail to adopt apologizing alongside it. It is quite troublesome.

There is also another thing to remember, that is equally important to apologizing when it comes to this topic. “Handle the tiles carefully, so that you do not reveal any tiles in the first place.”

I can think of multiple ways to prevent accidental tile reveals. For example:

  1. Avoid loud, heavy discards. Always discard with a steady rhythm.

  2. Move the wall so that everyone can draw their tiles as it gets smaller, but also keep it in a position that does not block your discard pile.

  3. Place any useful draws on one edge of your hand, as opposed to on top before you discard.

  4. Do not kabeuchi.

That about sums it up. In number four, kabeuchi refers to playing with your hand flush against the edge of the mahjong table. I am not sure if this kind of terminology has become commonplace mahjong jargon or not, but as there is a character limit to my manuscript, I will use the term “kabeuchi” for the sake of convenience.

Kabeuchi as the cause of forceful discards

While we are on the topic, let us also talk about kabeuchi. I have never seen a parlor that says “no kabeuchi,” but I think of “kabeuchi,” “forceful discards,” and “accidental tile reveals” as a three piece set.

Of course there are people that play softly and carefully even while doing kabeuchi. However we are talking about what generally happens.

Whenever I go to a parlor, and I get led to a table where someone is doing kabeuchi, I always look at them and think, “You probably slam your discards at crucial moments. You probably also knock tiles over left and right.” Most of the time, my assumption is correct.

I might have trouble guessing my opponents riichi wait, but this guess is usually pretty accurate. If you think I am lying, please start “kabeuchi watching” and you will see.

Anyway, as for why kabeuchi is a cause of forceful discards, unfortunately I have not yet grasped the relationship between the two. It may have to do with the discard angle changing from a horizontal rotation to a vertical rotation, but that does not sound very convincing.

No one used to do kabeuchi. I believe the origin was from a certain club. It is possible that club also taught its players to “discard quickly and strongly,” and that is where the relationship comes from.

The relationship between kabeuchi and accidental tile reveals

On the other hand, the relationship between kabeuchi and accidentally revealing tiles is apparent. I may have talked about it before, but tiles that are touching the frame of the table can only fall in one direction (away from the frame) when some physical force is applied to the table. This is obvious.

Of course, the frame also has opposing force. If you were to place a coin on the table, and punch the area around it, the coin would bounce up. When one does tsumo against the frame of the table, some of the power is reversed by the frame.

Including the fact that all the tiles noisily clack together whenever you tsumo, there is not a single thing good about kabeuchi. If you play like this, I strongly urge you to return to a normal way of playing as soon as possible.

The ability to apologize is most important

I intended to write about accidental tile reveals, but the digression got too long.

It is important, so I will say it once again. If you accidentally reveal a tile, do not forget to apologize first. Even more importantly, before that happens, prevent any careless blunders by getting used to handling the tiles carefully.

Model manners

Recently, I saw an article on international rules. These rules, which could be called “Chinese mahjong” rules, in part due to the world championship and Europe championship, have been rapidly increasing in popularity abroad. It stated that the motto of many foreign players attending those tournaments was “Even if we cannot beat Japanese players in cleverness, let’s at least not lose in good manners.”

So that we, the Japanese people, do not get overtaken, let us strive to always be role models for them.

With that, I will conclude this article. I hope you all have a more fulfilling and fun mahjong life!

Author: Oogai, Hiromi

Profile: Born in 1960 and from Tokyo. With the 101 Kyogi-Renmei. The 22nd and 30th champion. After experiencing as a family-style restaurant manager, he fell in love with the competitive mahjong style and goes into the Pro Mahjong industry.


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Translator Chris Howard


Assistant language teacher and aspiring translator (Japanese to English, Korean to English) currently living in Osaka. Six years of casual mahjong experience. You can reach me on twitter at @CJHowardFL.


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