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Our Purpose for Going to Japan

by MJS 

March 28th 2019

Hello everyone!  How are you doing?

 

Well, we would like to share why we visited Japan last December.  Mahjong Stars Reporter Nakamura had a mission when visiting Japan.  This was not a vacation.  She was there for three weeks, but did not have even one day off during that entire time.  Every single day, she had mahjong-related appointments all over Japan.  There were no visits to hot springs, no fancy dinners, and no going shopping.  Every day during that three week period was dedicated to reporting on mahjong in Japan.

So now we would like to report about some of her meetings in Japan.

However, some of the projects are not yet confirmed, so we will have to talk about those at a later date.

1

The most important one was visiting the AMOS headquarters and factory in Gobo city, Wakayama prefecture to take sessions for assembling and troubleshooting automatic mahjong tables.  We have made this announcement before: we have signed up with AMOS as an exclusive distributor in the United States.  Therefore, we are very serious about helping AMOS’s brand image, and Nakamura brought a video camera and took notes for about one week.

First of all, she was surprised that they have an AMOS museum at the entrance of their headquarters.  She has learned about the history of automatic mahjong tables and appreciates their hard work in inventing useful functions for players and their attention to detail.

Everyone at AMOS was very kind and taught her so much.  These craftsman are making newer models and and keep innovating to take the tables to the next level.  Many parts used in automatic tables may be made in China, but when they arrive at the factory in Wakayama, the craftsman make the necessary adjustments by hand to keep the AMOS quality.  As you may know, the Japanese market is the most demanding market for product quality.  Even in this market, AMOS has kept their number 1 sales and customer service rating with their high quality products.  Therefore, even though the interior may look the same as automatic tables by Chinese companies, they are not the same.  

Also, there is someone called the “God of Automatic Tables”.  He does research for inventing new models, considers many different ideas from everywhere, and performs tests everyday.  That is why their products are so creative and unique; AMOS has a long history and more experience than its competitors.

2

Next, Nakamura visited Kenkou Mahjong Zenkoku Kai (NPO) with the intent of learning “How to teach mahjong”.

Zenkoku Kai is the one of the factors behind the spread of kenkou (non-gambling) mahjong in Japan.  They worked with the Japanese government for many years, and received government approval to use public facilities for projects such as mahjong tournaments for the elderly.  

Even if you are good at mahjong, that does not necessary mean that you are good at teaching.  Many people focusing on playing mahjong, but do not necessarily learn about its rules and such in depth.  Zenkoku Kai made effective methods to teach and play at the same time, and have taught an estimated ten thousand players in almost 30 years.  Their efforts are helping to increase the mahjong popularity in Japan.  

One of the biggest changes was that mahjong has become one of the competitions in Nenrinpic.  Nenrinpic is a yearly event held by Japanese government for the elderly, featuring various sports and other cultural activities.

https://www.mhlw.go.jp/topics/kaigo/nenrin/gaiyo.html

By the way, AMOS will be a sponsor for Nenrinpic this year at Wakayama and will provide wireless automatic tables.  These tables use a battery that can run for nearly 48 hours and were invented by AMOS specifically for this event.  Being wireless reduces the risk of tripping on electrical cables, so these tables were made with the safety of the elderly participants in mind.  These tables also have a unique shape to make them more accessible for players in wheelchairs.

Nakamura attended some sessions by the Chairman of Zenkoku Kai, Mr. Kanazawa.  She also had the opportunity to speak to the general manager of Mahjong Union -μ-, Yousuke Ide pro.  He had worked for a non-gambling association for many years, and surprisingly he had been visiting New York yearly from 2004 to 2008, having been invited for mahjong sessions by the local Japanese community.

Spreading riichi mahjong with current methods, we have seen many players having a hard  time memorizing yaku and ending up quitting. However, the same thing has been happening in Japan, so they have invented a better method to let players learn step by step by changing the way they teach the game. We were surprised the first time we heard their method, but after hearing their reasoning and experience, it does really make sense.

Mr. Kanazawa and Mr. Ide were both hopeful and wanted to help us spread riichi mahjong worldwide.  We were so happy to hear that from them.

We have already started the new teaching method at LAPOM, and it is working great!!

3

Third, we have heard from many Western players saying that when they visited Japan, they got kicked out from jansou (mahjong parlors). We tried to find some parlors to negotiate with to accept foreign players and help them gain some experience.

There are non-gambling mahjong parlors in Japan. We were scared of getting rejected by these parlors. However, none of them rejected us and they are welcoming to foreign players!

Nakamura visited the RMU Dojo, NOBLE, the JPML Dojo, Machao Shimokitazawa, and more. However, some of them asked us to deliver a message to Western players: Please learn mahjong manners the Japanese way so as not to cause trouble for other players. We are currently making handouts for the rules and manners used at each parlor, as well as cheat sheets to make it easier for players to communicate.

Nakamura has visited so many places related to mahjong and found out that most of people in the mahjong field in Japan are hoping to spread riichi mahjong to the United States and all over the world. Until now, we had a lack of information, and the way we were teaching and learning may have been the cause of some miscommunication. Therefore, we would like to focusing on spreading information from Japan, as well relaying other countries’ mahjong news to Japan to bridge the gap and make the riichi mahjong community better for everyone.

4

Our mission is not anywhere near over yet! We would like to share more stories and projects, and we will make announcements one by one as they become ready on our News section.

For players in other areas, please just wait a little while longer. Let us focus on getting some experience publishing information in English, then we will move forward to next step and provide resources in other languages. And, we are still looking for more volunteers to become part of the Mahjong Stars team and help us spread riichi mahjong!

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