Towards the end of last year a couple of my longstanding “History in English” students had a bit of a post-class spat over the payment of the community centre room fee. The upshot was that the two ladies were “no longer able to continue to attend” the class, which left Doctor Mogami as the only remaining “member”. He promptly requested that we continue but, as it appears that Mrs Mogami Jr is in charge of the domestic finances, he requested that the lessons be reduced to two a month so as not to stretch his budget. He suggested that we switch the location to the room in Doctor Mogami Sr’s residence where we play mahjong.
Thus it happened that on Wednesday we found ourselves sat around the mahjong table on two occasions in the course of the day. On the first occasion we read and discussed about ten pages from Steven Ozment’s A Mighty Fortress which deal with the Hohenstaufen dynasty from Frederick Barbarossa to Frederick IInd and its dealings with the papacy, the German princes, the Lombard League, the French, the English, and the Kingdom of Sicily. This seems to be the point where the book comes to life in spite of itself, although it did need a bit of work on the white board that the Doc recently invested in as well as the assistance of the excellent Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World to get our bearings.
I returned to the mahjong room five hours later to join the Mogamis in our first game of four-player mahjong this year. We had not played for a couple of months; not since the time when I was off the booze and won the first three games outright and came top of two players in the final game of that profitable evening.
The Doc told me that he had a lot of booze in the fridge (gifts from satisfied patients) and I promised him that I would do my best to clear the surplus stock for him although the Doc then said that I could choose whether to drink or to play well.
In the first game Doctor Mogami Jr could do no wrong and his repeated victories drew various cries of anguish and irritation from Mrs Mogami Sr along the lines of:
“It’s no good when only one player is always winning.”
“He’s the only one with a smiling face… This isn’t very interesting…”
“Look at him smiling away again.”
It was no good the Doc pointing out that his mother would have done the same thing in his shoes – mahjong is a supremely selfish game.
I was not losing much but in the last hand of the first game Mrs Mogami finally went out, at my expense and that put me in fourth place, below her in the red. Dr Mogami Sr had managed to finish second and in the black, which meant that the “maru” bonus points were shared with four going to the Doc and two to his father.
In the second game, with another beer under my belt, the luck came my way and I was able to use it to good measure so that I finished the only winner – but I did miss an excellent opportunity to earn a stack of chips when I had gone “kan” on South when it was my double wind. I turned the East over in the wall when I went “kan” which meant that I was now sitting on four bonus tiles as well as the four concealed in my hand! Hoping to intimidate the opposition, I went “Riichi” on a one tile wait, but had I delayed by a couple of rounds I would have been able to improve the wait. As it was, I picked up 4-Coins and threw it out only to have Mrs Mogami declare “Ron!”
Still, the second game yielded me six bonus “maru” and got me back into the black.
However, in the third game Dr Mogami Sr suddenly became the dominant player and won the game and four “maru” bonus points.
The result was Mrs Mogami was in fourth place and that all three men were in the black. I had come through on the strength of the six “maru” bonus points that I picked up at the end of the second game.
Despite five hours of play we were only able to complete three games and the last one finished five minutes after the last train pulled out of Hiroshima station, so although I walked off with the princely sum of Y360 I had to pay the taxi driver Y3,500 to get me home. I enjoy these evenings at the Mogamis’ but the elder players do spend quite a bit of their time dithering about.
The taxi driver pulled a bit of a fast one on me, quite a neat trick; he casually asked, “shall I use the by-pass?”
“Ok” I said. “Whatever.”
And then I got to thinking about it. The clever chap had got it all worked out. The by-pass gets you to home quicker, but the distance travelled is greater. Therefore the taxi driver can get more money for less time. I get home quicker but spend more money – actually, the difference in speed is not that great at that time of night since there is not a great deal of traffic on either road. My result is something like a score draw: home quick, higher fare. His result is a 2-0 victory: more mula, less time. Nice one my chevvy boy, nice one.