On Friday afternoons I play mahjong with two Japanese ladies, one of whom was a complete beginner a few months ago. Mahjong has replaced English conversation, except inasmuch as I offer advice and game analysis in English.
We play 4-player Riichi-style, but with elements of 3-player Mahjong thrown in. For example, the North tile is used as a “Dora” bonus tile, and we use the convenient scoring method of 3-player mahjong.
Last Friday, with Jaime back in Blighty whacking balls around St Andrews, and with Nobu’s nose firmly attached to the grindstone, it didn’t look as if Noda and I would be able to play mahjong that evening until I hit upon the idea of inviting the ladies, Hatsue-san and Aimi-san, to join us.
Happily, they agreed.
So, Aimi, Hatsue and I spent the afternoon on an intensive 3-Player MJ training session. Our party broke up around 5pm and we arranged to meet in town at 8pm.
It was a beautiful day, so I hopped off the train at Yokogawa and strolled along the river bank into town, negotiating my way across three branches of the delta until it brought me close to the entrance of Kemby’s bar.
It was too early for a quick snifter so I headed past and went for a good old soak in the middle of town. There is nothing quite like relaxing in a hot spa in the middle of a city teeming with sweating multitudes. The closest anybody has come to it was that chap who took pleasure in observing from his casement window a storm-tossed barque toiling upon a stormy sea while he was sat warm and snug in front of a cosy fire in the upper room of a secure stone tower.
I recovered from the heat of the bath and sauna by ordering okonomiyaki and beer from a decent little teppanyaki restaurant called Hana-chan, located between Chuden-Mae and the river.
While I was there, Hide-san called up to ask if there was a game…
I arrived at Kodama Jansou via a quick snifter at Kemby’s and told Mama there would be five of us. She said something or other and I popped out to meet Aimi and Hatsue.
When I returned with my charges, Noda had arrived, and so had a steaming dish of yaki-meshi and a cleansing beer to wash it down with. It seems that Mama had thought I’d ordered dinner as usual. Well, it would have been rude to have left it, so down the hatch it went while Noda, Hide and the ladies played the first two games.
Aimi-san is an experienced player of “standard” 4-player Riichi mahjong and I think she had a fine time of it at the table because whenever she needed a tile the wall seemed only too pleased to oblige.
Hatsue-san coped well but was especially impressed by the pace of the game and the speed with which hands were made during the third game when all three regular players were involved.
The funniest moment of the evening was when Hide-san was exchanging pleasant chat with Hatsue across the mahjong table about playing golf and it was quickly established that they both were familiar with a certain golf course in the area.
Hide: “Do you work there.”
Hatsue: “I am the owner.”
At this point Hide’s eyes turned into saucers and there was a loud “CLANG” as his jaw dropped onto the table.
Hide represented himself as a “tada no sarariman” – just an ordinary employee – though I can’t say that I’ve ever thought of him in those terms. However, I hear that his charm had a positive effect upon the evening.
There was quite a scrap in the third game with all three regular players looking for a big win. In the end David came top after winning a couple of “okake-riichi” competitions (as Oya) with Hide. Noda finished in a strong second place.
The ladies left after that game. Aimi-san finished on +63 and so enters the lists in third place. Hatsue-san finished on -82, sandwiched somewhere between Nobu and Jaime.
No sooner had the door shut than Hide claimed “Ron” off David’s North Dora tile and revealed Kokushimusou (as a “ko” player, for 32,000 points). Funnily enough, David finished the fourth game on exactly -32,000 points and Hide was not able to build on the result even though he came top because David fought a rearguard action and Noda only shed 5 points.
However, the result was enough for Noda to extend his lead by a few points over David at the top of the table.
The final results of an entertaining evening were:
Noda -30, +36, +41, -5 = +42
Aimi +49, +14, –, — = +63
David –, –, +63, -32 = +31
Hide -2, -34, -55, +37 = -54
Hatsue -17, -16, -49, –, = -82