Mah Jong at Yokota

Mah Jong at Yokota

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Originally from China, Mah Jong is a game played worldwide and a popular form of gambling in Japan.

Although there are regional variations in the rules, the basics are the same: four players with a set of more than hundred tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols.

Although the game is very fun and exciting, it requires skills and strategies over mere luck; it is often considered difficult for a beginner to master.

Fortunately, Charlotte Parris, a retired government official and an accomplished Mah Jong player, will host a Mah Jong class and teach you how to play at the Yokota Officer’s Club.

Parris currently works as a volunteer for the Red Cross in Yokota, and Stars and Stripes recently talked to her about the fascination with Mah Jong and what drove her to teach a class.

Q. How did you come to know Mah Jong?
A. I learned to play Mah Jong at an Air Force Base in the late 70s. I learned the national way in Savanah, Ga. at the Jewish Alliance Center. Since then, I have played both socially and in national tournaments.

Q. Can you tell us about your fascination of Mah Jong?  
A. I have loved the game of Mah Jong for many years. Every country I have lived in, I have also learned their way of playing. Chinese and Filipinos, the Brits, and I look forward to learning/playing with the Japanese. American Mah Jong is not like gambling at the levels that I played with Chinese or Filipinos. Our pot is a lot smaller for a social game; more if you are in a tournament. I think I have probably won more playing Bingo. It’s the challenge of the game that is fun, and if I win the hand it means I picked the right hand to pursue.

Q. What made you want to start teaching Mah Jong?
A. I can’t find a group to play with, and when that happens I teach. I did this in United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East and at family reunions. Even my kids know how to play.

Q. Could you give us some of info about what you teach in your class?
A. You have to learn the tiles, the ritual of building the wall and picking your tiles, the hands to choose and hands to switch to while playing.

Q. How can people join the class?
A. Show up at the beginning of the class so all can start at once. Hard to begin again once class had start.

Q. Could you give us brief introduction to you and your family?
A. I am a retired government employee, and through my job I’ve traveled and worked mostly overseas. I came over [to Japan] with my daughter and her family to help and spend some time with my grands.

Learn to Play Mah Jong
Hours: Tuesdays, 10 a.m. - Noon and 7 - 9 p.m.
Location: Yokota Officer’s Club
Admission: free
Point of Contact: Charlotte Parris (080 9677-2189)  
“Come Learn to play Mah Jong under the national Mah Jong league rules.  Enjoy the game and social interaction with others learning at the same time. The class is offered weekly until you get comfortable and start playing on your own.”

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