Mahjong is Now Officially a Team Sport in Japan
posted on by Karen Ressler
If you've ever seen or read Saki and wanted to see more team mahjong competitions in real life, your wish is about to be granted. A new mahjong league "M.League" made its debut in Japan at a press conference on Tuesday, and it's all about bringing mahjong to the world of team sports.
The league will kick off on October 1 with seven teams of three members each. Each team will play 80 matches for a chance win 50 million yen (about US$442,950).
The name is reminiscent of J.League (Japan's pro soccer) and B.League (Japan's pro basketball), and it's not incidental: Saburō Kawabuchi, the founder of both, is the top adviser on the new M.League.
CyberAgent president Susumu Fujita is serving as representative director of M.League. CyberAgent is also backing one of the teams, the Shibuya Abemas, while other businesses have stepped up for teams such as the U-Next Pirates, Konami Mahjong Fight Club, and Sega Sammy Phoenix.
Of course, as a game with a fair amount of luck involved, Mahjong is often central to gambling, but strict regulations will be in place so that the players have nothing to do with this. The organizers are determined to present mahjong as a mind sport — after all, the International Mind Sports Association designated it as such last year.
A draft will take place on August 7 to choose the teams from about 2,000 pro players from individual leagues. These include the Japan Professional Mahjong League, Nihon Pro Mahjong, and Saikouisen Nihon Pro Mahjong Kyōkai.
M.League is not the first organization to introduce professional team mahjong. The World Mahjong Championship and the International Online Riichi Mahjong Championship (organized by the Korean Mahjong League) have both hosted team events. Earlier this year Los Angeles Pride of Mahjong held the North American Riichi Mahjong Association's first team competition, which was explicitly inspired by Ritz Kobayashi's Saki manga.
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history