Japanese Mah-Jongg -- Rules & Options

Japanese Yaku (Special Hands) (Many pictures; can be slow to load.)
Scoring Japanese Mah-Jongg
Strategies for Japanese Mah-Jongg
Glossary of Japanese Mah-Jongg Terms

If you have not yet familiarized yourself with the chapter on Mah-Jongg Basics, it is recommended that you do so before reading this chapter.

Mah-Jongg was introduced into Japan from China in the first part of the twentieth century, just a few years before it was introduced into America. Since that time, the Japanese players have modified the rules to suit their predilection for gambling. Various rules and options have been added which greatly increase the tension and excitement in the game. The Japanese game is primarily characterized by a requirement to make "Yaku" (bonus-scoring combinations and situations). Like the Western (American) game, you play for special hands. Only the winner scores, and the last 14 tiles in the wall are not played. Flower tiles are not used in the Japanese game.

In this guide, we mostly use the Japanese terms. If you ever get the chance to play with Japanese players, you'll be able to communicate in the same terms.

Shanghai: Second Dynasty's Japanese Mah-Jongg game can be selected from the title screen or from the Games menu. After selecting "Mah-Jongg" and clicking on "Japanese," you are presented with the setup Options dialog:

If you are not familiar with these optional rules of Japanese Mah-Jongg, it is recommended that you read this section to become familiar with them. If you are a beginner to Mah-Jongg, it is recommended that you first familiarize yourself with Chinese Mah-Jongg. Japanese Mah-Jongg is for advanced players!

The options are already set to their recommended settings. These settings are recommended because they are either usually played this way by most Japanese players or because they are the friendlier settings for those new to Japanese Mah-Jongg.

(Bonus Out within one turn of Reach)
If the box is checked, players can earn a bonus for going Out within one turn after declaring Reach.
"Ippatsu" refers to a player who goes Out within "one shot" (one turn around the table) of having declared Reach (see elsewhere in this guide for more about the "Reach" rule). The Ippatsu rule can make that turn pretty tense and exciting! If a player declares Reach and then, within one turn around the table, goes Out, he has achieved Ippatsu. When this option is On (default), the Win button will light up and display "Ippatsu" if the player can declare Ippatsu. The player gets a 1 Fan bonus for achieving Ippatsu. Some players prefer to play without this option, which is why this is an option (rather than a rule) in Shanghai: Second Dynasty.

(Reach allowed with Sacred Discard)
If the box is checked, players can declare Reach if the player has a "furiten" (also called "sacred discard") on the table. The player may not be allowed to claim certain tiles to go Out, however (this rule only applies to the declaration of Reach).
If this rule is Off, you are not allowed to declare Reach (the game will not allow it) if any of your discards are among the list of possible tiles which would allow you to go Out (or if there is any other tile which meets the definition of "furiten" as outlined in these rules). There is more about Furiten and Reach later in this guide.

(All-Simples hand can be exposed)
If the box is checked, you are allowed to make melds of "simples" (2 through 8) and still claim the Tanyao yaku. The name "Kuitan" refers to feeding someone's Tanyao hand. If the Kuitan box is not checked, then the hand must be concealed (you must not claim discards to make melds before going Out). It's easier to win under the Kuitan rule (most Japanese players just discard ones and nines anyway), so some players require Tanyao (All Simples) to be concealed-but Shanghai: Second Dynasty allows the option for it to be exposed. In Tokyo, they always play Kuitan (Tanyao can be exposed), while in Osaka they never play Kuitan (Tanyao must be concealed). So to play Tokyo style, leave the option On-to play Osaka style, turn the option Off.

(Calling hands need not have Yaku)
If the box is checked, your hand can still qualify for Tenpai even if you have a "chicken" (non-Yaku) hand. "Tenpai" is explained in detail elsewhere in this guide, but briefly, Tenpai is awarded to players who, at the end of a hand, need only one tile to complete the hand. In Western Mah-Jongg terms, a Tenpai hand is a "fishing" or "calling" hand.
Under the Keishiki Tenpai rule, the fishing (calling) hand can be a "chicken" (non-bonus-scoring) hand. When the Keishiki Tenpai option is Off, the hand must not only need only one tile to win, but must be a fishing Yaku hand to boot. That is to say, the fishing hand-when completed-would be a Yaku hand (a hand which scores at least one Yaku). The hand does not have to already have a Yaku in it in order to qualify for Tenpai-it just needs to be needing one more tile to make a Yaku hand in order to qualify for Tenpai. See the sections on Japanese scoring and Japanese special hands to learn more about Yaku.

(Breaking up an existing grouping not allowed)
If the box is checked, you may not take a discard and immediately discard a related tile. For example, if you claim a 4 Bam, meld a 2-3-4 Bam, and immediately discard a 1 Bam, players can see that you broke up an existing grouping. And they'll assume you are trying for Tanyao (All Simples). Under the Kuikae rule, you are not allowed to do this-but it's okay to take the tile, make the meld, and discard an unrelated tile on that turn (you can discard the 1 Bam on a later turn).
Here's another example. If you are holding a concealed Pung of 9 Bams, and another player discards a 9 Bam, the Kuikae rule forbids your taking the discard and melding a Pung of 9 Bams and immediately discarding a 9 Bam. This is a nonsensical move anyway (there is no good reason why you would want to do this), but if the Kuikae box is checked it is also an illegal move.

If Shanghai: Second Dynasty doesn't allow you to make a particular discard, and this option is selected, it's probably because of the Kuikae rule.

When this option is selected, one of the four Five Dot tiles, one of the Five Craks, and one of the Five Bams is red (no green, no blue or black ink).

Normal fives and red fives

Any player who goes Out with a Red Five in his hand gets a Fan (the score is doubled for each Red Five). Red Fives are not yaku; a Red Five is similar to a Dora tile in that respect (see the chapter on yaku for more information on that). If you want to add more of an element of luck to the game, leave the option on (checked).

YAKITORI ("roast bird")
At the beginning of a new game, all players have a special Yakitori marker, turned face-up (it depicts a skewered chicken).

When a player wins his first hand of the game, his Yakitori marker is turned face-down. At the end of the game, any player whose marker is still face-up must pay a penalty of 1500 points.

Thrower who causes someone to win by means of Big Three Dragons or Big Four Winds must pay for all (or pay half if someone else throws the tile needed to complete the pair). If option is turned off, no extra penalty is paid for this.

When this option is on, then once you have declared Reach, you must take any discarded tile which legally completes your hand, no matter the value of the resulting complete hand (you are not allowed to pass a valid winning discard). Default setting is On. When setting is Off, the user can opt to disregard a discard which would complete the hand (in order to wait for a more valuable hand).

The Kan Dora indicator is the tile at the top of the 4th stack from the end of the Dead Wall. The Kan Dora indicator tile is turned over instantly when anyone makes a Kan (a Kong). If a player goes Out with the indicated Kan Dora tile, that player gets one Fan for the tile. Default setting is On. When setting is Off, there is no Kan Dora.

Some players of the Japanese game like to keep the game very short, and accordingly play only one round instead of two. The deal moves completely around the table one time, if this option is checked.

Some players like to increase the amount of winnings (which also increases the amount of losses) by injecting a point spread into the end-game conversion of points into payment amounts. See the section on how Japanese Mah-Jongg is scored to understand this process better. Shanghai: Second Dynasty offers you the choice of four different point spreads: 0-0, 5-10, 10-20, or 20-40. The 0-0 point spread makes the narrowest difference between winnings and losses, and the 20-40 spread makes for huge winnings and huge losses. We recommend no point spread (the 0-0 setting) for most players.

Most players start a Japanese game with a stake of 25,000 points. You can set the opening stake as high as 30,000 points if you like. We recommend 25,000 for most players.

After selecting your desired options on the Japanese Mah-Jongg Options screen, press OK, and the game will start. Now you're looking at the Mah-Jongg tabletop.

The Japanese Mah-Jongg Tabletop

At the bottom of the screen is your name, an area for text messages, and your action buttons.

Your opponents' names are arrayed across the top of the screen. In the center of the screen is the Dead Wall, and one tile is turned face up. That face-up tile is the Dora indicator. The number of tiles in the Wall (including the Dead Wall in the center of the screen) is shown at the lower right corner of the screen.

In the Japanese game, the WIN button (the button on the far right of the Action Bar) is a multi-purpose button, which says different things depending on what's going on in the game.

At the beginning of the game, the Win button is shown labeled "Tsumo." This button label will change to match the circumstances.

TSUMO - To win on a self-picked tile from the Wall
RON - To win on somebody's discard
REACH - To declare that only one tile is needed to win
IPPATSU - To win within one turn of declaring Reach

Ron (pronounced "roan") - The Win button says "Ron" and lights up when an opponent discards a tile which the player can legally take to win on that discard.

Tsumo -The Win button says "Tsumo" and lights up when the player has drawn a tile which lets him win.

Reach - The Win button says "Reach" and lights up when the player is holding a fishing (calling) hand and an appropriate discard is highlighted. Let's say you have a fishing (calling) "Pure" hand ("Chinitsu")-all Bams and one Dot. When you have the sole Dot tile highlighted and raised, the Win button says "Reach" and lights up. But if you move the highlight off the Dot tile, to a tile which if discarded would not leave you with a fishing hand, then the Win button becomes unlit (but still says "Reach").

Ippatsu (pronounced "eepots") - After declaring Reach, the Win button (even if not highlighted) changes to "Ippatsu" for the next turn around the table. If play goes around the table and back to the player without the player having seen the winning tile, then the Win button changes to "Tsumo" (while it's the player's turn) or "Ron" (while it's an opponent's turn). Note: this "Ippatsu" action of the Win button only applies if the "Ippatsu" option is On. For more detailed information on the Action Bar, read the chapter on Mah-Jongg Basics, if you have not already done so.

Several more things to mention about the Japanese tabletop.

It is standard Japanese practice to place the melds to the right (and there are no Flowers in the Japanese game).

In Japanese Mah-Jongg, a normal hand consists of 18 turns around the table. Japanese players place the discards in an orderly manner in front of them, in 3 rows of 6 tiles (or sometimes in 2 rows of 9). This gives all players an easy way of viewing the history of the hand.

When a player declares Reach, his discard is turned sideways so all players can remember exactly when this event occurred.

When a player makes a meld (a Pung, Kong, or Chow) from another player's discard, the acquired tile is turned sideways.

The position of the tile in a Pung or Kong meld indicates which player it came from -- again, this is done to provide a visual history of the game. For example, if the leftmost tile of a Pung is turned sideways, that indicates that the meld was made thanks to the discard of the player to the left. The center tile of a Pung being turned sideways indicates that the opposite player made the discard. In the case of a Chow, Shanghai: Second Dynasty shows the newly acquired tile on the left, regardless of the tile's numerical position in the Chow.

In the center of the screen is the Dead Wall. The Dead Wall is the last 7 stacks of tiles in the Wall (14 tiles); in the game this is represented by 7 tiles. The tile at the top of the 3rd stack from the end is turned face-up. This tile is the Dora indicator. "Dora" is explained elsewhere in this guide. Japanese Mah-Jongg limits the game to a total of four Kongs, which is why the Dora tile is the 3rd from the end of the Dead Wall. When a player makes a Kong, a tile (called a "loose tile") is taken from the left end of the Dead Wall. Because the game displays one tile to represent a stack of 2, you will see the end tile disappear after 2 Kongs have been made.

Players place chips (markers) on the table to mark key events in the game (as described later). Dealer Win markers are represented by a black number following an "x" by the Dealer's name. Reach markers left over from a previous hand are represented by a red number following an "x" by the Dealer's name.

Features and Rules of Japanese Mah-Jongg

"Reach" (alternative spelling: "Riichi"; some American players call this "Ready") - A player can declare "Reach" when s/he needs only one tile to go Out on a concealed hand. The player places a 1,000-point bet when declaring Reach, and stands to earn a One Fan Yaku bonus if successful.

Here are some of the rules pertaining to Reach. First, the hand must be totally concealed. If you have melded anything, you cannot declare Reach. When you find yourself in a position in which you need only one tile to go Out, and your tiles are concealed, (and, if Furiten Reach is not allowed, you have not made a "sacred discard"), then you may declare "Reach." It must be your turn, and you make your declaration simultaneous with making your discard. You turn your discard sideways to mark when you went Reach. At this time you freeze your hand-you are not allowed to make any modifications to your hand-you can only discard everything that comes up if it is not the one (or more) tile that you need to go Out. Accordingly, in the interest of speed, Shanghai: Second Dynasty takes over for you and automatically discards any non-winning tiles after you declare Reach. Tenpai / Noten - At the end of a hand, when all the tiles from the live Wall are used up, play stops. All players announce whether their hands are Tenpai or Noten. All players with "fishing" ("calling") hands declare Tenpai. All other players declare Noten. The Noten players pay the Tenpai players. A total "Noten Bappu" of 3000 points is paid. So if one player has Tenpai, he collects 1000 points from the other three players. If three players have Tenpai, they each collect 1000 points from the fourth player. If nobody has Tenpai, nobody pays anybody. If everybody has Tenpai, nobody pays anybody.

Dora - The "Dora" is a special tile which earns a 1 Fan bonus for any player who has this tile in his hand when going Out. The 3rd tile from the end of the Dead Wall is the Dora indicator.

Some players play that this (the 3rd tile on the Dead Wall) is the Dora tile itself. Because one Dora tile is face-up on the Dead Wall, therefore, there are only 3 other Dora tiles left in play. Other players (and Shanghai: Second Dynasty) use a different rule (which allows for 4 Dora tiles to be in play). This face-up tile is not the Dora tile itself, but rather the Dora indicator. It's the next tile after the indicator which earns the bonus. For example, if the face-up tile (the "indicator") is a Three Dot, then it is the Four Dot which is the Dora tile. If a player were to go out with a Pung of Four Dots, the player would score three Fan.

The tiles within a suit "wrap around" from Nine to One. The Winds are ordered E-S-W-N (wrap around from North to East), and the Dragons are ordered W-G-R (wrap around from Red to White).

When someone discards a Dora tile in Shanghai: Second Dynasty, a special sound is heard.

As is the case in the way Mah-Jongg is played in other countries, Japanese Mah-Jongg can be played in a variety of ways. The following outlines the specifics of Shanghai: Second Dynasty's Japanese game.

Scoring starts at 2 Fan ("Ba ni ryanhan") - As long as your winning hand meets the minimum criteria for a legal win, you get 2 Fan for going Out, and other Fan depending on the Yaku in your hand. The 2 Fan for going out is "understood and implied" but never actually displayed on the screen or in the scoring chart (it's already figured into the scoring chart).

1 Fan minimum ("Iihan shibari") - You need a minimum of a 1-Fan Yaku to go Out in Japanese Mah-Jongg (the 2 Fan that you get for going Out doesn't count). See elsewhere in this guide for the definition of Yaku vs. Fan. After the dealer has 5 markers (explained below), the game's minimum Yaku requirement goes from 1 Fan to 2 Fan (Ryanhan Shibari).

Play to 14 tiles - Just like in Chinese Mah-Jongg, the game stops when the Wall counter gets down to 14 tiles. Only Western/American Mah-Jongg plays to zero tiles.

The minimum 1 Fan can be created at any time ("Sakizuke ari") - In this regard, Shanghai: Second Dynasty is a little friendlier than some table rules. Some players don't allow you to make a Chow, then claim a discarded Dragon for a Pung (without having a Reach situation), for example. A hand with a Chow and a Pung, is normally not a scoring hand in the Japanese game, you see-but Dragon Pungs are valuable. Under "Sakizuke ari" it's OK to first meld a Chow and only afterwards meld a Dragon Pung.

"Sacred discard" is OK for tsumo ("Furiten: tsumori nara OK") - Under the "sacred discard" rule ("furiten"), once you have discarded a tile, you cannot subsequently take someone's discard of that same tile to go Out-if you did this, that would be "chombo" (penalty error). But according to the rule used in Shanghai: Second Dynasty, you may self-pick the tile ("tsumo") to go Out. Here is an illustrative example.

It would be a mistake to declare Reach by discarding the One Bam in the above instance. Look at your discards -- you have already discarded two One Dots. Look at your hand -- you are waiting to win on either a One Dot (which is "furiten") or a Four Dot if you declare Reach by discarding the One Bam. Under our "Furiten: tsumori nara OK" rule, you can legally win by self-pick ("tsumo") but it would be a penalty mistake ("chonbo") to declare a win on a discard for either a One Dot or a Four Dot.

There is more about what constitutes a "furiten" elsewhere in this guide. There is also an extension of this "sacred discard" or "furiten" rule, called the "1-4-7 rule," which is explained later in this guide.

Feeding a "Big Three Dragons" or "Big Four Winds" ("Pao-soku") - "Pao" should be thought of as a verb. To Pao is to feed a meld-specifically (in this case), the last Pung of either a Big Three Dragons or a Big Four Winds hand. It is possible to meld Big Three Dragons or Big Four Winds and not to have gone Out yet-you might still have to make a Chi or Pon (in the case of Dragons) or to make a pair ("head") in either case. There are 3 different ways a Pao might have to be paid (in these examples, player A Pao's to player B):

By Tsumo (self-pick) - Player B self-picks the winning tile. Player A (who previously gave B his last Dragon or Wind meld) must pay for all.

By Ron (discard) - Player B takes player A's Dragon or Wind to go Out on Big Three Dragons or Big Four Winds; Player A pays for all.

By other's discard - If player A discards a Wind, player B takes it to make his 4th Wind meld, but still needs to make the pair-then player C discards the tile player B needs to complete his pair; players C and A split the cost of B's win.

Pass a winning tile for a Yaku ("Reach-doki no agari sentaku") - Once a player has declared Reach, and any tile appears that could allow the player to go Out, the player must take that tile. Sometimes when waiting for the winning tile, there may be multiple tiles which would allow the player to go Out-and while any of those tiles is a valid win, one or more of those possibilities may make for a bigger win (one tile might make for a Yaku while another does not). The game does not allow you to pass on a valid winning tile which does not make a Yaku, in order to wait for one that does. If you've declared Reach, and you can win, you must. It is important, then, to think carefully about declaring Reach (for example, it would be a bad idea to declare Reach if you had an incomplete "Ryanpeikou" hand, since you might have to forfeit the big score and instead take a tile that makes it a less valuable hand).

No West round ("Nan ba noten") - This has to do with how to deal with various situations at the end of the last round (Japanese Mah-Jongg normally consists of 2 rounds, as mentioned below). Some rules might do things differently (gameplay cannot stop if nobody has a minimum of 30,100 points, for example, under some people's rules). For Shanghai: Second Dynasty, after the end of the South round, play stops and the high-scoring player wins (we do not go into a "sudden death" West round).

Kan after Reach - After having declared Reach, it's allowed to make a Kong (Kan), so long as doing so does not change the hand. This means that the Kong (Kan) button will not light up if you cannot legally make a Kong. If you have declared Reach, and you get an opportunity to take a Kong, but the game doesn't let you, it may be because making the Kong changes your hand.

Kan Dora - When someone makes a Kong (Kan), the 4th tile from the end of the Dead Wall (the face-down tile right next to the Dora indicator tile) is turned face-up, and is immediately in effect. More Kong melds cause more Dora indicators to be turned up-there can never be more than four Kan Dora indicators (players cannot make more than four Kongs in Japanese Mah-Jongg anyway). As with the Dora, this tile is an indicator (it's the next tile after the displayed tile which is the bonus tile). If you go Out, you earn 1 Fan for each Dora tile or Kan Dora tile in your hand. This is not a Yaku, so cannot be used as your sole basis for going Out.

Ura Dora - At the end of a hand, when a Reach player goes Out, the tile underneath the Dora indicator tile (and, if there is a Kan Dora, the tile underneath the Kan Dora indicator tile) is turned face-up. As with the Dora, this tile (the Ura Dora or the Kan Ura Dora) is an indicator (it's the next tile after the displayed tile which is the bonus tile). If you go Out holding an Ura Dora tile or a Kan Ura Dora tile, you earn 1 Fan.

The Reach chip - When a player declares Reach, s/he places a 1000-point chip on the table. This chip goes to whoever wins the hand. After a hand, if nobody wins the Reach chip, it is moved near the dealer (shown as a red number near the dealer's name on the tabletop).

Noten Payment ("Noten Bappu") - The total amount of points to be paid by the Noten players to the Tenpai players is 3000 points. Details on how this amount is paid are given elsewhere in this guide.

Dealer markers - When the Dealer keeps the deal after the completion of a hand, s/he puts down a marker chip. Whoever wins the next hand gets 300 points for each marker. After the dealer has 5 markers, the game's minimum Yaku requirement goes from 1 Fan to 2 Fan (Ryanhan Shibari). In Shanghai: Second Dynasty, these markers are represented by a black number to the right of the Dealer's name (the Dealer is East; the player with the dice).

Replay ("Nagare") if all players go Reach - If all players go Reach, it's an automatic replay situation. Play stops, tiles get shuffled. Dealer goes again (add a marker chip per above).

Replay ("Nagare") if 3 players claim win on same discard - If 3 players declare Ron (win by discard) on the same discard, it's an automatic replay. Same as above.

Replay ("Nagare") on 9 unique honors and terms - If the Dealer has exactly 9 unique honors and terminals on the initial deal, that's an automatic replay. If you are the dealer and this happens to you, the game will offer you a choice (the A.I. will always choose the replay in this situation). Same if any player has exactly 8 unique honors and terminals, plus exactly one duplicate of any. Or if any player has exactly 8 unique honors and terminals and draws another unique honor/term on the first draw. If this happens to you, the computer offers you a choice. If it happens to an A.I. player, there will be an automatic redeal. As with the other Nagare situations, dealer goes again (add a marker chip).

Replay ("Nagare") for 4 same winds in one turn - If all 4 players discard the same wind in one turn around the table, that's an automatic replay. Same as above.

Replay ("Nagare") on 4th loose tile - Upon the removal of the 4th loose tile, when the player who makes a Kong has taken the last loose tile and discarded it, if nobody claims it to win, game automatically stops. Assuming, that is, that the 4 Kongs are not all held by one player. If one player has made 4 Kongs and is now waiting for the "head" tile, play can continue, but nobody can make a Kong anymore.

Deal passes if Dealer has Noten - In a Wall game, if the Dealer does not have Tenpai, the Dealer loses the deal. But if it's the last hand of the last round (4th dealer, South round), the deal cannot pass to someone else; must remain with that dealer until hand is won.

Haitei (last tile in the Wall) is only good for a Win - The last tile from the Wall is called the "haitei." This tile can not be used for a Pung, Kong, or chow, nor to declare Reach. The only thing the "haitei" can be used for is a Win (either for the player who picked it, or for a player who can take it after the picker discards it).

A complete game consists of 2 rounds - Japanese players play only the East and South rounds (as opposed to all four rounds as is done in Chinese and Western Mah-Jongg). Some high-roller types even like to play that there's only one round (East).

Penalties ("Chombo" ) -
Or, "Why Didn't The Game Let Me Do That?"

There are many different ways you can make a penalty mistake (Chonbo or Chombo) in Japanese Mah-Jongg. In Shanghai: Second Dynasty, you cannot or may not make these mistakes. Anytime you want to take or make a discard (or claim a win) and the game does not allow you to do that, it is probably because of these Chombo rules:

- Going Out with a non-Yaku hand. If someone discards a tile that completes your "chicken" hand, you may claim the tile for a meld but not for a win-Shanghai: Second Dynasty will not light up your Win button in this case.

- Going Out with a below-minimum-Yaku hand. Note that normally the minimum is One Fan. But when the Dealer has won 5 hands (has 5 marker chips in front of him) the minimum automatically changes to Two Fan. Shanghai: Second Dynasty does not light up your Win button until you can go Out on a hand that meets the current minimum Yaku requirement.

- Declaring Reach, then missing a chance to go Out, is Chombo. In a "real life" game this would be discovered when you have Tenpai (everybody would see that you had missed a chance). Shanghai: Second Dynasty does not allow you to miss a chance, since after declaring Reach, the game automatically discards any non-winning tiles, and since your only choice when a (post-Reach) chance comes up is to go Out.

- Claiming a furiten ("sacred discard") to go Out is Chombo. Shanghai: Second Dynasty will not light up the Win button if someone discards a tile that you are not allowed to claim under the furiten rule.

- Violating the 1-4-7 furiten rule is not allowed. More on Furiten and the 1-4-7 rule below.

Chombo Penalty Payment

The penalty for making Chombo is the Mangan amount (see the scoring chart). If a non-dealer makes Chombo, he pays 8,000 points: 4,000 to the dealer and 2,000 to the other players. If the dealer makes Chombo, he must pay 12,000 points: 4,000 to each player. Since it is not possible to make Chombo in Shanghai: Second Dynasty, this information is given for those readers planning to play with real players.

"Sacred Discard" (Furiten)

Perhaps the best way to illustrate what a "furiten" is, let's take a look at a specific example.

In this instance, if you discard the Eight Bam, you are one tile away from a win (you are "tenpai"). You are waiting for a One Bam or a Four Bam. Look at your discards. You discarded a Four Bam already, so you would be in a furiten situation. It would be a penalty mistake (chonbo) to declare a win on someone's discard in this situation. Perhaps it would be better to discard the One Bam instead, and wait for another Eight Bam. Or perhaps not (that's up to you).

A furiten (or "sacred discard") is a tile which has been previously discarded. You are not allowed to claim a furiten to go Out.

The most common type of furiten is a tile which you previously discarded yourself. For example, if you have a 2-3 sequence, you need either a 1 or a 4 to complete it. If you previously discarded a 1 or 4, then you are not allowed to go Out on the same tile when it is subsequently discarded by someone else. The main reason for this rule is that it is unfair to the other player-since you had previously discarded the 1 (for example), Japanese players hold that he has a right to expect that it is safe for him to throw a 1 on the table. If you take it to go out (and subsequently the thrower must pay you), then hard feelings can result (especially when real money is at stake).

It can be difficult to recognize that you have a furiten on the table. For example, let's say you have three of a kind, plus one tile above or below it (for example, 2-3-3-3-4, and otherwise your hand has three complete groups-of-three or Kongs). This gives you three chances to go Out, and it's very easy not to realize them all. If you then go Out on a discard (with a furiten on the table), that's Chombo.

Just looking at the discards is not a guaranteed way of making sure you don't violate the furiten rule; you also need to keep an eye on the other players' melds. The practice of turning claimed tiles sideways makes it easy to spot your own discards among opponents' melds-just don't forget to look there when you're in a possible furiten situation.

Furiten is not limited to tiles that you yourself discard, however. Another type of furiten is a tile that you pass up within one turn of play around the table. If, for example, you have an incomplete "Ryanpeikou" (Double Peikou) hand, and you just need to complete a chow, you probably have two ways to complete the chow. One way of completing the chow gives you the Ryanpeikou yaku (3 fan) but the other way of completing the chow does not. Let's say you need a 3 or 6 to go out-and let's say that it's the 3 that gives you Ryanpeikou, so the 6 does not. If a player discards the 6, and if you have not declared Reach (which would have been a smart strategic move on your part), then you can pass up the 6 (if you had declared Reach, you would be forced to take it and win with the lower-scoring hand). But if you do pass up that valid winning tile, then for the remainder of the turn around the table, that 6 is considered a furiten. If another player (before it is your turn again) discards the 3 that you need for the big yaku hand, you must not take it-all the players will know that you passed up on the 6 to take the 3 when you show your hand. The 6 and the 3 are considered "related" according to the 1-4-7 rule described below. In the example above, the thrower of the 3 is not obligated to pay you-rather, you are obligated to pay the chombo penalty. Shanghai: Second Dynasty does not allow you to claim this type of furiten (the Win button does not light up).

Here's another example. Let's say you have (all in one suit) 2-3-4-4-5-5-5-6-6-7-7-8-8. You have 5 chances to win: 1,3,4,6,9. Of those chances, the ones that earn you the best Yaku are the 3 or the 6. Maybe you realized that the 3 and the 6 were good tiles to go Out on, but didn't realize that the 9 was a possibility too-then somebody discards the 9 and you don't take it. Then, before it's your turn again, you take a discarded 3. That would be chombo. Some more examples of how hard it is to see all the chances on a Pure hand: 1-2-3-4-5-5-5-6-6-7-8-9 (5 chances); 2-3-4-4-4-5-5-5-6-6-6-7-8 (7 chances); and of course 1-1-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-9-9 (9 chances). If you are working on a Pure hand, and Shanghai:Dynasty won't allow you to claim a tile, it's probably because there is a furiten involved. If the explanation for this cannot be found above, then perhaps it's because of the 1-4-7 rule.

Remember these sequences: 1-4-7, 2-5-8, 3-6-9.

The 1-4-7 Rule

The 1-4-7 rule expands the definition of the Furiten to include other tiles which could also be used to complete a Chow which could be made from the "sacred discard." Under the 1-4-7 rule, if you had previously discarded a 6 Dot, then later have an incomplete Chow which needs a 6 (such as a 4-5 or a 7-8), then not only is the 6 Dot "sacred," but you must not claim a 3 or 9, either-at least, not for a win (that would be Chombo)-it is allowable to claim one of them for a Chow.

Here is an example of the 1-4-7 rule: Let's say you have the following tiles: C4-C5-C6-B4-B5-B6-D4-D4-D4-D5-D6-D7-D8. On this hand, you have 5 chances to win (all Dots): D3-D5-D6-D8-D9. The 4-5-6-7-8 combination (or any five-in-a-row combination) especially is significant, because even just by itself it gives 3 chances (in this case, 3-6-9) to turn into two complete sets. 3-6-9 is conceptually the same thing as 1-4-7. Always remember that the numbers "1-4-7," "2-5-8," and "3-6-9" are considered "sacred" (because either of two of them can fulfill an incomplete chow-and any one of them can complete a sequence of five-in-a-row and turn it into two chows).

Let's say (for the example hand above) you had discarded a D8 previously. If somebody else discards, say, a D6, you had better not take it (or any of those Dots which could give you a win)-they are all furiten. It's not ONLY the previously discarded tile itself which is "sacred," under the 1-4-7 rule.

In this example, you declare Reach simultaneous with the discard of a One Dot. You are now waiting for either a Seven Dot or a Red Dragon. The Seven Dot is furiten (look at your discards), so you may not declare win if someone discards a Red Dragon - that would be a penalty mistake (chonbo). Even a seemingly unrelated tile is classified as a "furiten" (sacred discard) under the Japanese rules.

Even "Unrelated" Furiten Disallows the Taking of Any Discard In fact, it is a rule of Japanese Mah-Jongg that if a player has a Furiten on the table, he had better not claim ANY discard to go out. If the tiles you need to win include a tile you had discarded, then do not claim ANY discard for a win. You can self-pick (according to the "Furiten Tsumori Nara OK" rule which applies in Shanghai: Second Dynasty), OR you can divest yourself of tiles so that the tiles which you need to win do not include a tile that you previously discarded. Here's an example. Let's say you have: W-W-B4-B5-B6-C4-C5-C6-D4-D5-D6-D4-D4. You have 3 chances to win: W, D4, or D7. But if you had previously discarded a W (West wind), you had better not claim any of these 3 chances for a win. You can either get rid of the West winds (thus they are no longer needed to win) or you can hope to pick a winning tile from the Wall-or you can just hold out for Tenpai at the end, or (more importantly than getting Tenpai) even forget about winning and just make sure you do not throw a tile that lets someone else win.

For more about Japanese Mah-Jongg:

Japanese Mah-Jongg; Rules & Options
Japanese Yaku (Special Hands) (Many pictures; can be slow to load.)
Scoring Japanese Mah-Jongg
Strategies for Japanese Mah-Jongg
Glossary of Japanese Mah-Jongg Terms

Or on to the next chapter:

Western Mah-Jongg