Kyoichiru Noguchi handed over the torch of mahjong
- Created on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 11:53
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 18:00
- Written by Martin Rep
He founded the first mahjong museum in the world. He stimulated the realization of international mahjong rules. Now, Kyoichiro Noguchi has passed away in the age of 76.
TOKYO - Without him, you probably would not play mahjong according to the new ‘Mahjong Competition Rules’. There would not have been any European mahjong championship, no world championships. Mahjong players in Europe would still play the old-fashioned Chinese Classical game, and only some addicts would be involved in Japanese riichi mahjong or Hong Kong mahjong.
Kyoichiru Noguchi has passed away. He died in Tokyo on cancer on October 7th.
He had many functions in the Japanese mahjong world. Until last year, he was the leading man of the Japan Mahjong Organizing Committee, an umbrella organization which connects various Japanese mahjong organizations. He had an immense collection of mahjong sets, that made out the basis of the Mahjong Museum in Chiba, which he founded and which he was the general director of.
And, of course, he was the CEO of Take Shobo, a large Japanese publishing company. Name a Japanese manga (comic book) and there’s a fair chance that it is owned by Take Shobo. That business made Kyoichiro Noguchi the rich man who founded, in 1999, the first Mahjong Museum in the world.
As the president of JMOC, Noguchi-san understood the meaning of mahjong rules that would be acknowledged all over the world. That is why he promoted the making of international rules. There are more mahjong rule variations than there are tiles in a set. At the turn of the century, the Japanese only played riichi mahjong (which he considered being ‘too Japanese’ to be accepted as an international standard). In China, any thinkable variation of what is generally called Hong Kong mahjong was played. Mahjong lovers in Europe played all kind of variations of the Chinese Classical game (as it was imported in the nineteen-twenties by the American salesman Joseph Babcock) and in the United States they played ‘mah’, a combination of mahjong, rummy-cub and gin rummy.
Noguchi-san stimulated the realization of international rules. These rules, written by a Chinese state committee, got a status of ‘Chinese Official Rules’ after the People’s Republic of China lifted the ban on mahjong, in 1998. He also co-organized the first world mahjong championship in history, which would take place in Ningbo, the Chinese town where the inventor of mahjong is said to have lived. When this championship was cancelled on the very last moment, Noguchi-san personally saved it by taking over the organization and paying for all that. The first ‘World Championship in Mahjong’ took place in Tokyo, October 2002, and it was the impulse for subsequent events like the yearly Chinese championships, but also for the European championship (the first one, in Nijmegen, Holland, was sponsored by the Mahjong Museum, i.e. by Noguchi-san), and after that lots and lots of international and national championships and other tournaments.
When, five years after Tokyo 2002, ‘mahjong came home’ and the next world championship was organized in Chengdu, China, the Chinese called it ‘the first World Mahjong Championship’. They did not like to be remembered to the ‘Ningbo 2002 disaster’. Noguchi-san did not mind that. He was glad the torch of international mahjong had been taken over.
About Kyoichiru Noguchi
Kind and respectful
Martin Rep (editor of Mahjong News, played in the World Championship in Mahjong, Tokyo 2002): “I remember the first time we met. The competitors listened to an explanation of the rules. During this, the backdoor of the hall opened and Noguchi-san walked in. You could almost feel his incredible charisma. Later that day, I handed him over a copy of the mahjong book by my brother. He was very grateful, reached for his tie and gave me the tie-clip he had been wearing, depicting the Thirteen Orphans. He was very kind and respectful. Just too bad he did not speak one word of English.”
‘Hope he plays in heaven’
Chang Dragon (Taiwanese mahjong historian): “Mr. Noguchi owned a publishing company, and published a lot of mahjong concerned books and magazines, and made a lot of money. He contributed to mahjong in return for what he had benefited from mahjong. He sponsored the first World Mahjong Tournament in Tokyo 2002, so we met there, and also collected mahjong concerned items and made the first mahjong museum in the world.
“I hope that Mr. Noguchi still enjoys mahjong with his friends in heaven.”
His contributions will live on
Tom Sloper (American mahjong guru, webmaster of Sloperama.com): “I'm very sad to hear of Mr. Noguchi's passing. I visited his museum in 1999 but didn't get to meet him until 2002, when he hosted the first World Championship of Mahjong in Tokyo. He very kindly found me, and Martin Rep, and Dan Glimne, and Dragon Chang, and brought us all together on that occasion. We had the opportunity to get to know each other, as well as Ruth Unger, Ryan Morris, Hiroyuki Nagi, Yukio Mori, Mr. Shengqi, and Gao Yu Ting, among other mahjong luminaries. These friendships continue, all thanks to Mr. Noguchi. He contributed much to the world of mahjong, and his contributions will live on.”