Kyoichiru Noguchi, mahjong and world peace
- Created on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 11:25
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 18:00
- Written by Martin Rep
TOKYO - Kyoichiru Noguchi, honorary president of the Japan Mahjong Organizing Committee JMOC and founder of the Mahjong Museum and publishing house Take Shobo, has retired from his function at JMOC. Noguchi-san played a decisive role in the world-wide spread of the Chinese Official mahjong rules, now generally known as Mahjong Competition Rules (MCR). He was the initiator of the first World Championship in Mahjong, which was followed by numerous international tournaments.
Until 1998, mahjong was formally forbidden in China, the homeland of mahjong. In that year, however, official rules were determined, in order to make mahjong a ‘healthy sport’, with three laws: no gambling, no smoking, no drinking.
In 2000, Noguchi’s publishing company was the first to release a book (The Worldrule of Mahjong) where the new rules were published in Chinese, Japanese and English, which made them accessible for a large readership. In 2002, JMOC (an umbrella organization of four Japanese mahjong leagues) was was one the initiators of the first World Championship in Mahjong, to take place in the Chinese town of Ningbo (near Shanghai), where mahjong is said to have originated. This was the first international championship where the Chinese Official rules were applied.
In doing this, Noguchi-san demonstrated a visionary look, since in Japan almost everyone played riichi mahjong and virtually no-one had ever heard of the new Chinese Official rules. Noguchi, however, strived for a world-wide acknowledgement of mahjong and he realized that, in order to succeed, he would need the help of the homeland of mahjong, and thus, he would have to support the new international rules. If the Chinese are the fathers of mahjong, then Kyoichiru Noguchi really is its godfather.
Noguchi personally saved the first World Championship when it was cancelled at the very last moment since the Chinese authorities did not want it to take place in their country. Apparently, mahjong still was too sensitive a subject. Noguchi-san decided to move the championship to Tokyo, at the same time financing the better part of it.
The world championship was a success. Japanese player Mai Hatsune was the first world champion, and the event was followed by similar competitions in Europe where, starting from 2005, every second year an open European championship is being organized. Noguchi-san was the major sponsor of the first Open European Mahjong Championship, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, 2005. In China, national championships are taking place each year ever since 2003. In 2007, with Noguchi’s support, the World Mahjong Organization (WMO) in Beijing took over the Japanese initiative to organize the World Championship.
Kyoichiru Noguchi set a major contribution for mahjong by founding the Mahjong Museum in Chiba, Japan, where he accommodated his impressive collection of mahjong sets and paraphernalia. It was opened in April 1999 as ‘the only one in the world’. Nowadays, it has a counterpart in the Chinese town of Chengdu. Noguchi founded the museum with the intention of ‘fostering and developing mahjong culture’. In the Mahjong Museum, splendid sets are exposed, e.g. sets that belonged to the Emperor and the Empress of China. Its library contains a small but serious body of historical work on mahjong’s history in Japan. Noguchi still is the general director of the museum.
Noguchi-san was the founder of Take Shobo. Take Shobo, located in Tokyo, publishes most of the mahjong related print media in Japan, amongst which a large number of Japanese manga comics, with quite a few titles that are fully dedicated to mahjong. In this way, he was responsible for the popularity of manga characters such as Mahjong Princess Miko (an naive girl who tries to learn and play mahjong real well) and Akagi Shigeru (a dark character ‘who plays mahjong like the gods’.)
In his words
In his preface to ‘The Worldrule of Mahjong’, Kyoichiru Noguchi writes:
Website of the Mahjong Museum
‘Mahjong, which was born in China in the 19th century, has disseminated throughout the world in this century and developed in many ways in accordance with the culture of each country. In the 21st century, it will further grow as one of the sports for which international matches and world championship will be held.
‘Therefore, it is necessary and urgent that uniform rules and terminology of mahjong be established.
‘We earnestly hope that international games and world championship of mahjong will contribute to the cultural exchange and peace of the world.’