A Look at the Japan Professional Mahjong League (JPML)

Japan’s strongest mahjong professionals meet once a month to determine who will move up in the rankings and who will move down. Veterans meet the new pros over a 2-day event. This is the League.

There is a lot of professionals focusing on this particular league. Maybe because a so highly professional circuit can only be found in Japan, or because of the huge competition level, or the prestigious endorsements (names like or Konami’s Mahjong Fight Club), or the professional attitude and businesslike approach brought at the tables by the competitors. Irrespective of what draws people in huge numbers to undertake professional tests, it is JPML that has been enjoying immense success each year, even in the present recession.

According to western wording sense, professional term can be misleading. It is widely accepted that just about 10% of the top professionals make a living out of the game of Mahjong and form the elite group. Most professional players tend to work in parlours as waters and fill-ins or have day jobs. Moving to the status of video game does require some talent and skill, like winning a title.

Normal league takes place each month and during the year’s end, only top A1 professionals are known to battle for the title of Phoenix Cup. To reach the A1 spot, it does take several years of practice and understanding the game and reaching is limited to a few, as there are just twelve spots. Other leagues are present which last usually for five months each and include the Champions League, Women’s League and several regional leagues. These last ones are offer the best chances for the new players to reach the final table as players are more or less all on the same level.

JPML organizes five major tournaments every year that last for weeks, as events take place just on weekends. Participants in hundreds enrol in them. They are Masters in the spring, 10-tier, Pro Queen and Rookie Cup in the summer, and OUI in the fall. Previous year’s top contenders are seeded after qualifiers and have to go a long way.

It is really an awesome experience to be part of the JPML. The perks offered are just amazing. Apart from enjoying playing the game, it is also possible to make some good friends. The individual gets to meet the other players once a month for getting into the league. After being in, it becomes possible to meet them every weekend during travelling for events to regional appearances and to play along with them the game of Mahjong. Playing the game with the other person and enjoying drinks afterwards is sure to provide the individual with an insight into the other person’s personality. It is how according to the players, tournament days get spent.

Getting into the professional mode of a Mahjong player may sound easy, but practically is a bit tough and requires dedication. Even after qualifying the playing exam, written exam along with the interview for making to the league, a long road is still present before the individual can become a hardcore professional to earn some income. With cash prizes lacking in the major tournaments, this game is not able to spread to all parts of the world. However, one can participate in the game for having their skills and experience upgraded in Mahjong.

Photo by user:Nazki_rhetorica (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons