Japanese General Laws of Mahjong

These rules were written in Baba Hirokazu and Katayama Masayuki’s book Bakatsuki Typhoon and are the most widely used rules in Japan

Translation by Benjamin Boas


SECTION ONE: CHI, PON AND KAN

PART ONE: CHI
PART TWO: PON
PART THREE: KAN
PART FOUR: SUPPLEMENTARY

SECTION TWO: RIICHI

PART ONE: PROCEDURE

PART TWO: THE RIICHI STICK

PART THREE: IPPATSU (ONE ROUND WIN)

PART FOUR: SUPPLEMENTARY

SECTION THREE: WINNING A ROUND

SECTION FOUR: PRECEDENCE

SECTION FIVE: PENALTIES

PART ONE: CHOMBO
PART TWO: DEAD HAND
PART THREE: NOTEN PENALTY

PART FOUR: “RESPONSIBILITY”

SECTION SIX: DEALER REPEATS AND DRAWN ROUNDS

PART ONE: DEALER REPEAT

PART TWO: DRAW

SECTION SEVEN: ENDING THE GAME

SECTION EIGHT: DORA

SECTION NINE: FURITEN

SECTION TEN: SCORE DECLARATION

SECTION ELEVEN: GENERAL RULES


SECTION ONE: CHI, PON AND KAN

PART ONE: CHI

A player may CHI by following these steps, in order

  1. Call CHI after the player to your left has discarded.
  2. Reveal the two tiles you will use to complete the set.
  3. Take the discarded tile and set it along with the other two tiles.
  4. Put the completed set on your right hand side.
  5. Discard a tile.

The tile which was claimed is turned to indicate which player initially discarded it.

EXAMPLE: 2s3s4s

PART TWO: PON

A player may PON by following these steps, in order

  1. Call PON on a discarded tile.
  2. Reveal a pair from your hand.
  3. Make a PON with the pair and discarded tile.
  4. Put the completed PON on your right side.
  5. Discard a tile.

The tile which was claimed is turned to indicate which player initially discarded it.

EXAMPLES:

  1. Player on the right: 2s2s2s
  2. Player across from you: 2s2s2s
  3. Player on the left: 2s2s2s

PART THREE: KAN

1. There are two types of KAN, CONCEALED KAN and OPEN KAN. Here is how to form each:

  • CONCEALED KAN
    1. After you have drawn, say KAN.
    2. Reveal the four tiles which form the KAN.
    3. Turn the middle two tiles of the KAN so the back of the tile faces up, and put it on your right side.
    4. Turn over a new KAN DORA.
    5. Draw a supplemental tile.
    6. Discard a tile.
  • OPEN KAN
    • ADDED KAN
      1. After you have drawn say KAN.
      2. Add a tile to an existing claimed PON.
      3. Then follow steps 4-6 of CONCEALED KAN.
    • CLAIMED OPEN KAN
      1. Call KAN on a discarded tile.
      2. Display a concealed PON from your hand.
      3. Take the discarded tile and form a KAN.
      4. Put the completed KAN on your right side.
      5. Then follow steps 4-6 of CONCEALED KAN.


2. After you have drawn a supplemental tile, you may make an additional KAN on the same turn.

3. Whoever has drawn the last tile may not KAN.

4. If an ADDED KAN tile is “ROBBED” by another player, a new KAN DORA is not turned over.

5. A KAN should look like this:

  • CLOSED KAN
    1. tileback2s2stileback
  • CLAIMED OPEN KAN
    1. Player on the right: 2s2s2s2s
    2. Player across from you: 2s2s2s2s
    3. Player on the left: 2s2s2s2s
  • ADDED KAN

PART FOUR: SUPPLEMENTARY


1. A player may not draw a tile if, on the same turn, he has already claimed a tile for a PON, CHI, or KAN (the supplemental tile for a KAN is an exception).

2. A player may not make a KAN on the same turn he has made a PON or CHI.

3. Once you have touched the next tile in the wall, you may not call for CHI PON OR KAN.

4. “KUIKAE” If you have 2,3,4 in your hand, you may not CHI 2 to make 2,3,4, and then discard a 2 on the same turn, nor may you CHI 5 (making 3,4,5) and discard a 2. You may also not PON a tile and then discard that same tile on the same turn.


SECTION TWO: RIICHI

PART ONE: PROCEDURE

1. A RIICHI declaration is valid only if the player is TENPAI on a CONCEALED hand, and no player has declared RON on the tile discarded when the declaration was made.

2. A RIICHI declaration is made according to the following steps:

  1. Say RIICHI.
  2. Turn your discarded tile sideways.
  3. Pay 1,000 points to the table (“The RIICHI STICK” the stick goes in front of your discards).

3. Once you have said RIICHI, the declaration cannot be taken back.

4. If there are less than 4 tiles left in the wall (you have no additional draws) you may not RIICHI.

5. If you are FURITEN you may still RIICHI. There is no obligation to declare RON if you have declared RIICHI (although not winning may make you FURTIEN.)

6. You may only make a concealed KAN after a RIICHI declaration under the following circumstances:

  • The tile you have drawn adds to the concealed PON already in your hand.
  • Making the KAN will not change your TENPAI PATTERN.
  • Making the KAN will not change the formation of the sets in your hand

7. If the tile you used to declare RIICHI is claimed by another player, turn your next discarded tile sideways.

8. After declaring a RIICHI, you may only draw and discard the same tile, unless you are declaring a concealed KAN or declaring TSUMO.

9. If a DRAWN ROUND occurs, the 1,000 paid points remain on the table and anyone who has declared RIICHI must show their hand.

PART TWO: THE RIICHI STICK


1. RIICHI STICKS are claimed by the person who wins the round. If there is no winner, they go to the winner of the next won round.

2. If a CHOMBO occurs on the same round RIICHI has been declared, the RIICHI STICK goes back to whoever put it out.

3. If the game ends in a DRAWN ROUND, all remaining RIICHI STICKS go to the winner of the game.

4. If RON is called on a tile used to declare RIICHI, the corresponding player takes back his RIICHI STICK.

PART THREE: IPPATSU (ONE ROUND WIN)


1. If, after declaring RIICHI, a player declares a win within one go-around, this is called IPPATSU and counts as a yaku.

2. If a CHI, PON or KAN is called, once the tiles are claimed, IPPATSU is nullified.

3. The players first discard after declaring RIICHI counts as IPPATSU.

PART FOUR: SUPPLEMENTARY


1. DOUBLE RIICHI costs 1,000 points.

2. There is no “OPEN RIICHI”

3. After declaring RIICHI, no player may look at any opponents’ tiles or the URA DORA.


SECTION THREE: WINNING A ROUND

1. All winning hands must contain at least 1 YAKU. There are no instances where it is required to have more than 1.

2. Say “RON” when winning off a discard, say “TSUMO” when winning from a drawn tile.

3. There is only one winner per round. If more than 1 player declares RON on the same tile, the first player in order from the discarder is the winner.

4. If you do not declare RON on a discarded tile that completes your hand、you may not declare RON again until your next draw.

5. A person who has declared RON or TSUMO must organize and expose his hand so that it can be clearly seen and understood by all opponents.

6. Other than FURITEN and 1 YAKU LIMIT, there are no other special restrictions on winning (no KUITAN NASHI, no SAKIDZUKE NASHI.)


SECTION FOUR: PRECEDENCE

1. If two players claim a tile at the same time, RON take precedence over CHI PON OR KAN. PON and KAN take precedence over CHI.

2. Precedence rules apply only if declarations were made at the same time, generally whoever calls first claims the tile.

3. When two players call RON on the same tile the one who said RON first is the winner, if both said RON at the same time, the first in order from the discarder is the winner.


SECTION FIVE: PENALTIES

PART ONE: CHOMBO


1. The following actions are punishable by “CHOMBO,” in which a player pays a MANGAN to all three opponents (2,000 to non-dealer, 4,000 to dealer. If the offending player is the dealer, then 4,000 to all non-dealers.)

  • Declaring an invalid win and exposing ones hand.
  • Making an invalid CONCEALED KAN after declaring RIICHI (determination is made only if a DRAWN GAME occurs.)
  • Whether intentionally or through negligence, exposing tiles from the wall, ones own hand, or an opponents hand to the extent where a game cannot continue.
  • Declaring RIICHI on a hand that is not TENPAI (determination is made only if a DRAWN GAME occurs.)
  • Declaring a win after being penalized with a dead hand.

2. If a CHOMBO occurs at the same time a win is declared, the CHOMBO is voided.

3. If a CHOMBO occurs, the round it occurred in is declared void. The dealer remains, no TABLE STICKS are added, and RIICHI STICKS return to whoever put them out that round.

PART TWO: DEAD HAND


1. The following actions result in a dead hand:

  • Looking at the tiles in an opponents hand or the dead wall.
  • Drawing a tile before the opponent before you has discarded, or drawing in any inappropriate way.
  • Making an invalid CHI, PON or KAN or declaring one invalidly. This includes KUIGAE.

2. A hand is dead immediately after any of the above conditions are noticed.

3. A player with a dead hand by not declare CHI PON KAN or a win.

4. A player with a dead hand is considered NOTEN, even if his hand is TENPAI.

PART THREE: NOTEN PENALITY

1. Any player who does not show a TENPAI hand at the end of a DRAWN ROUND is subject to the NOTEN penalty. Players show their hands in the order of East, South, West and North.

2. The NOTEN penalty amounts to 3,000 points, which is paid equally by all players with NOTEN hands and received equally by all players with TENPAI hands. (If all players are NOTEN, there is no penalty).

3. A hand that is TENPAI but has no YAKU is still considered TENPAI.

4. If a hand is TENPAI, the only special condition where it is not counted as TENPAI is if all of the tiles which could complete your hand are used within your hand. (waiting with 6 8 on a hand where you have a KAN of 7)

PART FOUR: “RESPONSIBILITY”


1. If a player discards a tile which completes any of the following patterns and is claimed by an opponent, that player is “RESPONSIBLE”

  • DAISANGEN—If any player shows 2 PON or KAN of dragons and an opponent throws a 3rd dragon which he claims.
  • DAISHUUSHI—If any player shows 3 PON of winds and is thrown a 4th wind, which he claims.
  • SUUKANTSU—If any player shows 3 KANS and is thrown a 4th tile which he uses to KAN.

2. A responsible player must pay all of a hand which is won on a drawn tile. He must pay half of a hand which is won on a discard.


SECTION SIX: DEALER REPEATS AND DRAWN ROUNDS

PART ONE: DEALER REPEAT


1. If the dealer has won a round or is tenpai after a DRAWN ROUND, there is a DEALER REPEAT.

2. If a DEALER REPEAT occurs, a TABLE STICK is added and put on the dealer’s right side. The number of TABLE STICKS on the table should be noted by all players.

3. For every TABLE STICK on the table, 300 points is added to the amount won by the winner of that round, if there is one. The points are either paid entirely by the discarder, or equally by all non-winning players in the case of a drawn win.

PART TWO: DRAW

1. If no players declare a win on the LAST TILE, it is a drawn game and a TABLE STICK is added.

2. If there is a DRAWN GAME and the dealer is not TENPAI, the deal passes on to the next player and TABLE STICKS remain on the table.

3. If, during the FINAL ROUND, the deal passes, the game is over.

4. Besides a declared win, CHOMBO, or DRAWN GAME, there is no reason a round should end.


SECTION SEVEN: ENDING THE GAME

These are the only specific situations in which a game can end:

  1. A non-dealer wins the FINAL ROUND.
  2. The FINAL ROUND ends in a DRAWN GAME and the dealer is NOTEN.
  3. The dealer wins the FINAL ROUND and is the HIGH SCORER.
    • The game can only end in the case of a dealer win during the FINAL ROUND if the dealer is the HIGH SCORER after the round ends. It does not matter if the dealer had the highest score before.
    • A dealer who has won the FINAL ROUND and is the HIGH SCORER may choose to continue the game.
    • If the dealer becomes the HIGH SCORER during the FINAL ROUND due to the NOTEN PENALTY, the game continues.
  4. When any player goes HAKOTEN (during any round).
    • HAKOTEN occurs when a player does not have enough points to pay.

SECTION EIGHT: DORA

1. There are three types of DORA, URA-DORA, and KAN-DORA (As well as KAN-URA-DORA.)

2. Each DORA in a winning hand increases that hands value by 1 HAN.

3. URA-DORA are only valid if the winning hand contains RIICHI.

4. Only players who have declared RIICHI may see the URA-DORA after a valid win declaration.

5. The URA-DORA is invalid if the winning player does not clearly show it to all other players.

6. A new KAN-DORA is turned over every time a valid KAN is made. This also creates the possibility for a new KAN-URA-DORA.


SECTION NINE: FURITEN

1. If a player is FURITEN, he may not declare a win on an opponent’s discard.

2. There are two types of FURITEN:

  • A players hand can be completed by ANY of the tiles in his corresponding DISCARDs.
  • A player, after declaring RIICHI, chooses not to win on a discarded tile that can complete his hand.

3. A player who has not declared RIICHI may choose not to win on a discarded tile that can complete his hand, but this makes him TEMPORARILY FURITEN until his next draw.


SECTION TEN: SCORE DECLARATION

1. In the case of a table that automatically displays the score

  • There is no need for a player to make a score declaration.
  • If the score display is found to be incorrect, all players must fix this before the game can continue.

2. In the case of a table that does not display the score.

  • All players must announce their score at the beginning of the FINAL ROUND.
  • During any other round, any player may ask the score of another player. A player who has been asked is not obligated to answer, and may also give an approximation if he wishes.
  • Any player whose score falls under 8,000 points after a round must make a score declaration before the next round begins.
  • If, during a FINAL ROUND score declaration, a player misstates his score and this is discovered after the game has ended, the offending player’s PLACE drops (1->2, 2->3, 3->4, 4th place remains in 4th).

SECTION ELEVEN: GENERAL RULES

1. The DEAD WALL is made of 14 tiles.
2. Once a tile has touched the discard area, it is considered discarded and may not be taken back, nor may that player claim TSUMO, even if the tile completes his hand.

3. The last discarded tile may not be claimed for a CHI PON or KAN.

4. WINNING FROM A SUPPLEMENTARY TILE does not combine with WINNING ON THE LAST TILE.

5. If a player accidentally exposes a tile from his hand, there is no penalty.

6. A full game consists only of a an East and South Round.

7. Players begin the game with 25,000 points and return 30,000 points at the end of the game. The 5,000 point difference from each player goes to the winner, making a 20,000 point bonus.

8. A point distribution is applied at the end of the game such that:

1st place: 30,000 point bonus

2nd place: 10,000 point bonus

3rd place: -10,000 point penalty

4th place: -30,000 point penalty

9. If any players scores are tied at the end of the game, the point distribution is split.


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14 thoughts on “Japanese General Laws of Mahjong

  1. So double ron doesn’t apply? And if I am not mistaken, the new dora indicator can only be revealed AFTER you draw the supplemental tile and discard (for open kan).

  2. There are many many variants in Japanese mahjong, take the new dora indicator mentioned in the previous reply as an example, there are the variants that I know.

    1. reveal after you draw the supplemental tile and discard for all kans
    2. reveal before you draw the supplemental tile if it is a concealed kan, after if it is open
    3. reveal before you draw the supplemental tile for all kans.

    There is no such “universal rules” in Japanese mahjong. In fact, every gaming sites and mahjogn gaming house in Japanese may have their own rule set. Do check it out before you enter those sites.

  3. “3. Whoever has drawn the last tile may not KAN.” aha. I had wondered for a while if haitei and Rinshan could potentially stack. This clarifies. .. Although the rule may just be in place to prevent such potential confusion.

  4. My name is Benjamin and I translated these rules. They are not a universal set of Japanese rules, no such set exists. They are, however, the closest thing there is to a standard set of rules. They are used in the Saikyosen, the largest tournament in Japan, and most parlors, particularly national chains, will use a set of rules that is only slightly different.

    @Rider88: There is no Double Ron in these rules. This is one of the things which generally varies from place to place. The others tend to be whether or not there is a DEALER REPEAT in case of tenpai, DRAWN GAMEs happening before the round is over, and red fives.

    Kan dora indication, more often than not, follows the pattern in the above rules. While exceptions exist, they aren’t particularly significant–for the most part it doesn’t matter when you flip the tile over.

    @Joseph Edwards: They write their rules different from the way Westerners would, yes.

    @Kicchiri: While 10-20 and 10-30 umas are both common, I find the latter to be significantly more prevalent.

    @Eric: You mean houtei, right? This actually varies, although most places say that they do not go together.

  5. haitei, houtei, . whichever.

    but this clarifies further
    “4. WINNING FROM A SUPPLEMENTARY TILE does not combine with WINNING ON THE LAST TILE.”
    Precisely what I had been wondering about.

    Thank you for your translation efforts!.

  6. An interesting thing to note, from the EMA rules:
    “3.4.1 Last tile
    The last tile in the wall can only be claimed for a win, not for a kong, pung or chow. In
    case a kong is declared at the second-to-last tile, the replacement tile becomes the last
    tile.”

    If you called Kan on the 2nd to last tile in the wall, and Rinshan’d on it, by their wording it seems you could also claim Haitei.
    Hmmn, this way the dead wall maintains its 14 tiles. If you could call a Kan on the Last Tile, the dead wall wouldn’t keep its 14 tiles. … Wow, talk about a slim case. Easier to just remember Section 11, rule 4 at that point. NO STACKING~.

  7. “If you called Kan on the 2nd to last tile in the wall, and Rinshan’d on it, by their wording it seems you could also claim Haitei.”

    I believe you can only claim haitei on the last tile of the regular wall, not the dead wall tile that was drawn when kong was declared. I believe the ruling makes it so that the last regular wall tile is effectively NOT used, and thus haitei cannot be declared.

  8. There are some problems that occur based on the choice of wording when translating. The last tile in the regular wall is called the “haitei hai”, and the tile drawn after a kan is called the “rinshan hai”.

    So you can have either the haiteihai or the rinshanhai, but not both. Simply using the term “last tile” could result in some confusion, or even improper scoring.

  9. Um, The Saikyosen does *not* have that ‘first to call Ron’ rule.

    http://www.mahjong-club.net/saikyosen/rule.htm

    You are looking for “ダブロン、トリプルロンなし。頭ハネ制度(発声なき行為は無効)。”

    Or, ‘There are no douple and triple rons. Head bump is the rule (invalid calls are illegal).

    You might want to re-read your rules.

    1. Well it’s 6 years later but the translation is in line with the Japanese line you quoted. I don’t know what you mean by “first to call Ron rule.”

      1. Oh, you’re talking about Section Four (3). Mistranslation on my part, sorry. It should say “When two players call RON on the same tile and there was a palpable delay between the two calls, the one who said RON first is the winner…”

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