Here is a list of mahjong terms that will enhance your enjoyment of Japanese mahjong. Japanese mahjong terminology borrows a lot from Chinese. After all, mahjong was invented in China and spread to Japan in the early 20th century. Chinese mahjong terminology was adopted.
As the Japanese adapted and improved the game, some uniquely Japanese mahjong terminology was created to reflect those changes.
I have omitted the many Yaku terms as these are dealt with elsewhere on this blog
Chinese Numbers & Tile Names
- 1 “Ii”
- 2 “Ryan”
- 3 “San”
- 4 “Suu”
- 5 “Uu”
- 6 “Ryuu”
- 7 “Chii”
- 8 “Paa”
- 9 “Chuu”
Coins = “Pin”: Iipin Ryanpin Sanpin Suupin Uupin Ryuupin Chiipin Paapin Chuupin
Bamboo = “Sou”: Iisou Ryanzou Sanzou Sussou Uusou Ryuusou Chiisou Passou Chuusou
Characters = “Wan”: Iiwan Ryanwan Sanwan Suuwan Uuwan Ryuuwan Chiiwan Paawan Chuuwan
Basic Japanese Mahjong Terminology
CHOMBO A gaffe that attracts a fine.
DORA A bonus tile that enhances the value of the hand.
HAIRIME The tile(s) you need to make your hand ready when one away from TENPAI, or the tile itself when you get it.
JANSOU A mahjong parlour.
MEKURI-PAI The tile that is turned over in the wall.
NO-TEN A hand that is not ready.
RIICHI A declaration that a hand is “ready”. The player pays 1000pts and must not change his hand in exchange for extra points if he goes out.
PAARENCHAN After a certain number (usually 8) of consecutive wins, the Oya has the right go out on RON whether or not his hand contains a Yaku. He scores YAKUMAN if he completes his hand.
PAI A mahjong tile.
RYANSHI (full name = “RYANHANSHIBARI”) After a few hands (usually ) under the same Oya, two Yaku are needed to go out.
TENBOU A scoring stick.
TENPAI A ready hand.
YAKITORI A grilled sparrow on a skewer. A player who fails to complete a single hand in a game must pay the other players a fine.
YAKU Special combinations of tiles, or particular circumstances of play, that raise the value of a hand.
More Advanced Japanese Mahjong Terminology
DAMATEN Silent Tenpai. When a player is Tenpai but does not declare Riichi.
FUTENPAIFU or NO-TEN BAKKIN Any player without a Tenpai hand must pay a fine. When at the end of a hand there is no winner each No-Tenpai player pays 1,000 points to each Tenpai player. If nobody is Tenpai then nobody pays!
ICHINAKI Someone with a pair of Dragons/active Winds calls “Pon” the first time someone discards the tile. (See NINAKI.)
KANCHAN Middle tile wait. (Eg. 2 & 4, needing a 3 to complete the run.)
KIRIAGE Rounding up payouts to the nearest 1,000 points.
KUITANYAO Open Tanyao. You can go out on open Tanyao by Tsumo or Ron.
NINAKI Someone with a pair of Dragons/active Winds calls “Pon” the second time someone discards the tile. (See ICHINAKI.)
PENCHAN – Waiting for a single tile to complete a run. (Eg. 1 & 2, needing a 3 to complete.)
RENCHANJOUKEN The conditions that apply when the Oya wins several hands.
RYANMEN Waiting for one of two tiles to complete a run of three. (e.g. 23 waiting on a 1 or 4 to complete it on either side)
SHANPON Double Pon wait. (e.g. 11, 66 needing a 1 or a 6 to make one a Pon with the other pair being the head.)
SHIROPOCHI White Dragon bonus. Some mahjong sets include a fifth White Dragon (Halu) tile with a “jewel” embedded in it, or otherwise decorated. If you replace one of the regular White Dragon tiles with this one you can agree to award an extra DORA or bonus point…
TANKI – Waiting for a single tile to complete your hand.
TSUMIBOUKATEN Each time the Oya wins he places a 100-tenbou score stick on the table. The winner of a hand gets a bonus of 1,000 points for each score stick that is on the table. He gets it from both players if he finishes by going “Tsumo”, and from the losing player if he finishes by going “Ron”.
TSUMOKIRI When a player immediately discards the tile he drew from the wall.
WAREME The player whose wall is broken at the beginning of a hand scores double if he wins.