Argentinian pro riichi mahjong player Nicolas Giaconia

KOBE-SHI, Japan - While professional Japanese players write numerous books and articles on strategy, due to the language barrier these sources are only accessible to people who have a firm grasp on the Japanese language. This huge advantage causes a rift in development and the level of play, not only between the East and the West, but also between Western players.

There have been numerous efforts to translate Japanese articles, and Daina Chiba's excellent book "Riichi Book I" (in which the author credits accomplished riichi player and manga author Masayuki Katayama and distinguished riichi player and best-selling author of mahjong strategy books Makoto Fukuchi), has been a contributory factor in narrowing the gap, but never before an entire book has been translated into English. Copyright issues and a general reluctance on the part of publishing houses have prevented official translations to become available to the public. Until now.

Permission publishing house

Nicolas Giaconia, a professional player at 'Nihon Pro Mahjong', took up the admirable task of translating one of Makoto Fukuchi's books into English. Giaconia (aka xkime or きめっち) has been contributing to the riichi community for years, e.g. by writing articles for Osamuko, and translating or helping translate mahjong media like Tohai's drama, the Kirinji manga, and Shibukawa's articles. The whole project took eight months, including negotiating with publishing house Yosensha and the author to get official permission. When asked which of Fukuchi's books he's been dedicating his time to, Giaconia insists on being cryptic: "Let's keep it a secret for now. All I'll say is that is was released in 2015, so it's very recent."  

Giaconia, who's a certified translator (Spanish/English), explains the process: "Basically Fukuchi suggested I translate his 80 basic shapes book, but I had just bought a newer book of his which is similar but much better. At first he didn't know whether we could get permission and funding from the publisher, so he asked around and the publisher agreed. So I've been translating that one instead. It is a fine piece that will help anyone who already knows the rules of rmj [riichi mahjong, Ed.] to go from beginner to intermediate in as short as a month if used properly (master one chapter a week, 4 chapters in total)." [...] "We talked about it during the Tenhou get-together last February. I don't know if it started half jokingly, but probably seeing all those foreign players in one place sparked something."

Funding and publication

Giaconia speaks frankly on the funding of this endeavor: "Fukuchi is very generous, so I don't know how much comes out of his pocket and how much comes out of the publishing house. In any case, he doesn't need the money, and I'm quite sure he's in it more for the enrichment of the mahjong world than anything else." [...] "He loves the game. He's not a professional player, he's a (reformed) gambler if anything, and yet he does more for the spreading of the game than many famous players." ​As to be expected the book will be available on Amazon (Kindle); it will also be released as a hard copy. Even though the translation stage is complete, the book's not ready for publication: "We're still looking for a proof reader."

Riding the Vegas Wave

Besides the fact this book provides much needed new information on strategy to a non-Japanese reading audience, Giaconia's translation is important on a larger scale: not only opens this project the door to future releases of Fukuchi's books (by Giaconia), it could potentially alter the way Japanese publishers perceive the idea of catering to the foreign market. Fundamental in this process has been the "World Riichi Championship 2017" last month in Las Vegas; starting with a mutual passion (riichi mahjong) this tournament has been instrumental in instigating a dialogue, exchange and interaction between players and organizations prior, during and after the event. Giaconia is excited about the future: "Now we ride the Vegas Wave."

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Comments (1)

  • Guest - sam

    What is the Tenhou get together he mentions? Where is it and Is it open to the public?

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