Winner of the Japan Professional Mahjong League’s 32nd annual OUI (King’s) Tournament, at 27, youngest A-leaguer, the future of Mahjong, please welcome Japan’s Niigata prefecture native, Kazunori Takizawa! If his name is too hard to remember, just call him ‘Takki~’. (Picture coming soon)
RM: First of all, congratulations on your first big title! How does it feel to be ‘The King’?
Takki: My first thought was, “Finally!” I really felt like all of my practice and hard work had paid off.
RM: Do you feel like you are a strong player?
Takki: I am better than the average Mahjong player, but there are so many excellent players out there, I really feel like it was just by chance that I won this particular tournament. I always have to reflect on my game and readjust. There are some days when I just can’t win. That’s what Mahjong is.
RM: What was the toughest part of this tournament?
Takki: It was definitely the semi-finals. I wasn’t at my best that day and I just barely pulled through.
RM: How did winning a big title like this change you?
Takki: Nothing has changed. I still feel like I need to keep practicing and improving.
RM: What got you started in Mahjong?
Takki: When I was in 7th grade, I decided that I wanted to learn something. I went to the bookstore and was torn between a Japanese-style Chess book and Mahjong. Mahjong looked more fun so I got the Mahjong book and started playing with my friend’s family.
RM: What made you decide to go pro?
Takki: When I was 18 I decided I wanted to be a pro. At the time I was also thinking about going to school to learn how to make guitars because I was in a band in high school. At 20, I decided to put everything into Mahjong and haven’t looked back. I never really cared about being rich or famous, I just wanted to do something that I love and be able to make enough for food.
RM: How did your family feel when you told them you were going to make your living off of Mahjong?
Takki: My parents were completely against it.
RM: How did you get them to come around on your decision?
Takki: Well, after appearing in Mahjong Fight Club (Konami), RonRon (JPML) and winning a title, they started to understand…
RM: Winning a title? Isn’t this your first one? You mean, they still aren’t happy with your decision?
Takki: They are slowly coming around…
RM: How many hours do you spend each day playing Mahjong?
Takki: Now I only spend about 5 hours each day playing. I used to play a lot more.
RM: What do you enjoy most about the game?
Takki: I really like the fact that no matter how much you practice, there is still more you can do. There is no end goal in Mahjong. There is always someone better and always more to learn.
RM: That is your favorite Hand?
Takki: I don’t like any hand in particular. I always go for the closest one or the one that makes sense at the time, so I don’t like to discriminate. At the finals I did get a Full-Flush though, so I guess that would be one of my favorites now.
RM: What type of setting do you like to play in the best?
Takki: Tournament finals are definitely the best. Everyone is watching and it feels great.
RM: Where do you think Mahjong is going?
Takki: I really think that the gambling image of Mahjong (in Japan) will go away and it will gain a more healthy and favorable image. I don’t think that Mahjong will become a world-wide game of skill right away, but eventually I do believe it will become very popular even outside of Japan.
RM: What are your current goals?
Takki: I hope to win another JPML title in 2007.
RM: How about your long-term goals?
Takki: I just want to get stronger and stronger.
RM: Do you have any advice for people just beginning to play Mahjong?
Takki: Just play with lots of people. Don’t worry about the result, just play well. Even if a good decision did not turn out favorably one time, don’t fret about it. Always stay calm.
RM: Ok, I know it’s corny, but could you tell us your favorite food, beverage, color and Mahjong tile?
Takki: I like to eat fish, drink beer and I guess black is my favorite color. I like East because it is strong in almost all games that use Mahjong tiles.
RM: Any final words for the readers?
Takki: For now, just try Mahjong at least once!
Wow! Thanks Takki for a great interview! You can catch Takki on Mondo 21, RonRon, Mahjong Fight Club, JPML Leagueand many large tournaments. We’ll keep you updated on what he is doing as well.