JPML Update – April, 2011

Every year April marks the new season for the Japan Professional Mahjong League and every year more and more tournaments and events are added. April is the month to start the Pro League, Champions League and for the prestigious Masters Tournament.

Since Pro League can be long and tedious, let’s start with Masters. The winner was Keijun Nara, who joined with Garthe and Jenn and is the same Grade 3 as both of them as well, although this title will shoot him up to higher status in everything. The final table was surprisingly filled with young pro’s. Shin Higuchi also joined the league at the same time as Garthe and I (although in the Central-Japan branch) and he won Masters last year. Ryouta Izumi joined just last year and already made a major final! The other player was Jun Nishikawa, who has been in the league for about 10 years.
The final match happened just 3 days ago and the official report is not up yet, so I can’t tell you how it played out, but one thing is for sure: the young pro’s of JPML are starting to show the older crowd what is up and you can expect the mahjong industry to change in the coming years. It’s going to be an interesting ride.

Last year Naoki Setokuma, friend of reigned as the Phoenix Cup champion. This year he came back and defended his title, currently reigning for his 2nd year in a row. The big names competing to challenge him this year are Yuko Ito (friend of, Masayoshi Ara and Makoto Sawazaki (friend of Yuko Ito recently reclaimed his position in the A1 league after being in A2 for a few years. A2 is stocked with pretty much the same crowd as previous years with Kazunori Takizawa starting out strong with a +34.7. Masatoshi Sarukawa looks promising as well with 19.2. There are 10 sessions in the A leagues so it’s still a long road to go.
Kana Nakata is at the top of B1 with +83. It would be great to see a girl in A2 next year. Following in suit Saki Kurosawa is at the top of B2 with +77.9, looking like a first step to pack the higher leagues with females.
Keeping with the female theme, Kozue Miyauchi also posted a big positive in C1, getting herself very close to the moving up border.
Down in D1, Garthe was saved from moving down to D2 (for the 4th time?!), but he posted a negative 14.2 in the first session. He’ll have to step it up for any hopes of moving up to C3 this season. Jenn will be taking off this season’s Pro League and concentrate on the Women’s League which starts in May.

On a separate note, the JPML is also raising money for the devastating earthquake that hit Northern Japan in March. As of April 25th, they raised 438,233 yen (about $5,400). JPML’s official battle site, Ron2, is also donating money based on the number of games played during events.

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