Pro Interview: Saki Kurosawa (part 1)

As we sat in a monjayaki restaurant with Kaori Shimizu, Rima Murofushi and later Shintaro Konno, Saki Kurosawa was cooking the food. “I’m really not good at cooking,” she said, “but Active ImageI love to do it. I’ve never even really eaten monja” For some reason none of us could believe that she wasn’t good at it as she perfectly manipulated the ingredients and spatulas on the grill and made mouthwatering monjayaki.

Saki joined JPML just a year before Garthe and I, but catapulted through the leagues and is now in C2 (check her out in this season’s Featured Four). This year she cemented her status as a top pro by clenching the Pro Queen title in October and is on her way to the top in Women’s League as well. So let’s take a look at this salesperson from
(Sometimes these questions were asked by people other than myself, but I’m still putting RM as the asker) What was your image of Mahjong before you learned how to play?
Saki Kurosawa: It’s really hard to remember. I had never even set foot in a Mahjong parlor. I did like “donjara” (a children’s version of the game featuring Doraemon), so I do remember thinking it looked interesting.

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RM: What made you decide to learn Mahjong?
SK: I was in a science program at school and all my classmates were guys. Whenever we had a few hours off they would head to the Mahjong parlor, so I tagged along and learned there.

RM: So were all of your classmates really good?
SK: I think so. Like I said, it was a science course, so everyone was good at numbers and odds.

(we took a break here to ask for some cheese to add to the monjayaki)

RM: What school did you go to?
SK: Sophia University in Yotsuya. (this is the same school as Jenn!)

RM: Did you learn just from watching, or did you have a book for reference?
SK: I had played “donjara” so I knew the basics of how to put a hand together. I watched the guys play a few of times and then joined the game and my friend taught me while I played. That’s a quick way to learn.

RM: Do you have any siblings? You seem like an older sister.
SK: Yes, I have 2 younger siblings. My brother started to learn Mahjong and he plays sometimes, but he’s not really hardcore into it.

RM: After you graduated you got a desk job at a company before you joined JPML. Tell us about that.
SK: Yes. I joined JPML 3 and a half years ago, about 4 years after I started working. I used to go to Mahjong parlors everyday after work before I became a pro. I still go a lot. Actually I usually hear that Garthe has just left the parlors when I get there.

RM: Where do you get the energy to go play after a long day of work?
SK: After work I’m always tired for a short time. Then when I leave the office I get my second wind and want to play.

RM: With so much work at the office and as a popular Mahjong professional, do you ever get a break?
SK: Well, it depends on the season but usually I don’t have many days off. I would say I usually have one day off a month. Although even on my days off I usually end up playing Mahjong. I love going to Hot Springs but I can only really get enough time off during the New Year.

(Enter Shintaro Konno)

RM: What made you decide to go pro join the Japan Professional Mahjong League (JPML)?
SK: JPML was the only league I knew about. I actually was planning on getting some sort of license or qualification, something I could study for. During the time while I was looking for something I saw a poster for the JPML pro test and I decided to take that test. I didn’t know anyone in the league or even any pro’s for that matter and I joined all by myself.

You can play against Saki on JPML’s Ron2, Konami’s Mahjong Fight Club and see her on Mondo 21.

Join us next time when we continue our interview with Saki and hear about her win at the 2008 Pro Queen event.

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