Can mah-jongg and pachinko parlors clean up their acts?

February 15th, 2011 by Felicity Hughes

Healthy Mah-jongg is getting more popular with young players who've discovered the game online

When we think of mah-jongg we generally conjure up images of middle-aged guys playing in dingy rooms, filled with thick blue smoke. So we definitely took note when we heard of  Kien Mah-Jongg Story, a new parlor that is offering a refreshingly smoke-free environment to its customers.

“Fewer people smoke and there’s a lot of people who hate smoking,” said company president Akira Aiba in a recent interview with Shibuya Keizai Shimbun. The atmosphere at Kien (no-smoking) Mah-jongg Story is “low key and chic” and designed to attract a younger, more fashionable, crowd in their 20s and 30s. Though the mahjong world of the past was predominantly male, Internet mahjong sites have turned on a new generation of younger female players.

The trend isn’t limited to the younger generation. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, Japan’s elderly generation are also opting to play the game in a healthier environment. Kenkou (healthy) Mah-jongg parlors (many of which are owned by Galapagos), where drinking, gambling and smoking are forbidden, have opened all over the country and are attracting a mainly female, elderly clientele.

Pachinko, another gaming industry that’s traditionally associated with chain smokers, appears to be taking steps — baby steps — toward cleaning up its act. You can be forgiven for thinking that pachinko parlors require their patrons to smoke, but there are actually a few places of refuge for non-smokers and their numbers are growing. Furthermore, there’s been talk in the Diet of extending the public smoking ban to places such as pachinko parlors, though you can bet that the owners and the tobacco industry will put up a fight.

What do you think? Should the smokers be kicked off the premises?

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One Response

  1. Not at all, smokers kept Mahjong going for decades BEFORE online gaming, anime and manga all helped to make mahjong “cool” again. I’d also rather play in a dingy, smoky place as that is the classic Mahjong atmosphere and there would probably also be better players at a place like that. I’d want alcohol while I played…to ease the pain of walking into obvious Mahjong traps (I’m not that good)! Mahjong parlors that completely distance themselves from Mahjong’s rich history and try and make clean, sterile environments just aren’t that interesting.

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