Approximately when did akapai and dora get introduced?

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Goldeneye
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Approximately when did akapai and dora get introduced?

Post by Goldeneye » Fri Sep 23, 2011 5:17 pm

For those who have heard of Eleanor Noss Whitney's book,the original, which I believe was published around 1964 had no mention of either dora or akapai.

Were both of those elements introduced shortly after the book (probably 1970s), because the Original Yakuman Game Boy game (1989) does have the concept of dora (and ura dora), but because it was B&W and maybe because of memory size issues for Original Game Boy games, didn't have the concept of akapai (Well, I guess they could have made akapai by adding a mark to those fives)...

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Re: Approximately when did akapai and dora get introduced?

Post by Barticle » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:36 am

I'm digging up this ancient thread because I spotted it while looking for something else and earlier this week I just happened to be nosing around the Dora article on Japanese Wikipedia and its online sources.

Evidently Dora bonus tiles first featured in a Japanese form of mahjong in the Kansai region as early as the 1940s, just after WWII. Back then the Dora was the same as the indicator tile (not +1) so you could only use three, not four. They were worth 100 pts on a Ron win or 100 pts each with Tsumo (a player started a match with 2k pts then so 300 pts was equivalent to around 4k pts in the modern Riichi system with 25k starts).

Red fives (specifically two 5p) were first made in Kansai around the time of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the 5p circles following the five rings of the Olympic logo. There was also a rival and very similar theory involving the emblem of the 1970 World Expo in Osaka which had five circles representing both cherry blossom and the five major continents. While their origin was many decades ago, it took a long time for red fives to achieve the widespread popularity they enjoy today.

Obviously I find the terminology most interesting. I knew that the term Dora is a shortened form of ドラゴン (doragon), the Japanese transliteration of the English word "dragon" - although, of course, dragons have always had a totally different meaning in mahjong in English. Apparently other Japanese names for Dora were 懸賞牌 (kenshou pai - "treasure tile/s") and 芸者 (geisha). These are historic terms, although the abbreviated form ケンパイ (kenpai) persisted in parts of Kansai.

This links back to where my recent enquiry began. It was noted that the original Chinese version of the Riichi mahjong game Majsoul uses a different word for Dora. Many terms in Japanese mahjong retain their kanji spellings from the original Chinese game but Dora is always spelled using Japanese katakana characters. For Japanese mahjong in China the word 宝牌 (pao pai - "treasure tile/s" again) is used instead. I like "treasure tiles" - it's more meaningful, avoids the dragon confusion and it means that Ura Dora on the bottom row of the dead wall can be 'buried treasure'. :)

(Although I suppose potentially that could be confusing too since Buried Treasure is a traditional English name for one of the limit-hands in Chinese mahjong!)

The Chinese have a different term for red fives as well. In Japan these are variously Akago, Akapai or Akadora using the kanji 赤 (aka - "red"). The same character exists in Chinese and yet I found the term 红五 used in some Chinese sources, where 红 is a different kanji which also means "red".

Hopefully someone out there finds all this as interesting as I do! Maybe in another eight years someone can add further insight.
Last edited by Barticle on Mon Jun 10, 2019 6:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Approximately when did akapai and dora get introduced?

Post by Ignatius » Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:29 am

And that's why in Saki: Achiga-hen, Matsumi Kuro is called in japanese "Dragon Lord".
Life is as beautiful as you want it to be, but it´s only one. That´s why you must not get tired of it. Don´t care if you don´t say something that seems "important" because your mere existence is important for someone.

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Re: Approximately when did akapai and dora get introduced?

Post by Barticle » Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:43 pm

That's cool. She doesn't much look like a dragon lord, but I guess that's the joke!

I still find it odd that an English word provided the basis for a term that became such a core part of the modern Japanese rules. There are several English loanwords used in Japanese mahjong but mostly secondary terms like double, triple, rules, top, all last, chips, etc.

One theory on the origin of Dora is that the rule was brought back from Manchuria after the war, so wouldn't it have a Chinese or Japanese name depending on who invented it? Otherwise if it was created in Japan you'd expect a Japanese name again and obviously there are kanji in Japanese that could've been used for "dragon". As I noted, they did have other kanji names for them in Japan but it was only Dora that became widespread.

Also is it unusual for such a short word to be abbreviated? I know that contractions and portmanteaus are prevalent in Japanese, including English loanwords like "terebi" for television and "famicon" for family computer, but "doragon" only has three syllables!

The sources simply state that Dora comes from dragon (and that dragon has a different meaning in English mahjong terminology).

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