In May 2004 I picked up my very own Japanese mah-jongg dealing machine. My friends at the mahjong newsgroup asked me to keep a record detailing its acquisition and its overhaul, so here goes...
And me posing next to it.
And the lid can be lifted to access the innards.
It's kinda grimy, but seems to be all there.
The cord had been cut. I observed that the cord didn't seem to be coming out in the manufacturer's intended hole (it just protruded through between the bottom and the plate).
The felt's a little worn...
... and the center interface is faded and grimy.
"Jansui." The machine was manufactured by Cosmo.
Upstairs, Patrick helped me examine the contents of the box o' stuff that came with the machine. These are the sticks.
The previous owner cut a chopstick short and marked a red dot on it to replace a missing 1000-point stick...
... and an unmarked chopstick to replace a missing 100-point stick. I also have extra sticks, so I don't really need to keep the broken chopsticks in the machine going forward.
There are also four yakitori markers, a wind indicator, two blank tiles, and some kind of seal.
The story of these plain white tiles had me mystified for several days until Nath wrote that they were for use when working on the machine (the white backs being easy to spot among the colored backs). (Not that I understand yet when I'll want to use them...)
THIS thing made me wonder about the history of the machine. The cord had been cut and it had had this seal on it. Made me wonder if a police raid had netted this piece of "gambling equipment" and it had been "disabled" accordingly.
The table cover is embroidered with "jansui" on it, and has several nasty stains.
There are several tiles missing. This is the blue-backed set (with the blank white dragons turned face-down). No red fives, no flower tiles.
This is the yellow-backed set. Missing a row of craks (manzu) and a row of dots (pinzu. No red fives, no flowers.
The 1P tile has "jansui" in the center.
Some of the tiles are dirty - this one is encrusted.
This is a magnetic toy called "CRDL" (pronounced "criddle"). I brought it out to check out the magnetic properties of the tiles. Note how the diamond-shaped metal pieces stick together along the magnetic lines of force in the crdl's base.
I had previously been given a set of magnetic machine tiles by my friend Ricky, who owns a mah-jongg club in Little Tokyo. Note how Ricky's tiles act when placed on the crdl base. The crdl has a strong magnet, with north pole at one side and south pole at the other. Ricky's tiles can not be placed on the crdl base in any manner but this - face down on one side, face up on the other...
... or when set on its side in the middle of the crdl base, with the face towards one side only. Magnets inside Ricky's tiles enable the proper stacking of the tiles into walls in Ricky's machines.
But the Jansui tiles behave very differently. It isn't difficult to put the tiles both face-up on the crdl base.
... or on their sides. Either the Jansui tiles have very weak magnets in them (or the magnets have been degaussed), or the Jansui tiles have just metal in them (rather than magnets). I'd been hoping to use some of Ricky's tiles in my machine (they're the same size, and the colors aren't perfect but I just wanted to see if I could get it to work). But that might not be feasible if the tiles have such different magnetic properties.
My probable next step (besides bringing the machine up to my apartment) is to put a plug onto the cord, and see what happens when it's turned on. Unless Andre or Nath or Ricky have better suggestions.
At http://unyty.at.infoseek.co.jp/ I found that the Jansui (which came in two types: A and B) were made in the years Showa 58-61 (1983-86). This machine is about 20 years old!
At http://openuser3.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/show/auctions?userID=nakanuki_com&u=nakanuki_com I found a seller of Jansui parts at auction.
At http://www.adjust2000.co.jp/mashopolditem/old-jansui.htm (same adjust2000 site where Nath pointed me to some maintenance info) I found some Jansuis (but with a different base) for sale, at ¥148,000 - 184,000 (depending on which model, and whether you pay up front or not, I guess). Note: ¥148,000 = $1,300+ USD.
Site of a guy who overhauls and sells dealing machines: http://www.rakuten.co.jp/kasiken/. His Jansui overhaul page: http://www.rakuten.co.jp/kasiken/466364/ (you can click the photos to see larger photos). He's even got a discussion forum.
Lorraine (upper right) has a drycleaning shop, and she says they might be able to clean the cover. I use the cover bottomside up since the topside looks so grungy.
It's a non-polarized plug, because I know Japanese devices are usually non-polarized (and besides, I wouldn't know which of the 2 wires goes to which plug if it WAS a polarized plug). If anybody cares, the plug was made in Mexico.
All wired up, and ready to try...
When I plugged it in, nothing happened. So I opened the top to have a look. I found a plastic rod the perfect length to hold the top open.
There's a switch here...
... and the switch is opened when this spring pushes the switch down (like the way the lid of a washing machine turns off the motion inside when the lid is opened).
Working the switch didn't do anything, so I went looking for an on/off switch on the machine's outside and bottom. It was awkward to take these 2 pictures (of the machine's underside) because my head insisted on resting on the machine's base, which caused the machine to tilt on the dolly. I kept envisioning my obituary: "Aging video game designer crushed to death by falling Japanese mah-jongg dealing machine. Survived by cat." Not only that, it was difficult to angle my head so as to put these labels into focus in my trifocals. I only managed to read them now that I see the photos. I found this boilerplate (which, oddly, says in katakana on the bottom, "I Love You")...
... and another kind of label. Looking at the photo now, I see that it's a fuse. I see something else in this photo that I didn't see then. I wasn't able to get the machine to do anything at all, so I unplugged it.
I put a set of tiles in it. Pressing the switch, closing the panel, I heard whirrings as stuff moved around inside, but I didn't hear what I expected - the tiles being "washed" like the inside of a washing machine. Lifting the lid, I saw what was going on. Underneath the tiles is a large green-and-black circular rubber sheet. That's what moves the tiles. It was not moving. All the gears and belts were moving as they should, but not the rubber sheet.
* * *
He brought over his tools and opened the sucker up. He took the front panel off...
... he loosened some drive belts and removed some brackets and lifted out the tile-tumbler housing...
... and removed the TT sheet.
You can see in these photos that indeed the TT sheet is the problem. It's old, stiff, and cracked. And although you can't tell from these photos, the edges of the sheet are gummy and sticky from the discombobulating rubber. (That's a technical term, "discombobulating." I used to work with tools, materials, and machines, before I became a game designer and producer.)
Steve Sera didn't stay very long, and I neglected to take photos of him at work. He gave me some extra cogs and gears, telling me that these parts also tended to break.
August 12, 2006
And so the poor machine sat, in pieces and with its parts in boxes, for another five months, until the light at the end of the tunnel finally became the bright light of day. Better able to afford the luxury of parts for the Jansui, I contacted two very good friends, Steve Hanawa (who lives in California but does business daily in Japan) and Hisashi Yabui (who lives in Yokohama). It's easy enough to find new TT sheets for sale in Japan (and new tiles), but I wasn't able to actually make the transaction and get the items shipped here to me in Los Angeles alone and unaided. Two problems: my Japanese is only so-so, and the sellers won't ship to the United States. Steve agreed to place the order for the parts, and "Yab" agreed to receive shipment of the parts and send them on to me.
This is a photo of Steve, me, and Yab, taken in 2002. I'd gone to Tokyo for the World Championship of Mahjong, and as it happens Steve was in Tokyo then too. Steve, Yab, and I all used to work at Sega. Ohmigosh, that was over 20 years ago, and we've been friends ever since. Anyway, while I was there an "ex-Sega party" was held, and we had lots of food and drink. That weekend, Yab took me with his family on a day trip to Nikko, while the other attendees at the WCMJ went on a day trip to the Mahjong Museum in Chiba (I'd already been there). But I digress (I do that a lot. Why, one time I was on such an extensive digression that... um, never mind).
So, the next part of the Jansui story is.. some day SOON my parts will come. Then I can put the machine back together. Steve (Hanawa, not Sera) highly recommends that I get a power transformer for longer machine life. One thing at a time...!
August 18, 2006
Today I got an email. Yab has received the TT sheet and the new tiles. He and his family are going to climb Mt. Fuji this weekend, so he'll ship the parts Monday. I wish I could go to Mt. Fuji too!!! \(^_^)/
August 25, 2006
Today I received the tiles.
Hope the TT sheet comes tomorrow, then I can put the machine back together at last! On the advice of Steve Hanawa, I've also ordered a power transformer from fujisan.com (coincidentally, "Mt. Fuji dot com"). The machine requires 100V but American power outlets put out 120V, and this can mean a shorter life for the machine if I don't use a transformer.
August 28, 2006
The TT sheet came today.
August 29, 2006 - Had some time to start working on the machine.
Then it occurred to me: I don't need to roll dice to find out if the machine will build walls now. I put a set of tiles into the machine, plugged it in, and turned it on. The TT sheet moved beautifully, but the machine stopped after a while, without having done everything it was supposed to. Someone on the newsgroup asked for a movie, but by this time the sun was going down, so that'll have to wait.
August 30, 2006
Today I realized that the big top ring is a magnet ring. As the tiles got "washed" by the rotating TT sheet, some of the tiles were picked up by magnets in the bottom of the magnet ring. But there they sat. The ring apparently was supposed to turn! I had already put a new O-ring into the wheel that's supposed to turn the magnet ring, and I didn't know why the magnet ring wasn't turning. Didn't have much time to fiddle with the machine this day.
August 31, 2006
Had lots of time for the machine. First - why isn't the magnet ring turning? I loosened some screws and adjusted the idler wheels the magnet ring rests in, turned the machine on, and the magnet ring turned freely.
Next, I put tiles into the main tumbling area, and watched how things transpired now that the magnet ring was turning freely. I noticed that the tiles still were not moving out from the central tumbling area into the outer belts. There are two ramps the tiles are supposed to move on, to get from the turning magnet ring out to the belts. One ramp was moving tiles fairly well, but the other was not.
So I removed the nonfunctioning ramp and checked it out. It seemed that its belt roller wasn't turning as freely as it ought, so I opened it up, cleaned out the gunk, and put in some graphite. I put the ramp back in place, and now that one worked fine.
Then the other ramp didn't seem to be working so well. I noticed that the tiles were jamming at the top of the ramp. A corner of the tile was getting caught on an edge of a plastic cover. I unscrewed the plastic cover and filed it to make the edge more rounded, to reduce the catching.
Then I noticed that that ramp was moving slowly. I unscrewed the ramp and repeated the same roller cleanup process.
When I put everything back together, the machine for the first time actually went ahead and built walls smoothly! It's working again!
I took a few little movies with my digicam. They're large, and not fun to watch, so I made one that's smaller and most simply shows the machine in operation, using my tripod. Click the thumbnail below to see it. The file is over 7 megabytes, so it may take some time to load.
I expect that there are more parts that will occasionally give out, need adjusting, need cleaning. But now the machine has been restored to functionality. The power converter hasn't arrived yet, so I should probably keep its operation to a minimum for the time being. And I still need to put the dice box back together, too. I suppose I should see if I can get a new one (this one is in nasty shape, the surface plastic is badly degraded). Maybe later...
September 5, 2006
Name = Steve Sera
Email = kurumayasan-usaⒶhotmail.com (copy and paste this into your email program and change Ⓐ to the @ symbol)
Posted = March 11, 2008
Do you live in the Los Angeles area and own a Japanese automatic mah-jongg table? Steve Sera is a highly skilled and experienced mechanic, has spare parts for many table models, and even better, he makes house calls! Email him, and tell him Tom Sloper sent you.
I also discussed dealing machines in FAQ 7f.
You can also see photos on Uwe Martens' site where he reported the work he and Andre Marohn did on their Kakinuma machine.
© 2004-2007 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.