"And the Lord said, 'Let there be Mahjong tiles'"

New details emerge of the apocalyptic showdown between Pope Benedict XVI and the former prime minister of Japan.

By Andrew Leonard

Published January 16, 2009 9:42PM (EST)

It is an enduring source of great satisfaction to me that no matter how obscure I think the topic I choose to write about might be, somewhere on this great planet there is a reader who has made it his or her lifework to know everything there is to know about it. And quite often, that reader chooses to share their wisdom with me. This was much harder to do before there was an Internet.

Today's case in point. Yesterday, in "How George Bush lost a Mahjong Battle for World Domination," I exulted over my discovery of "The Legend of Koizumi," a Japanese manga depicting a world in which the former prime minister of Japan, Koizumi Junichiro, faces off against a motley crew of nefarious world leaders in a sequence of epic mahjong battles. I can't read Japanese, and so far as I know "The Legend of Koizumi" hasn't been translated, but I'm still happy it exists.

Today, we hear from reader Benkun who himself is ecstatic that "the Japanese Mahjong world, my topic of research, has appeared on a major American Web site."

(Glad to be of service, Benkun!)

Benkun shares with us a scene from last week's episode, in which Koizumi battles Pope Benedict:

His Holiness quotes Genesis, with the help of a boy's choir, as he leads Koizumi to the Mahjong table, "And the Lord said, let there be Mahjong tiles!" He puts together his hand in six quick steps, one for each of the first days of the world, and then unleashes it at Koizumi. "On the seventh day, the Lord finished his work and that day became a holy day of rest. You should rest as the Lord did, Koizumi, for eternity. Amen."

The episode ends with the Vatican's bell sounding Koizumi's apparent death. The boy's choir is still singing in the final panels.

Can you hear the tiles crashing? For about six months in 1985, my bedroom window in Taipei adjoined a courtyard in which a neighboring apartment often hosted an all-night mahjong game. I remember constantly being woken from fitful, sweaty slumber through hot summer Taiwanese nights by the great crash of mahjong tiles dumped on the table -- the signal that yet another game was about to begin. Just the memory of that sound turns the intervening decades into dust: Suddenly I can feel the humidity, smell the stinky doufu, taste the spicy noodles from the married couple who only set up their night market stand when they needed cash... so as to be able to pursue their true love, mahjong.

I thought that couple were just a pair of inveterate gamblers who made the most amazing noodles in the universe. But now I wonder, perhaps on those weeks when I thought they had headed down south to play, the were really out saving the world from evil Popes.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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