Friday 24 January 2014

NOGIKU Series Blog Tour - SJ Pajonas

Nogiku banner

This is my stop during the blog tour for the Nogiku Series by SJ Pajonas. This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours . The blog tour runs from January 20 till February 2, you can view the complete tour schedule on the Nogiku series blog tour page on the website of Lola's Blog Tours.

I've asked SJ Pajonas to do a guest post, and here's what she chose to write about. I'm sure you'll find it fascinating. Admittedly, growing up in Barbados, with Japanese parents, I can't recall ever having played any of these.

History of Japanese Gambling Games
The history of gambling in Japan has been quite rocky. Did you know that operating casinos in Japan is illegal? Yes, they do not have casinos, of all things! Now, I love to go to the casino. I wouldn’t say I’m much of a gambler, but I enjoy going once or twice per year. I play roulette, my husband plays craps, and we get a blessed night or two away from the kids. But this just isn’t possible in Japan. They only have a few legal forms of gambling and many illegal gambling places are run by the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. I sometimes wonder what a Japanese Las Vegas would be like…

When I introduced the Japanese clans in REMOVED, I westernized the Maeda, Yazkuza, clan. I figured it was a new time, a new continent, and running western style casinos would be good way for Yakuza to make a (relatively) legal foray into society. Of course, many illegal things happen but Noburu Maeda, the head of Maeda clan, is fairly respected and reputable, even if he’s a tough nut to crack. Sanaa spends a good amount of time discerning how to woo him. It’s not a stretch to say that I wish that were my job.

But the casinos in REMOVED and the rest of the Nogiku Series don’t touch on any of the traditional Japanese games except for mention of pachinko parlors, so I thought it might be fun for this post to highlight the three most popular historical gambling games from Japan.


Are you a fan of the old samurai movies? I’ve seen several dozen and the gambling that usually takes place in them happens illegally behind closed doors. A dozen or so men crowd into a small room, drinking and waving money around while a shirtless man, the dealer, sits in the kneeling seiza position. Two dice are mixed into bamboo cup while players bet on either chō (even) or han (odd). Bets are placed and the dealer slams the cup down, pulls it away, and reveals the dice. That’s it. That’s the extent of the game! It’s a game of odds.

One of my favorite Japanese heroes is Zatoichi, a blind swordsman who is cunningly adept at cutting down his enemies despite not being able to see. He can even tell when he is being cheated at chō-han! It’s hilarious when he makes fools of the people who try to take him to the cleaners.

And yes, chō-han was and still is illegal and run by the yakuza. Supposedly, it’s still popular in Japan.


Pachinko is one of the few forms of legal gambling in Japan, and it is its own beast. I walked into a pachinko parlor in Tokyo and was immediately overwhelmed by the sounds and smoke. Pachinko machines are like upright pinball machines and there are over 12,000 in Japan run by private companies [source] You cannot win money directly at pachinko. Here’s the deal. You play the games and there are many different varieties just like slot machines at a western casino. When your ball gets into a special slot, you win more balls. Eventually you can exchange those balls for prizes or for chips. The chips are the interesting part. You take your chip, usually next door, out of the pachinko parlor, and exchange it for money. The exchange place is usually owned by the same company that owns the parlor. It’s a pretty sneaky way around the laws.

Wouldn’t opening casinos be easier? I have no idea. Pachinko is pretty popular in Japan and, next to the lottery and sports betting, is one of the few legal ways to gamble there. Next time I go to Tokyo, I’m promising myself I’ll really play pachinko. I walked out the last time without playing once.


I just learned about hanafuda a few weeks ago. I walk my kids to school everyday and one of the crossing guards has become a good friend. He served in Vietnam and while he was stationed overseas, he also lived in Okinawa. One day, on our way to school, he presented me with these cards. I had never heard of them before so I was excited to find out that it was one of the first original card games in Japan.

Japan was a very closed off society for most of their history which is a very interesting subject all its own but from the mid-1500s to the mid-1600s, they opened their ports to foreigners and missionaries. The Portuguese brought playing cards from Europe and they became extremely popular amongst the Japanese. But once all foreigners were banned from Japan and the ports closed, the government banned the playing cards from being used.

So, of course, someone had a great idea to make their own Japanese style playing cards. But those cards were banned. So more were made, and then they were banned. (This feels like a Monty Python skit). Until finally, the government relented and decided that some card games would be okay as long there were no numbers on them to be used for gambling. Hanafuda cards were then invented to fill this gap. (Of course, the yakuza have figured out how to use hanafuda for gambling by assigning points to the images on the cards. Those yakuza are very crafty.)

The most popular game using hanafuda cards is Koi-Koi which means “come on” in Japanese. Because this game is super complicated and there are so many varieties of games just like there are varieties of Poker, Gin, Bridge, etc. I highly recommend you check out this article on Wikipedia and it’s sub-articles on the different games. I now own my own set thanks to my crossing guard friend so I need to learn soon!

One last cool fact about hanafuda cards is that they are now produced by Nintendo. Nintendo has issued sets of hanafuda cards with Super Mario and Pokemon on them. Super cute. This review on Youtube is pretty helpful:

Interested in Gambling in Japan?

The Japanese gambling experience is unique to say the least. If you want to see more, check out these photos on Flickr.

So far this series contains two book: Removed (Nogiku series #1) and Released (Nogiku series #2).

removedRemoved (Nogiku series #1)
By SJ Pajonas
Genre: Science Fiction Romance, Post-apocalyptic
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: September 11, 2013
Duty knows no family. Love has no price. Secrets can cost you everything. Twenty-year-old Sanaa Griffin, a sweet and smart half-Japanese girl, is about to get more than she bargained for when she wishes for love and excitement on New Yearís Eve 3103. Mark Sakai, who knows more about her than any stranger should, thinks Sanaa is the perfect person to spy on the heads of the three biggest Japanese clan leaders in Nishikyo. He wants her to gather enough evidence to keep them from going to war when they land on Earthís colonization planet, Yusei. Nishikyo, built by the Japanese 300 years ago to house the rest of mankind, is failing and everyone is preparing to leave. Sakai has known Sanaaís family all her life but she knows nothing of him! And despite all the time they spend together, he keeps his distance from her. Then one day, he brings her to Jiro, his nephew, to learn sword fighting, and it changes her life irrevocably. Between falling in love with Jiro and the information she is gathering on the clans, Sanaa realizes Sakai is holding back secrets about her family and her deceased parents, secrets as to why she was chosen for this job, and learning the truth puts her and all of Nishikyo in danger.
You can find Removed on Goodreads
Want to view some inspirational images for Removed, visit the Removed inspirational Pinterest board

You can buy Removed here:
- Amazon (Paperback)
- Amazon (Kindle)
- Barnes & Noble
- iBookstore
- Kobo
- Wattpad

You can watch the trailer for Removed here:


Released (Nogiku series #2)
by SJ Pajonas

Genre: Science Fiction Romance, Post-apocalyptic
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: December 17, 2013
**Contains spoilers for those who have not read REMOVED (Book 1) Left in the desert to recuperate from her injuries, Sanaa Itami paces the floors and contemplates her mistakes. She trusted too easily, and now people she loved are dead, killed at the hands of men coming to assassinate her. Sanaa feels beaten, but life awaits her at home. While Nishikyo recovers from the earthquake, negotiations for Sanaa's eventual rule on Yusei continue. New allies must be made, new friendships brokered, new skills acquired -- at all costs. Life at the top of the chain is complicated and lonely, though. With relations in Sakai clan rocky and uncertain, Sanaa must learn to trust others again more than she's willing. Who amongst the clans is left holding a grudge? And will the new family Sanaa has found with Jiro support or betray her? From Nishikyo to Yusei, RELEASED, Book TWO of the Nogiku Series, is the second book in a captivating New Adult post-apocalyptic romance series that harnesses the cultures and traditions of Japan and sweeps them into the future between Earth and a faraway land.

You can find Released on Goodreads

You can buy Released here:
- Amazon
- Barnes & Noble
- Kobo

sj pajonas

About the Author:
S. J. Pajonas loves all things Asian and has been in love with Japan for as long as she can remember. Writing about Asia and Japan came naturally after studying the culture and language for over fifteen years. She studied film and screenwriting first and eventually segued into fiction once she was no longer working a full-time job.

Released is S. J. Pajonasís second work, book two of four in the Nogiku Series. The first book in the series, Removed, is described as ìa wonderful storyî with ìengaging characters, seamless world building, and an action packed plot.î Itís an ìup-til-3am-because-I-read-it-in-one-sitting book.î She also writes contemporary romance and her upcoming first book in the Love in the Digital Age series will be published in 2014.

S. J. lives with her husband and two children just outside of New York City. She loves reading, writing, film, J- and K-dramas, knitting, and astrology. Her favorite author is Haruki Murakami and favorite book is The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

You can find and contact her here:
- Website
- Facebook
- Twitter
- Goodreads
- Pinterest
- Flickr
- Instagram
- Tumblr

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of the Nogiku series. These are the prizes you can win: Amazon Gift Cards, copies of REMOVED, and eBook copies of two fantastic Japanese books: JAPANESE SOUL COOKING and THE SAKE HANDBOOK. Both will be gifted through either Amazon (kindle) or Barnes&Noble (nook).
Here are the links to both books on Amazon:
Sake Handbook on amazon:
Japanese Soul Cooking:

You can enter the tour wide giveaway here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Well, there you have it folks! Sounds fascinating, right? I've already downloaded my copy of Removed and I'm anxious to start reading it.

Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.

Friday 3 January 2014

Happy New Year!!

I thought I'd better make a post before January went into its second week, and the year got away from me, like it usually does.

I've resolved not to make resolutions -- on a personal level. On a writing level, my list is long. Right at the top of the list, still looming like a bad taste, revision and revising of Bengaria's War. The beast needs to be done with itself and this is the year I'm going to attack it with resolve!

I've five more Jax Marlin shorts to complete, and I'm in the midst of that right now. Then, I've sketched out a rough outline of a full-length novel based on a short story I subbed for an anthology. I'm quite excited about this one since it involves something I've never (ever) written about before... Aliens! 

There's also another short story that I started last year with my brother, that still needs to be sorted out and completed (Time Fracture). And the tale about a generation ship that wandered off course. But I foresee that as something to do for the following year.

Betwix and between completing Bengaria's War and the Jax Marlin tales, I've a few other things that I'd like to do, but it's too premature to say just yet. Don't worry, I'll keep you in the know in due course.

On a day-job level, I've resolved to purchase a USB drawing tablet and teach myself how to digitally paint. I've been tooling about experimenting, but drawing with a mouse is all tails. Haa!! Anyways, you get my point.

So, that's about it for now. I'm gonna bury my head straight into the latest WIP (Jax Marlin #6) and whip that novella into shape, then dive straight into the #7.