Clean up your table with 500 point tembo!

Not many outside of Japan are fortunate enough to have regular access to an auto-table, which usually means playing on the ubiquitous junk-mat.
Personally, I like my side of the table organized: dice and homba placed just so, hand tiles neat, and tembo separated by value. OK. I may be particular about it, but I’m willing to bet there are many people reading this that have equally particular arrangements of their own.

If there is one complaint I have about the junk-mat, it is the tembo tray size. The standard ten 100-point tembo fill up one of those little trays before the game even starts. The careless brush of a sleeve is enough to scatter a few on the table; more so after raking in a few payments from your opponents. I’m not alone in this. There are more of you out there, even if you don’t know it. Most don’t actually notice or openly complain, but if you look around the room mid-hanchan, you’ll see people absently dealing with it in a variety of personal behaviors.

Fortunately, there is an elegant solution in the 500-point tembo! Converting one of your 100-point sticks reduces the number of “peasant-point” counters on the table by 16! Not only does this drastically reduce hand payments featuring a fistful of hundreds (though in most cases you should be overpaying with larger denominations for a more concise exchange anyway), but as a bonus, it frees up almost half of the space in that cramped tray.

A quick and dirty way to craft these gems is to simply wrap the center of a 100-point tembo with tape. This works just fine, but I am not a fan of using adhesives for this, so I will show you how to quickly assemble some using a more lasting material.

You will need:

  • Tembo – four 100-point sticks should be minimum for a set (one per player) but feel free to craft a couple more as long as there are plenty left over.
  • Heat shrink tubing – usually found in the electrical section of your local hardware store. It is inexpensive material and you do not need much. 1/4 in (6.4 mm) tubing fits well.
  • Scissors
  • A heat source – I have used a small heat gun for this demo. A hair-dryer might work if it gets really hot. A small open flame does the job as well, but use with all due care.

Use scissors to cut the tubing into short sections approximately 1/2 inch, or 1.5 cm if you are working in metric. It just need to be long enough to cover the dots on the stick.

Slip it around the stick and center it over the dots.

Hit it with some heat. The tubing will shrink snugly around the tembo.

Set them aside or drop them in a cup of water to cool.

Update: We have edited the spelling of tenbou to tembo after establishing for ourselves a few guidelines regarding transcription of Japanese terms to English.