Thursday, October 21, 2010

Horse Racing in Tokyo - October 20, 2010

A friend of mine invited me to the Oi Racetrack where Tokyo City Keiba (TCK) is run on a regular basis. Keiba is the Japanese word for horse racing, and the TCK runs races from the afternoon into the evening on some weekdays. The races held under the lights are known as Twinkle Races and attract a large number of casual fans, including plenty of couples enjoying a date.

I had only been here once before, way back in 1997, which is hard to believe as it is a good place to spend for a few hours (and a few yen if you aren't careful). The track is located about 5 minutes from Oi Keibajo-mae station on the Tokyo Monorail, which has direct connections to Haneda Airport. It costs just 100 yen to get in as they expect you to lose much more than that while betting.

My friend was new to racing and we arrived around 7, with only 4 races left on the card. Although the place is huge, I didn't explore much, concentrating on the upcoming races and trying to decipher the racing form. The hardest part is figuring out the names of the horses; they are written in the katakana alphabet which is used for foreign words but since horse names are often not typical words it can be fun trying to determine exactly what the owner was trying to achieve. For example, one horse was named Asusheka in Japanese which could translate to Earthshaker (likely) or Ass Shaker.

One interesting thing is that you can venture into the infield and watch the races from there. As it is without seats, few people do that but in the picture above you can see a couple of fans watching the horses race past.

There are dozens of betting options which are illustrated in English on the home page linked above, but we kept it simple, just betting on a couple of races. I even got one right (the number 1 horse below) but I bet so little that my winnings were not even enough for a beer. Regardless it was a fun couple of hours, and I will revisit on an upcoming weekend to fully enjoy the experience and write a more detailed post.



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