The Japan Cup may be one of the most prestigious horse races in Japan but I had never really heard of it until quite recently when I saw adverts for it plastered all over the Keio Inohashira Line in Shibuya station. It’s not really any surprise I was unaware of it though as horse racing really isn’t a sport that interests me. Having said all that, I was up for a day at the races to experience such a spectacle for the first time.
Colleague and fellow blogger Jack is a veteran of one Grand National and he was on hand to accompany me (having only asked 24 hours earlier) along the Keio Line to the overly-long named Fuchūkeiba-seimommae Station which takes people right to the horse racing track. One of my students is a horse racing fanatic and said that some people started queuing up the week before to get good seats. She said that she was getting there at sunrise on the day but we just decided to rock up at 1:30pm for standing room only but not until we had eaten some cheap soba noodles (below) in the station.
There is a statue of some horse (above) outside the station and it’s probably a legendary one in Japan but I have no idea which one. A walkway over the road leading to the track followed that.
Unbelievably it cost us just ¥200 (£1.43/$1.78) each to get in. What other sport can you watch for so little money?!
Beforehand I didn’t really know what to expect from visiting this place. I knew there was a huge stand and that it would be packed full of those who had queued for ages. I just assumed we’d be standing trackside on a muddy racecourse whilst the rain lashed down as it was predicted to. Subsequently I dressed like someone about to climb a mountain! All a far cry from what people wear to attend Royal Ascot!
Now, its been a long, long time since I put a bet on but I wasn’t expecting (even by Japanese standards) to be doing it by machine and so simple it was too…thanks to Google helping us to fill in the form as there was pretty much nothing in English. As a teenager I followed racing a little bit (particularly Steve Cauthen and Pat Eddery) and my horses came in first a few times on the Grand National but since turning 18 and legally being able to bet I haven’t won once! Would this be the day to change all that? Find out later!
The Japanese are always well-organised if not a bit over-the-top when it comes to going out for the day and I certainly wasn’t expecting to see people with plastic ground sheets to sit (or sleep!) on, especially not inside the stadium concourse areas.
In total we just about saw four races (one was already underway when we first went out on to the terrace) which was sufficient enough for soaking up a race-day. The betting is naturally what makes it more exciting and, having not put a bet on the first full race we saw, I was keen to try my luck with the final two races of the day.
As we went to watch the 11th and final race of the day I put my hand in my pocket to pull out my tickets to see the names of my horses. However, the tickets were gone! They must’ve fallen out less than a minute before when I took my phone out of the same pocket to take a picture of the starting gates below. I returned to the vague area where I thought I had lost them but couldn’t see them! I had to give up and from that moment I was just hoping and praying that my two horses would not win!!
I needn’t have worried as both were nowhere in sight as the favourite Kitasan Black romped home to earn Jack a whopping ¥1900 payday. That was also paid out via the machines and meant he more-or-less broke even from his four ¥500 bets.
The main race (the 11th of the day) started at 3:40pm and was what people came to see. The atmosphere and noise in the stands behind us was pretty good as the horses came round the final bend and on to the home straight. That’s one more live sport I’ve ticked off and probably one that I’d go to again.