In the past, keiba jyo (horse racecourse) was considered a rough place, often occupied by old men betting their lives away. Today keiba has transformed itself, becoming a fashionable and fun event for young Japanese, men, women and even families. Winning is still important, but there are a lot more to enjoy at horse racecourses.
Today we’ll take you on a day trip to Tokyo horse racecourse, the biggest horse racetrack in Japan, and introduce you to the basics of keiba and how to enjoy a day at the race track.
There are 25 horse racecourses in Japan, and Tokyo has Tokyo Racecourse (東京競馬場) in Fuchu and Oi Racecourse in Shinagawa. Tokyo Racecourse is in Fuchu, which is only 24 minutes away from Shinjuku on the Keio Line. The racecourse is only two minutes on foot the Keio Line Fuchu Keiba Seimon Mae Station.
Once you get there, buy an entry ticket for ¥200 and start exploring the course and its facilities.
How to place your bet
Unfortunately keiba terminology and betting system are difficult to understand. That’s why some racecourses started free on-site seminars on betting. But you don’t have to understand all the complex details, so have a look at a simple guide on betting in Japan and see how you go.
単勝 (Win): Your horse wins, you get paid.
複勝 (Place): You win if your horse gets at least 3rd place.
馬連 (Quinella): Pick two horses. You win if they come first and second and order doesn’t matter.
馬単 (Exacta): Similar to quinella, but you have to get the order right. Pick the first- and second-place horses.
３連複 (Trio): Pick three horses. You get paid if they come first, second and third, and order doesn’t matter.
３連単 (Trifecta): Pick the first-, second- and third-place finishers in exact order.
WIN5: The lotto of keiba. Buy a ¥100 ticket and you could win as much as ¥600 million if you manage to pick the winner of five specially designated races.
Why don’t you check out horses at the paddock first before you start betting?
If you understand Japanese, visit the beginners’ seminar booth run by the Japan Racing Association. They currently offer two short courses, one on how to fill out forms for tickets and the other on how to understand keiba newspapers. It takes about 20 minutes and it’s free for everyone.
Once you fill out forms, take them to a ticketing machine and get tickets.
Dining at Racecourse
The racecourse begins its first race around 10am and the last race around 4:30pm. So if you are keen, you can spend all day there.
So you might have to eat three times there, but don’t worry. There are over 100 restaurants and eateries offering a wide range of food, from Japanese B-level gourmet to find dining on the top floor (probably for winners;-).
Win or lose, have a quick visit at the souvenir shop on the ground floor at Fuji View Stand. They have a variety of memorabilias including kawaii famous horse stuffed dolls.
If you are getting off at Fuchu Station and want to walk to the racecourse, it’ll take you about 20 – 25 minutes. But it’s worth a walk as you’ll be able to drop by the beautiful Ookunitama Shrine. Go in there and try an omikuji (fortune telling paper) to see how lucky you are on that day.[Video]