Test new-found luck at horse track
Downtown Kawasaki, near JR Kawasaki Station, is packed with countless restaurants, bars and various cultural facilities, such as Muza Kawasaki, one of the finest symphony halls in Kanto Plain and La Cittadella, a district built to reflect an Italian town. The district was beautifully lit and the outdoor stage offered a live jazz performance in the evening.
Strolling along these busy downtown streets, you will come across the Kawasaki Keibajo horse track, which for 100 yen ($0.80), let’s you watch all 11 - 13 races for the day. They are usually open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; some offer night races until to 9 p.m. You can watch from outdoor and indoor bleachers, or sit in special box seats for an additional 1,500 yen.
I inserted a 100 yen, walked through the automatic gate, passed through a tunnel that led to the observation deck where 1,000s of people, mostly men in their 60s or older, sat in the outdoor bleachers, busily studying and marking their programs with red pens.
Soon, the next race started with the roar of the crowd. Thirteen horses bolted out of the starting gate at once, galloping along the one-mile track at breakneck speed for less than two minutes.
Horse racing in Japan is a publicly managed industry. The cheapest racing ticket costs 50 yen or 100 yen, depending on the racetrack.
Fortunately, the horse we bet came in first, and we won 140 yen. If it were a “tansho” ticket, which only pays if your horse comes in first, we would have won 300 yen. A “sanrensho-tanshiki,” or trifecta ticket that requires picking the first three winning horses in order, would have paid 8,750 yen.
If you’re feeling lucky, there is the “triple-tansho,” where you to bet on which horse will come in first for three designated races. Recently, one of these 50 yen tickets at Ohi Race Track (aka Tokyo City Keiba) paid out a record sum of roughly 74.8 million yen ($623,000).
You can buy any kind of ticket fairly easily at a racetrack – just mark the horses’ numbers, the type of bet you want and the amount on the application form and insert it with the money into a ticket machine. Then out comes your ticket.
The forms are in Japanese, but the Japan Racing Association has an online guide in English (japanracing.jp/en/index.html), and most racetracks usually have some English-speaking staff on hand.
Kawasaki Keibajo Racetrack
Location: 1-5-1 Fujimi, Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture (10-minute walk from JR Kawasaki Station)