There’s nothing like a day at the racetrack. The elegant beauty of the horses, the fresh air, the thrill of the races, and the chance to pocket a little extra cash when your horse wins - what could be better? For horse racing lovers, Japan ranks among the best countries in the world for its well-developed world of racing, and a day at the track is a wonderful way to enjoy a day in Japan.
That’s where the JRA comes in. The Japan Racing Association is the governing body of Japanese horse racing, and runs everything from the racetracks to the off-track betting sites. The JRA also has a very detailed multilingual website that outlines everything you need to know about a visit to the horse track, placing bets there, and the entire world of horseracing in Japan, which makes it easy to enjoy for everyone, from veteran spectators to first-time visitors.
A Day at the Racetrack
So, what can you expect from your day at the track?
First, forget the images of Victorian-era floppy hats and preppy white suits. The dress code is basically "anything goes," though the folks in the reserved seating areas tend to sport at least a smart casual style. Being outside all day means dressing for the weather and season, of course, so keep that in mind as well.
Best of all, the entrance costs to all the JRA racecourses are either 100 or 200 yen on live race days, depending on the specific track. It's tough to beat that!
The JRA has ten racecourses across Japan, spanning from tip to tip of the country. The list includes:
- Tokyo Racecourse
- Kyoto Racecourse
- Nakayama Racecourse (Funabashi, Chiba)
- Hanshin Racecourse (Takarazuka, Hyogo)
- Sapporo Racecourse
- Hakodate Racecourse
- Fukushima Racecourse
- Niigata Racecourse
- Chukyo Racecourse (Toyoake, Aichi)
- Kokura Racecourse (Kitakyushu, Fukuoka).
Most of the racecourses are located in or near major cities, and have easy access to the popular tourist attractions of the region.
The most notable is the Tokyo Racecourse, located in Fuchu, Tokyo. Built in 1933 and renovated in 2007, it hosts numerous prestigious race events, including the Japanese Derby and the Japan Cup, and is viewed as the premier venue for horse racing in Japan.
All the racecourses are situated for easy access by public transportation, and all the courses have some parking for cars available as well.
Of course, part of the fun of attending horse races is putting a little money down on your favorite. Luckily placing a bet is simple, even for first-timers or people who don't speak Japanese.
At first, let's get the racing program at the information center!
Thirty minutes before each race, the horses are brought out into the parade ring to allow spectators to size them up. Later, the horses are led onto the course, and are given a warm-up period. This gives you a chance to decide which horse you’d like to bet on.
Bets are easy to place. On your betting slip, determine what kind of bet you want to make. Bets come in several degrees of difficulty, ranging from picking a horse to finish in the top three, to picking the specific place a horse will finish in.
Then, mark the number of the horse you like, and the amount you’d like to wager. Though the betting slips are printed in Japanese, you can obtain a “Go! Racing” betting guide at the general information center which also provides betting slip templates in English (along with Chinese and Korean).
*Note: This is the example for "Win bets"
When you’ve finished, insert your money (1) into the available ticket machines, shown below, followed by your betting slip (2):
You’ll be given a ticket with your bet printed on it. Bets can be entered up to two minutes before the start of a race, and monitors continually update the odds and popularity of certain horses.
Of course, the best part is collecting the payout when your horse wins. Simply insert your ticket back into the ticket machine, and the machine will automatically dispense your winnings to you. It couldn't be any easier.
Want the excitement of following the races and betting on your favorite horses, without straying far from home? The WINS facilities have got you covered. WINS are off-track betting sites that allow you to follow along with the races, bet on your favorites, and of course receive your payouts all in one place. WINS branches are located all across Japan, and allow you to enjoy the action from remote locations. Some WINS branches are equipped with sofas or private booths where you can enjoy all the action in comfort and relaxation.
There are guidebooks in English, Chinese (Simplified/Traditional) and Korean. You can get it at the information center of the WINS.
A variety of races take place across the JRA’s calendar of events, from domestic to international events, from standard races to steeplechases, and involving horses of various ages. A single day at the racetrack includes 12 races, which can take place on either turf or dirt tracks. Each racecourse has its own unique schedule, and hosts special races at different points throughout the year.
Reserve a seat
You can reserve your own seat online for only 1,500 yen (per seat) if visiting these 5 racecourses: Tokyo, Nakayama, Chukyo, Kyoto and Hanshin. For more information and to reserve your seat ticket visit: https://www.ntainbound.com/agent/otherservices/jra/
- Please check the calendar on the Information page for each racecourse
- Apply using the "Series Tour Request" form
- Seats are limited.