Monday, 10 September 2012

Horseracing at Funabashi

A while ago I mentioned to Hiro that I was curious to go to the horse racing.  Despite the best efforts of the Japan Racing Association, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Agriculture Fishing and Forestry charged with the responsibility of popularizing horse racing,  horse racing in Japan does not have a genteel image of Ascot, Flemington or Randwick with chicly dressed socialites, champagne breakfasts, Pimms and lemonade, or strawberries and cream.  I've mentioned it on here before, but the mass image of keiba (horse racing) is shuffling, somewhat unkempt men, shuffling along with a cigarrette in their mouth and a formguide under their arm.    Afficiondos are quite content to hang out at WINS  for the day (equivalent to the TAB in Aus - not sure what it is elsewhere) standing, smoking, watching the tv screens and checking the form guide.

I was curious to know how different the race track was...

Hiro has been entering competitions for free tickets with guided tour... and got lucky! (or perhaps there aren't a whole lot of applicants... ) So on Saturday we went to Funabashi.  Apparently they were minor races - main races tend to be held on Sundays.

Despite having zero interest in betting, it was a very pleasant day... Hiro lost only a little more than he won, but still enjoyed himself, despite the addition of smoking rooms and the lack of litter.  For details about horse racing and tracks and all sorts of interesting trivia like who the most profitable owners, jockeys horses etc are.

The entrance to Nakayama - Funabashi race track
Pink and grey... built in the 80s I guess...
Hiro was shocked to see smoking rooms - he hadn't been there for ages... he
became nostalgic for the good old days where you could spit & smoke anywhere.
(Note, he doesn't spit...) Even worse there was no one in it...
We had balcony seats in the "Crystal rooms"  - corporate boxes.
There was a distinct lack of crystal
And they're racing at Nakayama....
Early in the day - very thin crowd.
Perhaps unremarkably few people in corporate boxes left the air con to watch the
races, despite the breeze and shade.
Racing on the sand track - the steeple chase track is inside again.
There is some attempt here to make it genteel... sushi, eel...
But it seemed like most people were happy with McDonalds or beef bowls.
But that's hardly unique to the race track.

Katsu-curry (fried pork with curry)
Superstition about winning carries over to the food -
note the katsu is spelt as a pun on katsu meaning winー

After each race there was an army of workers checking for....
not sure...  I thought a jockey might have lost his/her wedding ring...
Hiro assures me that would not have been the case...
A bonding experience
In the centre of the racetrack a kids playground
With wagon rides.  Whoever thought of the idea of having black asphalt
on the wagon track was thinking of the comfort of neither the horses nor
the patrons... 
More playground
Free water and tea until 4.15 - interestingly coffee was not available..
TV screens, betting windows - all the betting attendants were women.

Part of the tour... "the paddock"
 Respect for the horses

One would be hard pressed to find a more suitable offering

Out the window of the crystal rooms - a very pleasant balcony to sit on.

The sand racing track

Raked to look rather zen - garden like.


Rurousha said...

You entered the den of iniquity!

Funabashi is a lot quieter than Fuchu! It's a bit like comparing, umm, Sugamo with Shinjuku. :p What struck me about Fuchu is that it's a family outing, especially on weekends. Sure, you see many shuffling unkempt men …

Are we talking about the shitamachi or the racecourse? :D

Anyway, you see many guys who are not a picture of sartorial elegance, but I was taken aback by the families, the kids, the picnics. It felt like a South African beach. Excluding the crime and the penguins.

Those guys on the turf after a race? They're stomping down torn-up turf. The same is done after polo matches (then it's called divot stomping). You can imagine the effect of hundreds of thundering hooves on grass.

Oh, man, I miss horses! :(

Cecilia said...

Interesting. Fuchu might have more demographic claims to gentility! There weren't very many kids, and even people in the corporate boxes didn't look any posher than us, and I wasn't trying very hard... An outing to the races is not enough to get me out of Doc Martens! ;) Though I did opt for a long skirt rather than jeans, which were outlawed by the dress code.
Also I guess that being a Sat, and being minor races, it's die-hards that go there.

It might have been a little posher on the 3rd floor, near the booked seats. Though I didn't think to go there. Hiro went the same shokudo as he always has been to there... I was gobsmacked when the woman greeting him with an ohisashiburi! It turns out that the shokudo had a branch in Hiro's work building for about 15 years and he spent much of his pre onigiri bento life eating there.
That said, the food was shocking - I ordered katsudon, to be in keeping with the theme, but it was made of wheat flour rather than pork - or at least a 50/50 mix. Even Hiro was appalled!

Rurousha said...

Do you take your Doc Martens off on the beach? :D

Cecilia said...

:) I don't often go to the beach - it depends on the sand. If not Doc Martens then no shoes :)