It is very common in my homeland of Ireland, for people to attend horse races during the winter holidays. Around where I lived it is the Leopardstown Races on St Stephen’s Day. Here in Japan, Christmas is not a main event, but New Years is like our Christmas. So when I saw an advert for horse races in Saitama over the New Year my attention peaked. My interest led me to research more and I found not only horse race information, but other type of New Years races that can be enjoyed during the holiday season. Whether you are looking for a unique place for a New Year’s date, or an alternative place for a ladies day out, or maybe a casual get together with work mates, or just a fun family day in Saitama, you might get an idea here. Each of the sports mentioned are ones that you can legally bet on in Japan and there are betting facilities at the venues.
Thoroughbred Horse Racing at Urawa Racecourse
About 30 minutes on a train from Tokyo and a 15 minute walk from Minami Urawa and Urawa stations lies a local Government race course. On race days, there is a free shuttle bus from East Exit of JR Minami-Urawa station. The entry fee to the grounds is only 100 yen. You can pay for a seat if you prefer with costs starting from 500 yen and Viewing boxes cost from 2000 yen. The paddock is close to the stands, so it is possible to see the thoroughbreds up close and personal. This was my experience at the Tokyo race course also. There are a row of shops where you can buy food and goods. Food is very reasonably priced. A popular keepsake is a tumbler of the Saitama mascot Kobaton in horseracing gear.
The race course is closed for New Year’s day, but they have races from January 6th to 8th (2016 dates) with their New Year Cup on the 7th. First races start at 9.40 in the morning.
For more information on the premises in English: http://japanracing.jp/en/go-racing/local-racecourses/n09.html
For more information about the New Year Cup in Japanese: http://www.urawa-keiba.jp/navi/index.html
Professional Cycling Races at Omiya
There are lots of events annually at the Omiya Velodrome. Shortly into the new year they will be holding the popular Kurashige memorial cup races. This special memorial cup event will take place from January 16th to 19th (dates for 2016). THe Omiya race tracks are known for their added services, such as a stamp rally for kids, free sweets in the morning, a free drink at lunch and a free indoor playroom for young children. During this special event, they will have even more attractions for families to enjoy, such as an illusion show on the 16th and Saitama mascot Kobaton visiting on the 18th.
The official homepage for bicycle racing: http://keirin.jp/pc/dfw/dataplaza/guest/
Omiya bike races facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/keirin.saitama/
Boat Race Stadium Toda
The boat race courses in Toda were designed and opened for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They still hold big races every year. From the 3rd of January (2016) you can enjoy the 46th annual (very roughly translated) “Saitama racers sports Japan competition” event. It is only a 100 yen into the stadium. Seating costs additional money. There are indoor and outdoor seats. You can buy food on the premises and they have a free children’s play area.
The official website: http://www.boatrace-toda.jp/
Information about boat racing in Japan, in English: http://www.boatrace.jp/en.html
In researching this post, I found information in the 2016 January magazine print issue of “Tokyo Walker“. That issue also includes information on the Seibu Amusement Park velodrome which is beside the ski slopes in Seibu in Tokorozawa. They have races annually in January, this year the dates are January 27th to 29th 2016. There was also information on more boat races in Saitama including “Boat pier Kurihashi” and “Boat pier Okabe“. I had a great day out at the Tokyo horse races a few years ago, so I am definitely keen to try some of the local races here in Saitama. I am particularly interested in the boat races as these are not something you see very often in Ireland. I hope to have a report on one of them in the New Year! 🙂
Whatever you do over the New Year, have a great holiday season.