From Betting to Horse Racing - A Complete Guide to Taking a Day Trip to the Tokyo Racecourse
While a day at the horse races may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sightseeing in Japan, the Tokyo Racecourse is actually a perfect spot for a fun, educational, and exciting day trip for everyone. Easily accessible from Tokyo, it offers extremely cheap entertainment beyond just watching horse races. This guide covers all you need to know to have an out-of-the-box day trip at the Tokyo Racecourse.
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*This article was written in collaboration with the Japan Racing Association.
Here at tsunagu Japan, we often get requests from readers who want to find out more about day trip locations that are easily accessible from Tokyo. Thus, the editing team was tasked to go out and find great day trip locations within the Tokyo area.
I had heard that the Tokyo Racecourse was a great place to visit, so I took this request as a great opportunity to finally go and try it out for myself. I invited my friend J along, and we had a blast!
The following article is a comprehensive guide to the Tokyo Racecourse that I put together based on my experience. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to have a fun-filled day trip there!
First Things First..
While international horse racing events such as the famous Kentucky Derby in America are formal affairs attended by celebrities and the like, horse racing in Japan is quite casual, so you can show up wearing whatever is most comfortable.
Quick tip: Consider bringing good walking shoes, as the grounds are quite spacious and there is a lot to see.
While there are a few months with no races, the Tokyo Racecourse has events throughout most of the year. It can be very hot or very cold depending on the season, so check the weather beforehand and come prepared to face the elements!
Getting to the Tokyo Racecourse
The Tokyo Racecourse is located in the small city of Fuchu and is super easy to reach from central Tokyo. In fact, it takes just over 30 minutes from Shinjuku Station or just under 1 hour from Tokyo Station by train.
Fuchukeiba-seimonmae Station is the closest train station to the racecourse. When you get off the train, you will see the designated walkway that leads directly to the stadium's main gate - it's impossible to get lost!
Once you get past the walkway, you'll have to line up at one of the many ticket counters to purchase an entry ticket.
Quick tip: Bypass the queue by going downstairs and purchasing an entry ticket from the ticket counters there. Same price, but three times faster!
Head Towards the Information Desk
If you enter from the walkway connected to Fuchukeiba-seimonmae Station, then the first thing you will see is the Central Information Desk.
This is a must-stop location, especially for foreign visitors, as the friendly staff will provide you with all the English-language materials you need, including a racing program with all the information for that day's races and various resources to help you with the betting process.
There are also many other convenient services located near the Central Information Desk, such as ATMs, cell phone charging stations, and even free water and tea dispensaries!
*If you enter the racecourse through another entrance, you can find the Central Information Desk on the 3F of Fuji View Stand.
Betting and Viewing the Races
Visit the Paddock to See the Race Horses Up Close
Before placing your bets, the recommended thing to do is visit the paddock, where the horses who will compete in the next race are paraded around. They appear 30 minutes before their race starts.
This is a great chance to judge the horses up close! Check for things like their walking speed, behavior, and overall demeanor. If you've visited the information center, you will have been given a printout of all that day's horses, separated by race, so it will be easy to jot down a few handwritten notes on each horse.
However, be careful of how you judge the horses! When we went there, one horse was a lot more jittery compared to the others. We thought that was a bad sign, but that horse ended up winning the race!
You Don't Need to Know Japanese to Place a Bet
Betting is one of the biggest draws when it comes to spending a day at the racecourse. Even if you only bet the minimum amount of 100 yen, it still adds a lot of excitement to the race, as you have something to gain... or lose!
With 9 types of bets and 12 races a day, it might seem like things would get confusing or overwhelming for first-time visitors, but don't worry! English-language betting guides (click here for the PDF version) can be picked up at the Central Information Desk.
At the same place, you can receive English overlays to place over the individual betting cards. We loved those, as they made filling out the betting cards so simple!
Once you've filled out your betting card, head on over to one of the automatic vending machines to pay for your bet and receive your official betting ticket (called "baken" in Japanese).
The vending machines can be set to English (as well as Simplified or Traditional Chinese and Korean). Just insert your filled-out betting card and money, and then the machine will spit out your betting ticket!
You can even use these machines to place bets for races happening at other racecourses in Japan! These races are constantly being broadcasted live on the TVs placed all over the facility.
*While betting cards can be filled out electronically via the vending machines, this option is only available when the language is set to Japanese. All other languages require you to fill out the cards by hand.
Let the Race Begin
With your freshly-printed betting ticket in hand, the only thing left to do is head out to the racetrack and watch the race to see how your chosen horses fare.
While there is paid, reserved seating for those who want optimal views and comfort, there is also plenty of free seating in the stands, as well as a spacious standing area.
Quick tip: This stadium is called "Fuji View Stand" for a reason! On a clear day, you can actually see the glorious and iconic Mt. Fuji. Look to the right when facing the racetracks, and you might be able to see its glorious silhouette!
The atmosphere of the race is something to remember.
When it first starts, you'll be surprised by how quiet the stadium becomes. Focus on the huge screen in the middle of the field to see the progress of the race.
Once the horses round the last corner and come up into full view, prepare your ears for a sudden boost in volume and excitement. We even heard people shouting "Sase! Sase!" ("Go! Go!") to cheer on their favored horses!
By the time the first horses cross the finish line, the stadium will be in a wild frenzy. Even if you're new to horse racing or didn't place any bets, it'll be easy to get wrapped up in the excitement!
Luckily, there are 12 races per day, so you can experience this fun and addicting feeling multiple times with just one trip to the racecourse.
If one of the horses you bet on actually won or placed, don't forget to go back to the automatic vending machines to cash in and collect your riches. When we went, J actually won her first bet of the day!
Don't worry if you are too busy to cash in or if you forget. Winning bets can be cashed in up to 60 days after the day of the race.
Don't Miss Out on the Main Race
Even if you leave the racetrack to try some of the other activities (more on those later), make sure to come back to watch the main race that usually starts from 3:30 pm - 3:45 pm depending on the day.
*Please confirm the time of the main race when you arrive at the racecourse.
This is the race with the highest stakes, so it will have the largest attendance and the most electric atmosphere. It's not uncommon for such races to get over 100,000 attendees, making it a huge event you can't miss!
Dining and Shopping
After a long morning of walking and watching horse races, you'll grow pretty hungry come lunch time. There are a variety of dining options in Fuji View Stand, as well as Memorial 60 Stand next door, so you won't go hungry!
All Sorts of Cuisines Await You
Both buildings are 7 floors tall and every floor has some kind of dining establishment, so it's hard to imagine anyone not finding something to satisfy their cravings.
You can find Japanese foods like soba (buckwheat noodles), takoyaki (octopus balls), ramen, and gyudon (beef rice bowl).
You can also find international favorites like pizza and hot dogs. There's even a Kentucky Fried Chicken location!
Ensure Your Victory with Katsu Curry or Katsu Sando
"Katsu" in Japanese carries two meanings:
⇒ To win.
⇒ Shortened form of the English word "cutlet".
Because of this dual meaning, it is customary for people in Japan to eat some form of cutlet during sporting events to pray for victory.
We decided to adhere to this tradition by ordering a big plate of katsu curry (curry with a deep-fried pork cutlet on top) and a katsu sando (deep-fried pork cutlet sandwich).
Since it was so hot that day and we needed to toast to J's earlier victory, we washed our meals down with an ice-cold Japanese beer.
Sitting in a shady area full of greenery while eating good, cheap food and gulping down beer... a memorable experience, for sure!
Purchase Horse-themed Souvenirs at the Turfy Shop
If you've still got a bit of time to spare, head over to the Turfy Shop for some souvenir shopping!
Turfy is the name of the JRA's adorable horse mascot. In the souvenir shop, you can find a huge variety of Turfy goods, including stuffed animals, shirts, pins, stationery, and more!
Of course, there's more than just Turfy goods.
For example, they had a huge lineup of stuffed animals of champion horses from years past. Can you spot the horse that won the prestigious Japan Cup in the year you were born?
There are also edible goods, such as cookies, that are perfect for giving to friends and family members.
If you're just visiting Japan temporarily, how about getting this horse-shaped neck pillow for the long international flight back home? J loved it so much, she bought it on the spot!
After you've seen a few races, you will probably want to explore the grounds and see what else the Tokyo Racecourse has to offer.
Interact with Former Racehorses
After watching dozens of race horses compete, you will probably want to interact with some horses yourself. Luckily, there is a free horse-petting area right next to the Riding Center to the east of Fuji View Stand and Memorial 60 Stand!
The horses are quite calm and well-behaved, but please make sure to be gentle and not make any sudden movements.
Right next to the horse-petting area is the Riding Center, where anyone can line up to go for a short ride on the back of a former race horse!
For those who have never ridden a horse before, this is a great opportunity for a first-time experience, as the friendly staff will help you get on and off of the horse, and will lead you around the ring.
*Note that only the first 180 people to line up will be able to take part in the horse riding activity.
If the experience itself isn't incentive enough, all participants will receive a small free gift, such as this cute ruler!
Note that each of these activities have different starting and ending times:
⇒ Riding Center: 10:30 am - 12:00 pm
⇒ Horse-petting: 10:30 am - 12:00 pm, 2:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Make sure to plan accordingly so as not to miss out on these great activities!
Go for a Pleasant Ride on a Horse Carriage
Keyaki Namiki is an area located in-between Memorial 60 Stand and the Riding Center. While you can sit in the shade of some keyaki (Japanese zelkova) trees and relax with a cold beer, the main attraction is the horse-drawn carriage.
The carriage rides run between 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm (must be lined up by 2:15 pm to ride), and only the first 150 participants to line up will be accommodated. Head over to this area early if you want to make sure you get a spot!
Stroll Around the Spacious Grounds
The grounds are huge, which make them perfect for those who want to stretch their legs and explore, especially on days with nice weather.
Even you just walk around with no objective, you're sure to run into something interesting to see or do, such as a Japanese-style garden, a rose garden, and even a mini shinkansen (bullet train)!
You can even access the center of the racetrack, which consists of a beautiful and expansive lawn, another play area for kids, and even restaurants! Kids will surely have a blast inside the inflatable Turfy bounce house!
This is also a great area from which to watch the horse races, as you are able to bring a blanket and casually spread out picnic-style while cheering on your favorite horses.
The Tokyo Racecourse closes at 5:00 pm, but that doesn't mean your day of fun has to end there.
If you want to stay in the Fuchu area, there are a few options for dining and drinking in the area by Fuchu Station. However, you will probably want to head back towards central Tokyo to have a wider variety of evening and late-night options.
Luckily, there is a direct train to Shinjuku Station that leaves from Fuchukeiba-seimonmae Station. If you board it, it will take less than 30 minutes to reach Shinjuku!
The Prestigious Japan Cup G1 Race Will be Held this November!
The Japan Cup is classified as a G1 race, making it one of the highest profile races of the year, and it will be held at the Tokyo Racecourse this November 25th. This race is distinct even among other races in the G1 class for including racehorses from around the world. Furthermore, there will be some limited edition novelty goods available at this race.
Bonus! Free Gift for Foreign Visitors
If this article has piqued your interest and you are considering making your own day trip to the Tokyo Racecourse, you should definitely try make it to the Japan Cup!
As a special promotional event, the first 500 foreign guests will receive a free gold and silver lacquered pen (seen below)! They can be picked up at a location diagonally across from the Central Information Desk on the 3F of the Fuji View Stand.
These beautiful pens are perfect for writing or giving to a cherished friend or loved one. Why not use one to fill out a betting card at the races?
Several Special Events Will Lead Up to the Japan Cup G1 Race!
One of these events is the Wine Festival, which will take place at the Rose Garden (renamed the "Japan Cup Garden" for the period leading up to the race). You will get to sample around 20 types of wine from all over the world, starting from 500 yen a glass.
The Tokyo Umakara Festival (Autumn) will also take place a few weeks before the actual horse race. Get excited for fried foods that make perfect snacks for race spectating! You can expect several kinds of chicken wings and karaage (deep-fried meat).
If you prefer more international fare, watch out for the World Gourmet Festival! You'll be able to eat your fill of Taiwanese, Mexican, Korean, Italian, American, and Japanese foods. If you decide to attend all three events, we're sure you'll be full enough to put all your energy into the Japan Cup G1 race!
There are more events other than the ones we've listed, so if you want to find out more or you just want to get the latest info on the above events, please check their official website (Japanese only).
*Depending on the situation and the weather, the contents of these events may change or they may get cancelled. Always check the official website to read up on the latest situation.
About Tokyo Racecourse
2018 Horse Race Schedule at the Tokyo Racecourse
10/6 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup (G3)
10/7 Mainichi Okan (G2)
10/13 Ireland Trophy Fuchu Himba Stakes (G2)
10/14 Tokyo High-Jump (J-G2) (Non-JRA event)
10/20 Fuji Stakes (G3)
10/27 Artemis Stakes (G3)
10/28 Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1)
11/3 Keio Hai Nisai Stakes (G2)
11/4 Copa REpublica Argentina (G2)
11/10 Tokyo Chunichi Sports Hai Musashino Stakes (G3)
11/17 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes (G3)
11/25 Japan Autumn International Japan Cup (International Invitational) (G1)
*G1 events are the highest profile, and therefore the Tokyo Racecourse will be the most crowded on those days.
*Please check JRA's official website (listed above) to see the schedules for the 9 other racecourses around Japan.
That wraps up our guide to spending a day at the Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchu, Tokyo. We hope you were inspired to make a trip of your own to this unique day trip location within Tokyo!
Keep an eye on this article for updates as the 2018 horse racing season continues, and don't forget to check our website and social media for other ideas for Tokyo day trips in the future.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.