Keirin is a cycling event where either 7 or 9 professionals race around a track at speeds of over 70km on bicycles. It's a sport created in Japan and is popular as a government-controlled gambling sport.
In this article, we're going to be taking a look at some of the reasons why Keirin is so popular, as well as exploring and introducing one of its venues, the TOKYO OVAL KEIOKAKU.
What is Keirin?
Government-controlled gambling sport are, as the name suggests, gambling controlled by the local government. Within Japan, there are many government-controlled gambling sports including Keirin, horse racing, kyōtei (boat racing), and auto races (motorcycle speedway event).
However, within these events, Keirin is one that was developed in Japan and has over 70 years of history, even becoming one of the Olympic's official events where it gained much popularity.
Keirin Rules & Attraction
Within Keirin, there are always either 7 or 9 participants who will be riding on the bank (course) atop bicycles often referred to as "racers" competing for first place. It's not only a race of speed but of tactics as well between the riders, and seeing these tactics be employed throughout the race is very fun to watch. One of the more interesting parts of the race is when 2-5 riders all ride in formation along the lines of the course often referred to as a "Line battle".
During this "Line Battle", riders try to ensure they have the least wind resistance and most stamina through various tactics to ensure they're able to get the best positioning and take first place. There are riders who purposely stay in the back of the pack initially to conserve energy and others who decide that even if the wind resistance is high at the front they want the top spot throughout the race, it's interesting to watch and compare each participant's strategy. There are also scenes of the backline taking the frontline, or the frontline blocking the backline to prevent them from overtaking, and many more battle scenes to witness during this part of the race.
If you want to see what the course actually feels and looks like, check out this video
360-Degree Virtual Race Video (7 Riders)
Keirin Courses Around Japan
There are currently 43 courses for Keirin across Japan, from Hokkaido's Hakodate in the north to Kyushu's Kumamoto in the south. Within Kanto, you'll find the Tachikawa Velodrome and Keiokaku Velodrome (TOKYO OVAL KEIOKAKU) in Tokyo, with many more arenas in locations such as Hiratsuka, Chiba, Matsudo, Utsunomiya, Kawasaki, and more.
Let's take a look at the TOKYO OVAL KEIOKAKU which can be found a short and convenient 18-minute train ride from Shinjuku Station.
What Kind of Arena and Venue is the TOKYO OVAL KEIOKAKU?
TOKYO OVAL KEIOKAKU can be found within the center of Tokyo in Chofu, and is very conveniently located a 1-minute walk from the Keiō Line Tamagawa Station.
First, once you enter the venue, you'll be greeted by a ticket stand where you can purchase tickets to enter as well as bet on events, alongside some posters and other guidance-related materials aimed at beginners to the sport.
Once you've left the guidance corner, you'll enter the main stand from which you can watch the event. The main stand contains outdoor benches on the first floor, then special viewing seats on the 2nd and 3rd floor, finally the royal seats that come alongside prediction sheets and drink services on the 4th floor.
※To help in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, certain seats are currently unavailable.
If you're visiting with your family, then there's also a kid's room available within the facility! It can be used by any child up to elementary school age and has a ball pool, slide, trampoline, and more large and small-scale apparatus that can be used to ensure the kids don't get bored.
There are also female-only toilets available with special features to help ensure they have everything they need, with diaper exchange facilities on-hand if the need should arise.※To help in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, this service is currently unavailable.
Don't Forget the Food!
It's pretty obvious that Keirin will have many events throughout the day. In fact, the KEIOKAKU KEIRIN is open from 10:00 all the way to 16:00 for noon events, then from 14:00 to 20:00 for night events, with all sorts of events in between, meaning some people spent all day at the venue!
It's because of this that there are many different restaurants and dishes that can be enjoyed on-site such as yakisoba, tonkatsu, Chinese, beef stew, alcohol, and more! There's something for everyone.
- KEIOKAKU KEIRIN
- Address：Tokyo, Chofu, Tamagawa, 4-chōme−３１−1
- Access： Take the Keiō Line express train from Shinjuku Station until you reach Chofu Station from which you can switch to the Hashimoto-bound train. Debark at Keiō Tamagawa Station and the venue will be very close.
- You can also use the JR Nambu Line and use the free shuttle bus for 10-minutes from Yanokuchi Station
- Business Hours： The event timings and such may change, please check the official website prior to visit
Explore Chofu if You're Visiting KEIOKAKU KEIRIN!
Chofu, which is where KEIOKAKU KEIRIN is located has easy access from Shinjuku and is filled with sights to see along the Tamagawa River including ancient temples such as Jindaiji Temple. We especially recommend walking 15 minutes from Keio Tamagawa Station along the river to reach the baseball, soccer, and tennis grounds within Tamagawa Ryokuchi Park, or maybe cross the bridge and take in the sights walking to Keio-Inadazutsumi Station.
Chofu is also well-known as the "Town of Films" with many studios using the areas surrounding Keio Tamagawa Station as filming spots. (※Only certain facilities may be entered)