Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Keirin: A day at the Japanese bike races

The last time I visited Japan I went out to see a bike race--a track event called 'keirin'. Keirin was in the world headlines this week because the BBC claims that Japanese lobbyists paid bribes to get Keirin included in the Olympics.

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These Japanese bike races are not the wholesome events that would expect. The atmosphere is nothing like the Marymoor Park Velodrome, for example. The whole atmosphere is really weird.

It's more like a dog track race, where the audience place bets on their favorite riders. Most of the audience are their 50s-60s, milling around and smoking. And the entire track is surrounded by a rusty chain link fence, which ruins the view and makes the place kind of Mad Max. I was there for about 20 minutes before I saw any bikes.

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And then the pageantry begins. Triumphant music plays over the speakers, 2 girls run out and wave flags, and the riders ride through an arch in their superhero uniforms up to the starting blocks, bow, and they're off.

The gamblers are not all that interested in bike racing really, and there is not much to do in between races so they have some entertainment in between the races to keep them around.

The best part of a day at the Keirin is probably the food. They have a dozen or so vendors selling really cheap and pretty healthy japanese food. Like a whole pickled cucumber on a stick, a grilled sweet potato, and rice porridge (okayu).

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This place has 10 kinds of onigiri (rice balls), others had tempura, udon or sushi.

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All in all, keirin is no tour de france (which I saw once too) and if you find yourself in Japan their are much more interesting things you can do with your time than this. But if you are in the neighborhood and a race is on, its a good place to get a snack. 

Oh yeah, if you want to see an actual keirin race, check this out...

1 comment:

Alta Language Services said...

Your write up is great! We just published an article on Keirin racing and found your account while researching.

- Jon @ ALTA