I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret World of Japanese Bicycle Racing with Sir Chris Hoy, the short documentary shown on the BBC (still available to watch on BBC iPlayer). The program gives an insight into the unusual cycling event of Keirin Racing in its birthplace of Japan, where riders begin the race following a special bike called a derny. First started in post-war Japan to boost the economy, the sport is just one of four in the country in which betting is allowed.
Keirin racing has become big business in the country, the top riders can earn over £1 million a year, with the betting industry worth over £10 billion a year.
If visiting Japan, it is will be well worth seeing this highly unusual but fascinating sport in person.
How to Watch Keirin Racing in Japan
There are 43 velodromes in the country, with racing available every single day of the year. Visiting the velodrome in Japan will be an all together more gritty experience than the sheen you will see at the Izu Velodrome for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
As shown in the documentary, you shouldn’t have any problems getting hold of a ticket as most punters spend their time at the betting halls. Admission for some velodromes are free, with tickets generally ranging from 50 to 3000 yen and are available to buy on the day.
Most velodromes host around twenty events a year, each held over three or four days. The biggest event is the Keirin Grand Prix, held at the Tachikawa track on the 30th December with a top prize of ¥100 million (£720,000). A full schedule of the next races is available here – in Japanese (use Google Translate).
Velodromes in Japan where Keirin Racing takes place can be found below. Click on each for further information on the Japanese Keirin website – in Japanese (use Google Translate).