Tokyo City Keibajo Racetrack

The Tokyo City Keibajo Racetrack is an excellent, almost free place to spend an evening in Tokyo. It’s known for it’s “Twinkle Races,” which are held in the evenings.

I was surprised that I didn’t see a single foreigner here when I went.  It’s cheap (just 100 yen) and entertaining, and the horses are gorgeous.

Races are held every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour.

The English website has a guide to gambling.

The racetrack is quite easy to get to. Just take the Tokyo Monorail to Oikeibaj0-mae Station. Go out of the station, turn left, and it’s just a two-minute walk to the track. There are also free shuttle buses from Shinagawa and Kinshicho Stations on Twinkle Race days.

Unfortunately, the race schedules are not available in English, but you can see them here:

Races are held on the dates in blue or orange. Blue indicates night races and orange indicates afternoon races. The next races are going to be held from October 4 to 9, and then from the 18th to the 23rd. They’re run from around 2:30 in the afternoon until 8:00 at night.

The official Tokyo City Keiba-jo Website (Japanese)

The official Tokyo City Keiba-jo Website (English)

The All-Japan Telephone Answering Contest

The Annual All-Japan Telephone Answering Contest is held in November every year. According to the contest’s official website, “The purpose of the Telephone Answering Contest is to preserve correct, eloquent Japanese, as well as measuring the improvement in the service-level and words of each firm’s response to telephone calls.”
It is held annually by the Nihon Denwa/Denshin Yu-za Kyoukai (Japan Telephone and Telegraph User’s Association).”
The contest has been held since 1962, and at last year’s contest in Tokyo, there were 10,510 entrants.

This seems to be a really big event, with nice production values, as you can see in the below YouTube video (contest starts at 0:51). Bizarrely, the entrants are given the caller’s lines beforehand, and are allowed to plan out their responses. They are judged on first impression (15 points), basic answering ability (20 points), communication skill (20 points), sales ability (30 points), and final impression (15 points).

Last year’s winner was a receptionist from Yasukuni-jinja named Hitomi Tanino. She practiced her three-minute conversation for two hours a day over a period of four months.

By the way, on the contest site, there is also an advertisement for the Moshi Moshi Kentei, a telephone answering test with four different levels.

Here is the Telephone Answering Contest’s Official Site (in Japanese only).

Motorboat Racing

Motorboat racing is one of four forms of legalized gambling in Japan, and there are racecourses all over the country. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Heiwajima Racecourse.

It was pretty interesting and I was happy with the photos I got, but it’s probably not for everyone.

Most of the people who go to watch the races are middle-aged and older down-on-their-luck males, and no one seems to get very excited about the races themselves. I don’t think I saw anyone smile the whole time I was there. It’s quite interesting, though, and admission is only 100 yen.

If you show up with a camera, a security guard will tell you that you need permission and take you to a little room where you have to fill out a simple form and promise not to take photos of the other spectators.

These Ryoichi Sasakawa statues are outside every Motorboat Racing facility.

Getting there:
From Tokyo Station, take the Keihin Tohoku Line to Omori Station. From there, go out the East Exit. There’s a free shuttle bus that runs every ten minutes on race days. The shuttle runs from 9:40 AM to 430 PM and leaves from Bus Stop #4. You can also walk (10 min.) from Heiwajima or Omori Kaigan Stations on the Keihin Kyuukou Railway. Here’s a map.

Here’s an explanation of the races:

Here’s an old but very interesting Sports Illustrated article.

A blog called Tokyo Times has a completely different take on Motorboat Racing from mine.