Thursday, June 22, 2006

Think of them as floaty horses...

Did anyone get that Simpsons reference? There's a lollipop for the first person to tell me where it's from in the comment box... Ooooh, revel in the nerdiness! Soak it up people, soak it up!
Anyway, boat racing. Flick and I stopped off at the Mikuni Boat Race on Sunday on our way back from a spot of camping on the beach. We were camping with Tilly and Laura, and Tilly had heard about the boat race from Joe, who lives nearby. Initially I imagined it as some sort of yacht regatta, but then I found out it was in the middle of the town. Perhaps remote-controlled power boats in the park...?
I was way off. The Boat Race was actually powerboat racing conducted on an enormous artificial lake, overlooked by a gigantic Sony TV which relayed the action to spectators.How have I not heard of this before? Two years in Fukui and no-one made any mention of powerboat racing conducted on an enormous articficial lake overlooked by a gigantic Sony TV. Still, it's good to know there are still things left to discover... Who knows what I'll discover tomorrow? It's like an episode of Tiny Toons or something. 
Anyway, we paid our money to get in, and it quickly became apparent that the main reason for the racing was in fact gambling: a massive TV screen scrolled through betting statistics on the wall above our heads, and banks of vending machines provided punters with gambling slips (well, it wouldn't be Japan without vending machines, would it?). Despite all the high-tech wizardry though, there was the tangible feel of a fleapit betting shop back in England - maybe it was the rows and rows of crumbly old men with despair etched onto their faces, mixed with the smell of stale cigarette smoke and body odour.
It's strange - I was under the impression that gambling for money was illegal in Japan. That's why in pachinko parlours they don't give you money if you win, you just exchange your silver balls for prizes like cuddly toys. To get round the rule, the customers then take their prizes to a booth just outside the parlour, where they exchange them for money. Then presumably the prizes end up back where they were, ready to be won again in the pachinko version of the circle of life. However, according to the teacher I've just asked, it's legal to gamble on certain things, such as horse racing, boat racing and bike racing - yes apparently in Fukui city there's a bike track where you can go to bet on the riders. In my head I'm imagining people racing those granny bikes with the baskets that everyone has, but I suspect he probably meant motorbikes. You never know though...
Despite the despairing, crumbly old men the powerboat racing was pretty cool - the boats pick up a fair bit of speed and it's entertaining to see the "jockeys" lean over and power slide round corners. That's about all they do though - the "track" is just one big oval, and after a while it gets pretty boring watching the same boats go round and round in circles, even if the races only last about 10 minutes or so. I can see why they need the allure of gambling to keep it interesting...


Blogger Phoenix said...

"Think of them as little horses" sign in front of the dog track. ^_^

12:28 am  
Blogger The Funky Drummer said...

I believe the bike track in Fukui is not of the motor variety, but in fact human powered.

I expect they use bikes with gears, rather than the granny bikes though.

4:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having spent all last week at Royal Ascot these scenes of men poring over form, betting slips & diamond screen TV's are all very familiar. The thing that seems to be missing (apart from horses) is strong drink. Are these events alcohol free?

5:56 pm  

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