Off to the Races | At Tokyo Racecourse there’s fun in store for kids and parents alike

It might not be the first place that comes to mind, but with its picturesque setting and ample amusements, Tokyo Racecourse makes for a fantastic family day out. Reached by a dedicated path from Fuchu Keiba Seimon-mae station and boasting 177 acres of carefully manicured land, this child-friendly destination offers much more than just horseracing.

An entry fee of only ¥200 grants access to a green expanse lined with bird-inhabited trees and dotted with games and activities for the kids, all at no extra cost. Most exciting is the Parade Ring, where you can take a gander at all the thoroughbred horses as they’re shown off before each race, also giving the parents a chance to spot their favorite if they fancy a flutter. Seeing (and smelling!) these magnificent creatures up close is a treat you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere in Tokyo—and if that doesn’t satisfy the little ones’ equestrian curiosity, you can also visit the Riding Center, where they’ll be able to ride a real live pony.

Kids can also race one another on toy horses in the Pakapaka Cafe (pakapaka is Japanese for “clip clop”). The cafe features carnival games, a soft playroom for toddlers, and a veritable shrine to ghoulish Japanese manga and anime classic GeGeGe No Kitaro, episodes of which can be watched on one of several sectioned-off DVD screens. Oh, and don’t forget the soft-whip ice cream cones, which come drizzled in sticky Hershey’s chocolate sauce.

Outside, between the Pakapaka Cafe and the Riding Center, a huge climbing frame in the shape of a pirate ship gives children a chance to stretch their legs, arms and imaginations. Elsewhere, a bouncy castle modeled on Racecourse mascot Turfy can be found in the center of the oval-shaped track itself, alongside other playground climbables.

Pakapaka Cafe

Come lunchtime, families can stretch out on the grass with a picnic prepared at home, hit one of the restaurants in the modern, shopping mall-esque Fuji View Stand building, or pick up some light festival-style fare such as corn dogs, karaage and popcorn. In all, the stands feature around 80 eateries, with meals from just ¥500.

But let’s not forget, you’re at the races—and the thrill of the track is just seconds away from most of the kids’ attractions. Lounge on a lawn, grab a seat in the covered grandstand, or join the throng trackside, as a pack of thoroughbreds flex sinew and muscle to bolt 1,600 meters in 90 seconds. Betting is easy thanks to an abundance of automated ticket vendors and free English-language how-to booklets, and the stakes are low, starting at just ¥100. The thunder of hooves as thousands of spectators cheer for their chosen steed creates an electric atmosphere that’s hard to beat, and the panoramic multi-screen Turf Vision monitor (one of the world’s largest, at 66.4m long and 11.2m high) provides a close-up view wherever you are.

With nature spots at a premium in gray, urban Tokyo, the Tokyo Racecourse is literally a breath of fresh air. It offers a fantastic opportunity to meet other families from all over the world and spend some quality time with the kids. And if you’re lucky enough to take home a few more yen than you arrived with—well, that’s a welcome bonus.

  • 1-1 Hiyoshi-cho, Fuchu, Tokyo. Access: Take the Keio line from Shinjuku station to Higashi-Fuchu station and transfer to the Keio Keibajo line, getting off at Fuchu Keiba Seimon-mae station.
  • See the JRA official site for more

Source: Sep 30, 2010 Metropolis Advertising feature