By Paul Hackshaw
If you visit Japan you will find that if you want to gamble on sports there are very few venues where this is possible. All though many Japanese "gamble" on games like pachinko (this is not strictly legal in Japan, where participants gamble instead for prizes which are then exchanged at an outside booth for money) if you want to gamble directly then the only sports that are government sanctions for gambling are horse-racing, motorboat racing, and cycle racing. In Nara there is a large velodrome where its is possible to see cycle races and to bet on individual athletes. Situated about ten minutes walk west of Kintetsu Heijo station, it is possible to enjoy the atmosphere of competitive cycling. To learn when events are taking place it is best to check the website which lists when and where events are being held. There are several different classes, FI and FII, as well and GI, GII and GIII. On occasion there are also race classes held for women cyclists as well. Foreign athletes have been known to take part at Nara velodrome as well as win their races. Looking at the schedule many of the races are held during weekdays, instead of on weekends. Each place also has many restaurants serving local foods such as ramen, udon and curry.
Entry fee is 1,000 yen for spectators and the gradient angle of the bank is a maximum of 33 degrees resulting in an exciting, fast paced spectacle. You can check the form and racing history of each of the athletes on the website if you sign up and obtain a password, with information on each stadium the different types of races, instructions on how to place bets and the different kinds of facilities available, including a luxury lounge for high-rollers.
To get to Nara Velodrome from Kyoto take a kyuko express to Takanohara station, change trains to a local (kakueki teisha) and go one stop to Heijo. Heijo is one station from Yamato Saidaiji and its possible even to walk- taking about 15-20 minutes. At Heijo station, go out the west exit and head west until you see the large velodrome ahead of you. From Yamato Saidaiji go one stop to Heijo station.
I'm 49 years young and come from Auckland, New Zealand. I have now lived in Japan about 25 years, almost the entire time has been spent in the Kansai area. I originally lived in Takamatsu, Kagawa prefecture in 1987 and then moved to Osaka. Spending a few years in Osaka and when I married I moved ...