Few would argue that Japan is a hotbed of thoroughbred horse racing. Racing has been steadily growing in the country over the past 20 years and so has horse betting. Japan can now rightfully claim a spot in the top three countries that have horse racing. This leads to the question, why is horse racing in japan so popular?

We think there are a few different reasons. We’ve combined them in this look at Japanese horse racing and how popular it has become among bettors at online racebooks.

Horse Racing is a Regal Sport

When one thinks of Japan’s culture and historical status as an empire, it isn’t hard to see why the Japanese like horse racing. It is, after all, the Sport of Kings. At one time, Japan was a major Empire. This lasted until the devastation of World War II. Even in the wake of the terrible conflict, Japanese culture never sacrificed its appreciation for regal sports.


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You can observe the pageantry that is so crucial to sports events in Japan by watching a Japanese sumo match. Horse racing has the same type of pageantry in many respects. From the post parade to the celebrations in the Winner’s Circle, the sport is an event on a grand scale.

Horse Racing is a Popular Spectator Sport

There are many places in the world where horse racing is a popular betting sport. In Japan it is also a popular spectator sport. There are many people who attend the live races in person just to appreciate the event and the sportsmanship of the horses and jockeys. In fact, you could almost say that horse racing could survive in Japan even if there was no betting.

Why is horse racing so popular in Japan? It probably has something to do with how the athletes in the sport are respected. In the US and other racing territories, sometimes jockeys are not given the respect that other athletes are. This is not so in Japan. A horse racing jockey is a true celebrity.

The same can be said for the horses in the Japanese horse races. They are also considered to be celebrities in their own right. Many horses have been honored at Japanese race tracks at the end of their careers with a parade and final appearance before their adoring fans. This brings us to the next reason for horse racing’s popularity in Japan.

The Japanese Appreciate Horses

Race horses are appreciated in Japan, perhaps more than they are in some other areas of the world. This may seem a strange assessment about a country where horses have also been eaten. In fact, the thoroughbred champion Ferdinand met his end in a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2002. The death of Ferdinand did provoke changes in laws in the United States regarding horse slaughter.

Despite this gruesome example, race horses are still generally respected in Japan. There are rules put in place by the Japan Racing Association that are created to help keep horses safe by preventing the use of illegal drugs. Mistreatment of race horses is also frowned upon. If a trainer were to be discovered abusing a horse in their care, the likely result is that they would be asked to leave the country and not participate in horse racing there.

Large Fields and Competitive Horse Races

Japan prides itself on having very large fields in its horse racing contests. It is not uncommon to see as many as 12 or 14 horses in a single race. When there are more betting interests in a horse race, the race itself becomes much more difficult to handicap. This can mean that there are bigger pools for bettors and higher payoffs.

It would also be fair to say that horse racing in Japan is more competitive. The horses in each race may be of a higher caliber. In a regular race in the US there may be three or four horses that have a legitimate chance to win. In Japan, you could find that six or seven horses in each race can contend for the victory. A more competitive field of horses also creates larger and more profitable betting pools.

A Young Horse Breeding Program

For many years, horse breeding in Japan was virtually non-existent. This was until the 1980s when the country began to actively develop its own breeding program. It did this by purchasing American champions and standing them at stud in Japan. Sunday Silence was one of the first and most successful studs to cover mares in Japan.

Because the breeding program in Japan is still young, most of the horses that compete in the country are those which ship in from other countries. This can also mean a more competitive landscape. In any given race you are apt to see horses which were bred in many different locations. Handicappers have to be on top of things to successfully pick winners in these conditions.

Why is horse racing so popular in Japan? These factors give the answer, but there is no one answer that is more valid than the others. Another reason could be that online racebooks have now made it possible for people all over the world to watch and wager on horseracing in Japan.

When you sign up for an account with one of our recommended online horse betting sites, you will get access to hundreds of tracks all over the world. This includes the horse racing tracks in Japan. All you need is a mobile device to make wagers. You can bet the races in Japan right from the comfort of your own home. Check out Bovada, AmWager, Twinspires or Betamerica if in the US. Otherwise, 5dimes is also a good option.

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