Improving the breed at Nakayama, a racecourse outside Tokyo, is as sedulous a pursuit as it is at Aqueduct, but an accidental Occidental plunger might well be disoriented by the Oriental refinements. Only 20% of the bets are made on win, place and show, the rest being placed on a chancy proposition called forecast, which means picking the first and second horses in a race in that order—oh, brother! There is a morning line, but, sportingly, no tote board to reflect changing odds. Instead of pari-mutuel machines, Nakayama employs 2,500 girls (at 7l¢ a day), who sell tickets, count stubs, tot up on abacuses, dash around feeding mysterious information into tiny adding machines and, shortly after the race, come up with the payoffs. There are 12 races, starting at 10:30 a. m., and the horses run clockwise, but it's as hard to go home ahead as it is at Aqueduct.
Railbirds get soaked in front of Nakayama's vast new pillar-less grandstand. But the 100-yen bettors have their day in December when they pick by ballot which horses start in 2 million yen ($5,555) Arima Memorial, Japan's second-richest race.
Information board lists dope for the day's racing. There are 12 Thoroughbred tracks in Japan which are run by a semigovernmental foundation.
Fans line up at the windows to cash their tickets. There are, in addition, off-track betting offices, and the play from these offices is relayed by short-wave radio to the track and figured into the payoffs.
Bettors hunker down in Japanese fashion to study their form sheets. Japan has the usual complement of experts and tipsheets, but touts are banned from the track.
Child enthusiast irreverently interrupts the solemn ritual of picking a winner. Children are welcome at the track, but should be seen, not heard.