Sparkling Winter Lights: an evening at the racetrack

While many in Tokyo bemoan the early time at which the sun sets during the winter months, there is consolation in the various winter illumination entertainments offered around the city. Trees lining streets sport twinkling lights and some amusement venues set up special illumination displays.

From October to April, the Oi Racecourse (a/k/a Tokyo City Keiba) is one such place, with their special illumination known as “Tokyo Mega Illumi” from 17:30 to 21:00 (open from 16:30 November through January).

Even the front entrance beckons.

After passing the ticket area, there is a long walkway to the stands and the racecourse beyond. The walkway, with its color changes and plasma screens flashing various designs, is duly inviting.

In celebration of the venue, horses feature in some of the displays, including a demonstration of riding using one of the lead horses (a retired racehorse used to lead the racing horses onto the track). Even the horse is caparisoned with some lights. The illumination also seeks to be family friendly, and so has some miniature horses and ponies for the kiddies, too.

Another spot particularly popular with children is the “color shadow,” a multi-colored wall of lights where children can enjoy casting shadows.

While visitors can pretty much wander the grounds at will, there is a “logical” order. Start from the grandstand, where there is a dancing water performance every fifteen minutes.

Lights projected on the ground beckon visitors into a tunnel that leads under the racetrack itself and into the infield.

The “twinkle tunnel’s” projections and lights are constantly changing, as if the lights alone weren’t entertainment enough.

A rainbow-lit staircase at the end of the tunnel is nearly blinding, but leads to the illuminations on the infield.

The next section is called “primeval Japanese landscape” and consists of electronic rice paddies that also change colors.

At one edge a blue “waterway” snakes its way to a pond, a hut with a waterwheel and a house with silhouettes on the shades adding to the illusion.

The 100 meter long Edo Cherry Blossom Tunnel is especially popular.

Be sure to take a close look at these lights. They really are in the shape of cherry blossoms.

The flower celebration doesn’t end with cherry blossoms. Next is a wisteria pergola with plenty of lit bundles hanging overhead.

The half moon-shaped “dazzling waterfall” moves in several different ways, fascinating to watch, but better from a little bit of a distance.

A plaza fronting the only cafe in the infield (there are other options back on the other side) has a “rose garden,” a stationary merry-go-round for kids, and great views of many of the other features of the entire event.

A separate tunnel leads back to the grandstand area. For a change of pace, instead of lights, it presents a retro “Showa” back alley kind of atmosphere.

The aurora forest and the giant tree stand next to the grand stand, their atmospheric illumination creating a sense of mystery.

Other, almost random, rainbow-colored illuminations are dotted around the grounds.

As might be expected, refreshments are also available. In addition to the race track’s usual restaurants, food trucks and outdoor stands also provide various dishes and drinks. The race track even has its own craft beer: Star Light. There is also seating available. Those who find sitting outside a bit too chilly will find a dining space on the second floor of the grandstand building.

The Oi Racecourse is a two minute walk from Oi Keibajo-mae station on the Tokyo Monorail and a seven minute walk from Tachiaikawa station on the Keikyu line.

Tickets are JPY1,000; discounted advance tickets (JPY800) can be purchased from the major convenience stores (eg, 7-11, Lawson, Family Mart, Mini Stop).

© 2021 and Vicki L. Beyer
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