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Japan World Cup 3 – A day at the horses


Hello you. I’m reporting straight from Osaka, Japan, on the Japan World Cup 3 that is taking place today. Why am I here and what’s this got to do with anything? Read on and you’ll find out.

Previously Josh Kramer and Richard Murphy have both spoken about the Japanese gaming industry and where it could be heading. It’s an uncertain time as Western developers take the limelight, and some Eastern developers refuse to change and adapt. For many of us here at Thunderbolt (i.e. those old enough), Japan once provided us with the consoles that made us who we are, with the titles that shaped our gaming attitudes. It was with much pleasure then, that I was personally invited to Japan World Cup 3. And while not a video game showcase exactly, it has given me a great chance to travel over and spend some time with developers and studios during my visit.


Japan World Cup 3 is a one day event consisting of five unique races. This year, it’ll be happening in the city of Osaka, two hundred and fifty miles from Tokyo. Each race will consist of a number of horses competing for first place. However, things aren’t always as they seem during the Japan World Cup, as the races all feature different classes of horses. The Haribote Memorial race sees teams dressing up as the horses themselves, the key rider taking control in an attempt to lead them to victory. While another, the Steeplechase ?-Box, features the now infamous Mystery Box before the final straight run to the finish line.

Arriving early this morning, the sun shining down in Osaka, I stumbled from pillar to post causing more confusion than good with my complete lack of understanding and disregard for the Japanese language. I attended a conference with local legend Mogy, who pointed with much enthusiasm at a whiteboard signalling, what I presumed to be, the five races that’d take place that day. With a smashing sense of fashion, Mogy talked at considerable lengths about the upcoming day. There was pointing at colourful horses, gusto concerning the possible challenges today and apparent praise of the day’s weather. Naturally, I understood none of it, nodding politely when it seemed appropriate, hoping to dear god that he wouldn’t notice me and ask a question bound to lead to translational doom.


Following the conference, and to help fit in and merge with the crowds, I picked up a newspaper showing smiling faces of the riders and the odds for the day. The gaikokujin amongst the pure blooded, I cut my losses and earlier took a spare seat by the race track, hiding behind printed word until the races began. What was about to unfold was something beautiful, a lightning bolt to a stone-cold heart that let loose the forbidden inner-child. Laughing on my own never felt so damn good.

For those of you outside of Japan, you can head over to the official website. Here you’ll be able to get an introduction to today’s events, as well as stream all the races in real time and do a spot of gambling (I believe they host the gambling site offshore in a loop hole to avoid Japan’s frowning on gambling). You may even catch a glimpse of yours truly in the crowd (if you’re lucky). Yes, the website is all in Japanese. But with a little guess work you’ll soon figure it out and be underway.


If you’re struggling to navigate the website then here are some tips: Load up the main page. Click the ticket icon in the bottom left-hand corner. You’ll be presented with the five races and riders. Select which team number you want to bet on for each race. Click ok and continue onwards. But there’s no more time for guidance, because if you’re joining us now then you’re just in time for the next race. Over to our field correspondent Tristan McO’rly:

The riders and their prized horses are all in position. The atmosphere is becoming increasingly tense as the sun shines down here in Osaka. Yes – and it begins. Number 3 has taken the early lead. Number 4 – the fan favourite – is sporting his classic afro look and is quickly closing in on Number 1. Number 1 has – yes, yes – its rider Luke Bessons is attempting to streamline himself by head-standing on his horse. A risky move, but one that is causing a tremendous rush of speed as his trusty steed races from last place to alongside leader Number 3. They’re hitting the middle corner now, there is very little between the horses today. And the riders slam into the Mystery Box. It’s gone very quiet. Not a breath in the crowd. Yes – the doors open and, well, things are rapidly changing on the final straight run. Number 1 is balancing on a giant beach ball, as Number 3 slides out on an antique rocking chair. Number 2 is creeping into first place on a tiny skateboard. Number 1 has just fallen from the ball! What a shame. The team will surely be complaining to the officials about the Mystery Box today. Wait–what?–that’s right, Number 4 has powered ahead on a Segway scooter and is close to the winning line. There he goes, over the line to win this race and prove that George W. Bush still remains the only animal to have fallen from a Segway scooter. Liquid horse-racing! Back to you Shane!


Thanks Tristan. Another race, another fine display of master class here at Japan World Cup 3. It’s shaping up to be a fine day, and now is the time for me to grab another glass of complimentary red wine and find a good spot for the next race. Be sure to check out the rest of the event online.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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