After hosting the Rugby World Cup last summer and with the Tokyo Olympic Games on the horizon, Japan is quickly becoming a hotspot for world-class competition.
But despite the jamboree of sport on offer, the country has not forgotten its long-held love for horse racing.
Japanese racing fans are some of the most dedicated in the world and are certainly not afraid to put their money where their mouth is.
Last year’s betting revenue soared to an eye-watering $25.6 billion, according to the Japan Racing Association (JRA), allowing the industry to go from strength to strength.
Much of the profit created by betting is reinvested into racing prize funds, meaning its meetings are now amongst the most lucrative in the world.
“For Japanese racing fans, it’s a part of their daily life,” Shuji Kashiwada, the general manager of JRA International Department, told CNN Sport’s Winning Post.
‘The roar that you get is incredible’
The country’s illustrious racing calendar culminates in one of the world’s richest races, the Japan Cup.
The annual spectacle at Tokyo Racecourse attracts thousands of people, many of whom take part in the traditional “Dawn Dash,” where fans who have camped in line overnight run for the best vantage points once the turnstiles are opened.
The race itself attracts world-class runners and riders from across the globe, including this year the three-time Japan Cup winner, Frankie Dettori.
The legendary Italian jockey caught up with Winning Post’s Aly Vance ahead of the 39th edition of the race, where he tried his hand at a spot of sushi making with a Japanese master.
Dettori, who has won most of the world’s biggest races multiple times, has become a honorary local in Japan and says he loves competing in the country’s premiere competition.
“It’s quite amazing actually because the start is right in front of the grandstand, the roar that you get is incredible,” he said.
Despite his experience, Dettori only managed to finish 10th this year, with Suave Richard storming to glory under 24-year-old Oisin Murphy, who became the youngest jockey to win the prestigious accolade.
The worthy winners took home a cool $2.6 million for their efforts.
“I wouldn’t ever thought it possible. I’m thrilled, it was a dream come true,” Ireland’s Murphy told Vance after the race.
“There’s only one Japan Cup and to put my name on it was massive.”
Watch the video at the top of the page to see legendary jockey Frankie Dettori take on Winning Post’s Aly Vance in a sushi making masterclass.