TOKYO (TR) – The Japan Racing Association (JRA) welcomed a large turnout over the weekend as it reopened its horse track in Fukushima Prefecture for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, reports Yukan Fuji (April 9).
The Fukushima Race Course, located in Fukushima City, hosted over 30,000 race fans on both Saturday and Sunday — the first race days for the track in approximately 18 months. On Saturday, attendance reached 13,198 people, an increase of 37.5 percent from opening day in November 2010, and the second-day increase was 23.5 percent, with 18,803 people coming through the turnstiles.
Two-day betting receipts also surged, totaling over 7.175 billion yen, an increase of 305.3 million yen.
TV Asahi (April 7) reports that the course’s grandstand overhang collapsed and buildings experienced structural damage as a result of last year’s quake. Reconstruction costs totaled 4.2 billion yen.
Former pro wrestler Antonio Inoki, 69, was on hand on Sunday to greet children during a special show held at intermission. On that same day, the crowd loudly applauded the victory in the fourth race of jockey Hatsuhiro Kowata, a native of Fukushima’s Minami Soma, which was devastated by the disaster.
JRA‘s Fukushima Race Course chief Atunobu Tokito, was pleased with the proceedings. “The number of fans exceeded our last opening weekend,” he said. “It was a feeling of relief to see so many women and children accompanied by their parents.”