Apprentice jockies 1935; Wikimedia Commons

In medieval Japan, warriors with exceptional riding skills often became clan leaders.  During the 6th century, horse races were held at religious ceremonies (for an abundant harvest) and annually at the Imperial Court.

Western-style racing was introduced at Yokohama in the 1860’s.  In 1923, legislation was passed that allowed the formation of racing clubs and the legal sale of betting tickets. In 1936, 11 racing clubs and the Imperial Racing Society were merged into the Japan Racing Society.

Read more: Horse racing in Japan