War on Wheels (Hardback)

Inside Keirin and Japan’s Cycling Subculture

Justin McCurry

Japan's fascinating culture of track cycling

The strange and thrilling world of Japanese track racing - a cycling and betting culture unlike anything else on earth

The Olympic cycling sport of keirin was invented in Japan more than 70 years ago to raise money to rebuild the country after World War II. Now, fans bet billions of dollars a year on races, with the top riders earning huge sums.

In each race, a pacemaker leads nine riders around huge concrete velodromes, then leaves the track with around a lap and a half to go - the cue for a frantic finish as the competitors reach speeds of up to 70 kph. Along the way they block and shove each other, clash heads and occasionally crash (the two Japanese characters used to write keirin mean 'battle' and 'wheel'). To prevent race fixing, the cyclists spend meets living in dorms, with no access to online technology. Their lives are ruled by ritual and fierce competition, from their rookie days at the Japan Keirin School near Mount Fuji to the annual Grand Prix final, whose winner takes home prize money of almost one million dollars.
A small number of foreign riders are invited to compete in Japan every year and some, like Shane Perkins, have overcome culture shock to prosper in the home of keirin. The Olympic version - which has made stars of Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Victoria Pendleton - is being taken more seriously in Japan as Tokyo prepares to host the 2021 Olympics and Paralympics.

Justin McCurry, the Guardian's Japan and Korea correspondent, explores a blue-collar Japan we rarely see and a uniquely fascinating sporting culture.

Publication date: 24/06/2021

£16.99

ISBN: 9781788160858

Imprint: Pursuit Books

Subject: History & Classics

War on Wheels (Ebook)

Inside Keirin and Japan’s Cycling Subculture

Justin McCurry

Japan's fascinating culture of track cycling

The strange and thrilling world of Japanese track racing - a cycling and betting culture unlike anything else on earth

The Olympic cycling sport of keirin was invented in Japan more than 70 years ago to raise money to rebuild the country after World War II. Now, fans bet billions of dollars a year on races, with the top riders earning huge sums.

In each race, a pacemaker leads nine riders around huge concrete velodromes, then leaves the track with around a lap and a half to go - the cue for a frantic finish as the competitors reach speeds of up to 70 kph. Along the way they block and shove each other, clash heads and occasionally crash (the two Japanese characters used to write keirin mean 'battle' and 'wheel'). To prevent race fixing, the cyclists spend meets living in dorms, with no access to online technology. Their lives are ruled by ritual and fierce competition, from their rookie days at the Japan Keirin School near Mount Fuji to the annual Grand Prix final, whose winner takes home prize money of almost one million dollars.
A small number of foreign riders are invited to compete in Japan every year and some, like Shane Perkins, have overcome culture shock to prosper in the home of keirin. The Olympic version - which has made stars of Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Victoria Pendleton - is being taken more seriously in Japan as Tokyo prepares to host the 2021 Olympics and Paralympics.

Justin McCurry, the Guardian's Japan and Korea correspondent, explores a blue-collar Japan we rarely see and a uniquely fascinating sporting culture.

Publication date: 24/06/2021

£12.99

ISBN: 9781782834649

ISBN 10 / ASIN: B07DWFNQ3N

Imprint: Pursuit Books

Subject: History & Classics

Reviews for War on Wheels

'If you love Japan, cycling, sport in general, or modern history, you will certainly enjoy this highly informa­tive and vastly entertaining book.'

 Acumen

'There is literally not a single nook or crannie of the sport that Mr McCurry has left unexplored. But even better than that, his obvious enthusiasm for the subject is impeccably translated to the printed page. A superb book.'

 Thewashingmachinepost

Justin McCurry

Justin McCurry

Justin McCurry has lived in Tokyo since 1991 and reports on Japan and South East Asia for the Guardian