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The horse has played an important part in Japanese history since antiquity. Fighting horseman often became clan leaders based on the prowess of their mounts. When dignitaries from the mainland visited the ancient Japanese court, gifts of horses were often exchanged.

Horse racing (kurabeuma) began in Japan during the 6th century AD, when riders competed against each other at religious ceremonies or festivals. Races were held annually at the Imperial Court and at various shrines. The races were an integral part of the festival to pray for an abundant harvest. Western-style racing, similar to that seen at race tracks in Japan today, was first introduced at Yokohama in the 1860s.

Today, horse racing in Japan is considered a wholesome leisure activity for the whole family. Each week Japan's outstanding array of modern racecourses serve as hosts to the full spectrum of Japanese society. The proceeds from horse racing contributes greatly to both the improvement of native livestock and also the betterment of social welfare.

Japanese horses and jockeys participating in top races throughout the world is now a common sight. With the establishment of such outstanding international races as the Japan Cup, and the development of an excellent domestic horse breeding program, Japan now stands as one of horse racing's international powers.