A tragic accident in Tokyo featuring tourists and novelty sized racing cars is expected sooner rather than later. That was the message this week from a bunch of bookies who have been keeping an eye on stuff like that for the past ten years.
The odds of a bloody go-cart disaster, an indication of the likelihood of a global headline grabbing traffic pile-up, have been updated to 6-1 for this calendar year – the shortest they’ve ever been. It was the first time the odds had been updated since Japan re-opened to foreign tourism. First advertised in 2013 by power-boat race bookies looking to open up an unexplored market, the odds are usually updated according to movements in foreign tourism trends. As well as assessing risks from inexperience in driving on Tokyo roads, the bookies incorporate factors such as weather, annoyed taxi drivers, and the wearing of non-descript character costumes.
The latest betting data was adjusted “largely but not exclusively due to the consolidation of the Euro’s gain against the Yen,” said veteran bookie Honebuto Shunsuke in a statement. A number of other issues have played a role in moving the odds south, including the popularity of all things Japanese amongst backpackers, and growing signs of impatience from men driving trucks with Chiba number plates.
“We are living in a time of buoyant tourism, with people seeking their own personal oriental fantasyland, and the odds reflect that reality,” Honebuto, who has been chief odds-maker at the Great Kanto Track Betting Agency for 14 years, said yesterday. “Let me make it clear that I am not licking my lips in anticipation of a horrific accident. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are not selling a chance to experience schadenfreude here. All we’re doing is presenting the likelihood of an accident involving some vehicles which, quite frankly, shouldn’t be on the road.”
Honebuto continued by highlighting other key elements that are in play. “These dodgem cars are being driven by groups of Italians, Koreans, and miscellaneous South Americans with a disturbingly high interest in certain Japanese sub-cultures. Some of them are women, some of them are into Formula 1 racing, and none of them have any experience on central Tokyo roads. In addition to that, they are probably not giving due attention to the traffic 100% of the time. The male drivers, in particular, ogle the local women as though they are all anime darlings.
“Look, this is a city where people are forced to work their tits off. Half of these guys just get a twenty minute break to scoff down some noodles before going back to their soul-destroying jobs. They’re generally a bunch of loners who don’t really appreciate being treated like museum exhibits by people from overseas. It’s only a matter of time before one of them snaps, and these little cars waiting at traffic lights are easy targets. We want to see Japan hitting the headlines for good things like cleaning stadiums or getting another world heritage listing. Things like politicians being killed or tourists being stomped while waiting for the lights to change just make people uncomfortable.”
Tsuba Haku, spokesperson for the Japanese Culture Preservation Society, asked how such a scene would look if the situation were reversed. “How would Americans react to seeing Japanese tourists driving around in vehicles out of The Wacky Races? And how would the English feel if young Japanese people starting riding around London on tandem bicycles, like they did in The Goodies? Obviously this would never happen because The Goodies was never actually shown in Japan, but I’m sure you get the point.”
Always happy to weigh into any conversation that has a whiff of anti-American sentiment, Haku (a proud user of the hair tonic that’s available in the changing rooms of traditional bathhouses) went on to pour scorn on westerners’ chopstick skills, pronunciation of Japanese words, “unsophisticated tastebuds”, and even their style of walking, before commenting very rudely on the calibre of Japanese people who have intimate relations with them.
Anti-gambling spokesperson, Saoko Shikan, has described the betting as abhorrent and anti-foreigner. “They deny it, but I think that they have indeed set up a betting market based entirely on ill-will with this. Enthusiastic, yet poorly dressed westerners and Asians are coming here and living it large. Japan hasn’t been this cheap and appealing since the 1960’s. Many locals would love to see some of these fun-loving tourists falling flat on their faces, and some are even prepared to profit from it. Now, how transparent are these gambling laws? What’s going to stop someone putting a small fortune down, and then causing an accident? This is what troubles me.
“These visitors from overseas have seen a few movies and they just want to play out some of the scenarios that they’ve seen. They want to go to karaoke at midnight. They want to run through a pachinko hall. They want to speak a couple of words of Japanese, and make a connection with someone who’s largely indifferent to what they want. But, what’s wrong with that? Who are these people hurting? Let them enjoy our unique four seasons and superior service standards. Let’s just be nice and compliment them on their Japanese skills, and then bag them out on twitter later.”