A just-released documentary film offers a fascinating insight into Japan's professional keirin racing scene.
Many of us in Britain know keirin primarily as the track cycling discipline in which Sir Chris Hoy excels, although the event’s profile also recently received a somewhat stomach-churning boost following the Azizulhasni Awang mega-splinter incident.
Few of us however are likely to be aware that the sport came into being to help Japan’s post war reconstruction efforts when local prefectures staged events to raise the cash needed to rebuild their war-shattered communities.
In the country if its origin, keirin is in some senses less a sport and more a vehicle for gambling, akin to greyhound or horse racing in Britain, with the equivalent £6 billion wagered annually on the outcome of races there.
Now a documentary film by photographer-filmmaker Jonathan de Villiers has been made, chronicling its beginnings and inexorable rise in popularity and looking at the strategies and tactics employed by riders as well and the gambling that drives a whole industry.
The film also features an interview with John Beullens, co-founder of Kinfolk Bicycle Co, a custom bike manufacturing brand specializing in keirin machines.