One of Japan’s lesser-known national pastimes is Keirin, a track bike race where several racers decked out in bright jerseys battle it out at 40mph to cross the finish line first in unnervingly close quarters. Promoted after the end of World War II as a gambling sport, along with sumo, horse racing and pachinko as a way to boost the post-war Japanese economy, Keirin (translated as “racing wheels”) involves short sprints where each racer states their tactic at the start of the race and is awarded points based on the outcome. It demands absolute discipline from its racers — who are anything from ex-firemen to office workers — and requires that they undergo a year of training at the Keirin Academy before racing professionally, during which they are barred from contacting friends and family to prevent race fixing. Photographer Jasper Clarke traveled to the Academy to capture the spartan lifestyle and grueling training regimens of the racers, who wake up at dawn everyday for a solid 10 hours of training. Take a look above at the dedication and focus shown by these devotees to what Clarke describes as “a singularly Japanese affair.”
Meanwhile.... still trying to trackstand for longer than 8 seconds.