Publication date of the original Japanese article: 2021-11-17 17:28 (JST)
Translated by. Nick Mosier
It appears that the Kochi Racecourse in Japan will be holding a race called “The Soken’s Return Commemoration Special.” (祖堅さん帰還記念特別) The race is being sponsored by a Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV) player in Japan that goes by Inary Kinchuck, and is a celebration of Masayoshi Soken, the sound director of FFXIV, seeing his cancer go into remission. The race will take place on November 20 and is scheduled to start at 7:15 p.m. JST.
Back at FFXIV’s Digital Fan Festival 2021 event in May, Soken announced that he had been suffering from cancer but that it has gone into remission. He battled with the illness between March through October of last year and revealed that he had been working from his hospital bed during that time (related article in Japanese).
Once the broadcast ended, the hashtag #WelcomeBackSoken could be seen on social media as players celebrated his return. Players have done everything from defeating in-game bosses in his honor to putting together a giant musical collaboration (related article) to celebrate.
The Soken’s Return Commemoration Special is an individually sponsored horse race taking place at a regional horse racing track. An individually sponsored race is where a person gets to attach a title to a horse race by paying a sponsorship fee. In addition to tickets to the race and commemorative photos, depending on the region, sponsors can also provide a message to be read before the race.
Sponsorship fees vary by region, but it’s typically between 10,000 to 70,000 yen (around $100 to $700). Whether that’s expensive or not will depend on the person, but it’s not an amount that’s totally out of reach for most people. Many regional tracks have “commemoration” and “in memoriam” listed on their information pages, so they’re likely aiming for a price that’s suitable for such use.
But celebratory races don’t stop at just family and friends. There have also been individually sponsored races for idols and fictional characters. These have especially increased since the launch of horse racing girl training simulator Uma Musume Pretty Derby. These types of races are referred to “ita races” (similar linguistic origins as Itasha) in Japan and there’s even a website called Ita Race Collection that compiles information on them.
If we look at Ita Race Collection, we can see an increase in these kinds of races since the start of 2021. It seems that once word spread that a horse race could easily be sponsored, fans began using them as a way to show support for their fandom.
The Soken’s Return Commemoration Special is being held at the Kochi Racecourse, where after reading the sponsor’s message, the announcer will regularly add a kind word of their own. Besides the race, hearing the preceding messages will also be worth checking out.
The race and messages will be broadcast on the track’s official YouTube channel, so it’s still possible to check it out, even if you can’t get there in person. In addition, betting slips for the race are available through several sports betting websites.
The Soken’s Return Commemoration Special is gathering attention on social media as Inary Kinchuck’s show of support spreads through the community. The horse race may serve to get fans even more excited before the launch of FFXIV’s upcoming Endwalker expansion on December 7.
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