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Drone offers full view of stands at former Yokohama horse racing track

This photo taken with a drone shows the tower section of the first-class horse viewing building. The board blocking the opening is visibly broken, and part of the wall has collapsed. (Photo courtesy of Junior Chamber International Yokohama)

YOKOHAMA -- A full picture of the condition of a former horse-racing spectators' stand in this east Japan city earmarked for future tourism activity has been revealed after drones were used to photograph the moss-covered building for the first time.

    The first-class horse viewing building is located at the former Negishi racecourse famous as Japan's first modern racetrack and dating to around 1930. Designed by American architect J. H. Morgan, it is known for having three distinctive 30-meter high towers, but it is now inaccessible due to aging.

    This photo taken with a drone shows the top of the first-class horse viewing building. (Photo courtesy of Junior Chamber International Yokohama)

    Although the Yokohama Municipal Government is examining how it can use the historical building in Naka Ward after renovation and preservation, the checks are related to the return of the adjacent U.S. Navy Negishi housing district and future use of the site.

    The drone survey was planned by the Junior Chamber International Yokohama's community attraction revitalization committee and conducted in mid-September with the city's permission.

    More than 1,000 images captured broken windows, collapsed walls and other damage. It also revealed the condition of areas not normally visible, including those seen from spectators' seats and the tops of the towers. The moss-covered building looks like something out of Studio Ghibli movie "Castle in the Sky."

    An aerial view of the spectator seating area at the first-class horse viewing building. (Photo courtesy of Junior Chamber International Yokohama)

    Damage to the building's exterior revealed by this project could apparently help in estimating repair costs. From fiscal 2022, they will consider creating 3D data from the images to increase the site's visibility.

    As part of the Yokohama business council made of up of business groups and other organizations, the chamber proposed in July 2021 the "preservation and utilization of the horse-viewing building." In the 1980s, the chamber also proposed the preservation and use of the historic Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, which has gone on to be one of the city's most popular tourist spots.

    (Japanese original by Junya Higuchi, Yokohama Bureau)

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