Japanese Boat Racing - A Thrilling Gambling Sport

March 26, 2024

Step into the electrifying world of Japanese powerboat racing, a unique sport that combines the thrill of high-speed water action with the excitement of legal gambling.

The Essence of  Boat Race(Kyotei): Japan's Powerboat Racing Phenomenon

Kyotei, as it's known in Japan, offers a heart-pounding blend of sport and legalized gambling, all under the watchful eye of the Japan Racing Association (JRA). These high-speed races take place in custom-designed, oval-shaped water tracks, set against the backdrop of various natural settings like rivers and lakes. Participants purchase boat tickets by making predictions about the final ranking of the racers, and they are eligible for a payout if their predictions turn out to be accurate.

Key Aspects of Boat Race

1. Strategic Locations

The racecourses are often situated in bustling urban locales and feature challenging sharp turns, adding an extra layer of excitement to the races.

2. The Boats

These races feature sleek, high-speed hydroplanes equipped with robust outboard motors, capable of reaching speeds up to 80 km/h (about 50 mph).

3. The Betting Element

Gambling is an integral part of the boat race experience, heightening the overall excitement for those in attendance.

4. Safety Protocols

Racers are required to wear life jackets, helmets, and other safety gear, ensuring a secure racing environment.

5. Nighttime Thrills

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Many boat races happen after dark, with illuminated tracks adding a unique ambiance to the event.The operating hours typically span from 14:30 until just before 21:00. It's worth noting that certain boat race tracks may not host nighttime boat races, so individuals keen on attending are encouraged to verify this information on the website.

6. Regulatory Oversight

The JRA enforces strict guidelines concerning boat specifications, race formats, and racer conduct.

7. Mass Appeal

With extensive media coverage and a loyal following, boat races have become a mainstream entertainment option in Japan.

8. Lucrative Rewards

Racers compete for cash prizes, and successful participants can earn a significant income from their victories.

In Japan, boat racing is more than just a sport; it's a cultural event that offers both entertainment and a legal avenue for gambling.

Digging Deeper: What Makes Boat Races So Captivating?

One of the Popular Japanese Sports

While sumo and baseball may be more commonly associated with Japan, powerboat racing has its own dedicated fanbase. The sport's unique blend of speed and legal gambling offers a fascinating glimpse into a lesser-known aspect of Japanese culture.

The Intricacies of the Sport

Known officially as 'BOAT RACE' or 'Kyotei,' this sport is one of the few in Japan that allows legal betting. With 24 specialized stadiums across the country, each offering its own unique setting, the sport offers a variety of experiences for spectators.

The Crowd and the Atmosphere

Despite its somewhat controversial reputation, the sport attracts a diverse crowd, primarily law-abiding, working-class men. The venues are often straightforward, reflecting the no-nonsense nature of the sport and its fans.

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The Gamble and the Boats

Legal betting adds an extra layer of excitement, making it one of the few sports in Japan where gambling is allowed. The boats used in these races are known for their V-bottom design, which is optimized for speed and agility.

The Racecourses

Japan offers a range of unique boat racing tracks, each with its own regional flavor. This allows fans to combine the excitement of boat racing with the joy of exploring different parts of the country.

In summary, boat racing in Japan is more than just a sport; it's a unique blend of entertainment and gambling that has won the hearts of many. The excitement reaches its peak during weekends and holidays, as fans gather at racecourses to enjoy the spectacle.

A Novice's Guide to Navigating the World of Boat Racing

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If you've ever been intrigued by boat racing but felt hesitant due to a lack of understanding about how to engage in the sport, worry no more! This guide will walk you through the essentials, from buying tickets to making race predictions.

Getting Started: What You Need to Know

Firstly, you don't need any special preparations to buy a boat ticket at a racecourse or an off-site sales office. However, if you're planning to buy tickets online or over the phone, there are some steps you'll need to take in advance.

Prepping for Online and Telephone Betting

Purchasing boat tickets via phone is known as "telephone betting," while using a computer or smartphone for the same is called "online betting." The primary advantage of these methods is the convenience of buying tickets from anywhere.

To engage in either of these methods, you'll need to become a member of Teleboat and link a compatible bank account. If you already have a suitable account, you can start buying tickets immediately. Otherwise, you'll need a few days to set up a new account.

Buying Tickets On-Site

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If you prefer the traditional route, you can buy tickets at the racecourse or an off-site sales office. These locations are open whenever a race is being held.Opting for on-site ticket purchases offers a more genuine and pleasurable experience, making it the preferred choice over buying online.

How to Fill Out a Mark Sheet

When buying tickets in person, you'll use a mark sheet, similar to a lottery ticket. This sheet is scanned by a ticket vending machine, so it's crucial to fill it out accurately.

There are two types of mark sheets: one for regular betting and another for "stream/box" betting. Depending on your betting strategy, choose the appropriate sheet and follow the instructions carefully.

From Prediction to Prize: The Race Itself

The actual process of engaging in a boat race is straightforward. You pick a race, gather information on the competitors, make your predictions, and then buy your ticket. If your predictions are correct, you'll win a prize based on the odds.

Tips for Making Accurate Predictions

Image Source:https://www.boatrace.jp/owpc/pc/race/beforeinfo?rno=12&jcd=04&hd=20230919

Before making any predictions, it's advisable to check the race schedule and other relevant information. This data is available on the official websites of the racecourses and is also distributed at the racecourses themselves.

The information will include crucial details like the competitors' ranks and the performance statistics of each boat and motor.

How to get your payout

In boat racing, the term "payout" refers to the money you get back when your bet on a boat race pays off. For instance, if you invest ¥1,000 on a ticket and win ¥10,000, that ¥10,000 is your payout. Similarly, if you bet ¥100 and the race results indicate a payout of ¥1,000, you'll get ¥1,000 for every ¥100 you wagered.

Understanding the Payout Rate

The "payout rate" is a crucial concept related to payouts. It's the percentage of the total race proceeds that gets returned to the bettors. Also known as the "return ratio," this rate is legally mandated to be between 75% and 80%. Most racetracks opt for the minimum rate of 75%.

How to Claim Your Payout

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At a Boat Racecourse

To claim your payout at a boat racecourse, you'll typically use an "automatic payout machine." These machines are often the same ones where tickets are sold. Insert your winning ticket, and the machine will calculate and dispense your payout. Some machines, labeled "DOKODEMO HARION," even allow you to claim payouts for tickets from other racecourses.

At an Off-Site Vending Machine

Claiming your payout at an off-site vending machine is similar to doing so at a racecourse. Insert your winning ticket into the payout machine to receive your money. These off-site locations are conveniently located throughout Japan.

Online payouts

If you prefer online betting, you can use the "Teleboat" service. After registering and linking your bank account, you can buy and claim payouts for boat tickets online. If you win, the payout amount can be transferred to your bank account by issuing a "settlement instruction." If you don't issue this instruction, the payout will be "automatically settled" into your account at the end of the day.

Introducing Popular Boat Race Venue and Their Unique Features

1.Boat Race Edogawa(Tokyo)


Edogawa Racecourse offers more than just spectator areas; it features a premium seating section known as "MIYABI." For a nominal fee, you can reserve one of MIYABI's limited reclining seats, standard seats, or even group seating options. The venue also houses a unique "karaoke room," making it an ideal spot for group outings. Additional amenities include a women-only space and a relaxation room for downtime between races.

The venue also boasts an alfresco-style food court and a dining area designed to resemble a food cart village. For those looking to explore beyond the races, a rooftop garden offers a serene escape. The racecourse's signature dish is a Kanto-style stewed motsu, available at "Restaurant Showa" on the ground floor. This flavorful dish pairs well with rice and alcoholic beverages.

Track Features

What sets Edogawa Racecourse apart is the absence of large video screens opposite the spectator stands, a feature commonly found in other boat racecourses. This is due to the overhead Metropolitan Expressway Loop Line, which makes it impractical to install large screens. Instead, a smaller display is situated at the 2-mark side of the stand, requiring spectators to turn sideways to catch the race's start.

Edogawa is unique in being Japan's only river-based boat racecourse, with seawater conditions. This makes it susceptible to wind and tidal changes, often leading to race cancellations. Known for its challenging water conditions, even elite racers find it difficult to navigate. However, some racers, known as "Edogawa Takusha," specialize in these conditions, sometimes upsetting the expected outcomes. The ability to adapt to the water's conditions is crucial for accurate race predictions, especially given the long-wavelength swells created by the river's current and wind.

Website:Boat Race Edogawa(English)


2.Boat Race Tamagawa(Tokyo)


Located in Fuchu City, Tokyo, Boat Race Tamagawa has been a staple for boat racing since its inception in 1954. Originally a revamped gravel pit, the racecourse now features a freshwater pool created by pumping well water from underground. With a focus on attracting a younger audience, the venue hosts an increasing number of women's races. The "Kaze" plaza on the first floor serves as an interactive space where fans can engage with racers through interviews and photo sessions. Special events, including talk shows and live performances, are organized on major race days. The venue also dazzles with a summer fireworks show featuring around 1,000 fireworks.

The on-site restaurant "Wakey" offers a local delicacy, "Gyu-teki," which is beef boiled in a pot.

Boat Race Tamagawa stands out for its emphasis on women's races, often featuring young female racers alongside idols and celebrities. The official website even hosts a dedicated "Women's Racer Photo Gallery" and a special section called "Idol Fest in BOATRACE TAMAGAWA."

Track Features

Shielded by natural wind barriers in the Kanto Plain, the Tama River Racecourse is less affected by wind, earning it the nickname "Japan's Calm Water Surface." It's also one of the most expensive racecourses in Japan. Racers often find the freshwater surface easy to navigate, although it requires boats to have sufficient power. The course is designed with wide turns, particularly at the first mark, favoring racers who excel at high-speed turns. With a 108m-wide backside at the first mark, the course allows for full-speed attacks from any lane, making races at Tama River often turn into speed battles.

Website:Boat Race Tamagawa(English)


3.Boat Race Heiwajima(Tokyo)


Heiwajima Boat Race Course is a boat racecourse located in Ota-ku, Tokyo. The first race was held on June 5, 1954. Initially, the race was hosted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government as "Omori Racecourse," but due to sluggish sales, the race was hosted by Fuchu City from 1955, and was renamed "Heiwajima Boat Race Course '' in 1957.

At Heiwajima Boat Racecourse, original goods are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, children-only gifts are offered, and former boat racers make predictions. In addition to live idol performances and singing shows, there are numerous stage events such as a hero show and "Heiwajima DE YOSHIMOTO" in which comedians from Yoshimoto Kogyo compete.

In addition to the website for PCs, Heiwajima Boat Race Course offers a smartphone site and an application for obtaining information. These are available free of charge and allow you to check live races, replays, and information about the race and last minute information.

Reserved seats on the 4th floor of the stand are also available with a free drinks corner and seats with monitors to enjoy. There are "Bay Plaza '' and "Boat Race Heiwajima Theater" where you can watch the races on the facility's large monitors. There are various restaurants in the facility, many of which offer buffet-style set menus. We recommend the Obanyaki, a menu item that appeared in the "Monkey Turn" comic strip, for example.

Track Features

The quality of the competitive surface water is seawater. The waves are calm, but the area is surrounded by buildings and is also affected by the operation of ships sailing at sea, so waves and swells can occur. It can be said to be a somewhat difficult water surface to drive on.

The weak first course is also a factor.

Heiwajima is also characterized by the fact that "the difference between the winner and the loser stretches from the inside".

Heiwajima is the only "saltwater" water surface in Kanto, and buoyancy works better on saltwater than in freshwater, so even heavier riders seem to be successful in this race.

Website:Boat Race Heiwajima(English)


4.Boat Race Kiryu(Gunma)


Boat Race Kiryu stands out as an enticing destination for boat racing enthusiasts, boasting an array of amenities. In the southern wing, conveniently close to the racing waters, you'll find a forecastle booth that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the authentic race atmosphere. Families with children can make use of the Jungle FUN playground, and for a delightful culinary experience, don't miss out on the boat race meals available at the food court.

To maximize your savings on admission fees, consider acquiring a "Boat Race Kiryu Ticket." This versatile ticket can cover your admission, grant access to the kids' room, and even be used for purchasing paid reserved-seat tickets. Keep in mind that reserved seat tickets are subject to a separate charge.

Track Features

Situated in Midori-shi, Gunma Prefecture, Boat Race Kiryu holds the distinction of being Japan's northernmost and highest-elevation boat racecourse. This unique location results in weaker engine outputs and a somewhat sluggish race start. While the water surface can be turbulent in winter due to strong winds, it remains placid during the summer months.

The course features a 165-meter stretch from the pit to the second mark, ranking it third in length behind only the Karatsu and Shimonoseki courses. This extended distance plays a pivotal role in race outcomes, as it allows boats to secure advantageous inside positions. The freshwater quality, being inland, also influences race dynamics, as it's sensitive to variations in boat power and racer weight.

Boat Race Kiryu offers a seasonally changing water surface. Spring's high humidity slows down in-row standings, while summer's conditions favor the center and outer courses. Autumn provides the calmest water surface, conducive to achieving good race times. In contrast, winter's "Akagi Oroshi" winds roughen the water, minimizing the impact of boat power and racer weight.

Pioneering the concept of night races with "Aquan Night" in 1997, the venue rebranded this event as "Boat Race Kiryu's Night Race" in 2011. It was further renamed "Drakillya Night" to honor the course's mascot, Drakilyu, and is now a year-round attraction, including during the winter season.

Website:Boat Race Kiryu(English)


5.Boat Race Amagasaki(Hyogo)


Boat Race Amagasaki's newly constructed seven-story building offers a range of amenities. The first floor is family-friendly, featuring both a children's room and a play plaza. Betting stations are conveniently located on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th floors. The 5th floor offers premium seating equipped with 20-inch monitors, nearby ticket purchasing options, and a complimentary beverage station. For fan club members, the "Exciting Room" on the 3rd floor provides an exclusive viewing experience of the first mark.

The venue is well-equipped with dining and shopping options. The first floor has a store, the second floor features a large cafeteria with a 120-seat dining area, the third floor houses two stores, and the fifth floor offers both a store and a restaurant. The cafeteria on the second floor serves an array of dishes, freshly prepared in-house, ranging from staples like curry to unique offerings like standing sushi. The "takoyaki," made with konnyaku instead of octopus, and okonomiyaki are particularly popular among visitors.

Boat Race Amagasaki also hosts a variety of special events, including tandem boat test rides, pro wrestling events, call-in voting initiatives, and interviews with race winners.

Track Features

Boat Race Amagasaki is renowned for its exceptionally smooth water surface, making it a prime location for high-speed races. The water's hardness, attributed to its freshwater quality, allows for easy maneuverability. Winds up to 5 meters per second have minimal impact on the races, but anything above 6 meters per second can slow down the start and affect the race's dynamics.

Unique to this racecourse is the visibility of the pits directly from the spectator stands. The term "pool" in the nearest Hanshin Electric Railway station, "Amagasaki Center Pool Mae," actually refers to the racecourse. To optimize customer experience and avoid overlapping with nearby Boat Race Suminoe, races are scheduled on different dates. The venue's mascots, frogs named "Semple" and "Pinkle," add a touch of charm.

The racecourse features an artificial pond built in a marshland, contributing to the water's smooth surface. Seasonal headwinds are common, and during winter, the strong "Rokko Oroshi" winds can occasionally blow. The elevated railway line to the south can sometimes block these winds, causing unstable conditions that may throw racers off balance. The motors used are designed for noise reduction, equipped with large intake silencers.Popular races at this venue include the "Amagasaki Semple Cup" and the "Rakuten-Infoseek Cup."

Website:Boat Race Amagasaki(English)


6.Boat Race Karatsu(Saga)


Nestled in Karatsu City within Saga Prefecture, Boat Race Karatsu stands as a monumental structure, visible from miles away. The venue's information desk is manned by a "concierge" who is ready to assist with a variety of queries and even offers guided tours upon request.

For those arriving via JR or toll roads, the racecourse offers a unique cashback scheme. Present your travel ticket or receipt at the main entrance on the first floor, and you'll receive cash or coupons to offset your one-way transportation costs (a minimum boat ticket purchase of 1,000 yen is required). Complimentary bus services from nearby locations and free taxi rides from JR Higashi-Karatsu Station are also available. Inside, you'll find a library and designated rest areas for women and children, complete with comfy sofas and TVs. The game room offers free games that are a hit among the younger crowd. The outdoor amusement park, featuring boats and swings, ensures that sunny days are filled with fun.

The venue houses eateries on the first and third floors, offering crowd-pleasers like "daily set meals," "pressed sushi," and "champon." A special set meal featuring "Zaru Tofu" from the renowned Kawashima Tofu Restaurant is also available. For quick bites, the first-floor stall offers must-try snacks like ika shumai and bite-sized wakana manju buns.

Track Features

Boat Race Karatsu boasts a freshwater, pool-style racetrack that is among the most expensive and serene in Japan. The track experiences a tailwind for most of the year, favoring the inside course.

The venue offers a range of activities, including racer interviews, raffles for quo cards and free tickets, and test-ride events. The early morning race series, "Asa-Doki," is another highlight. The racetrack is spacious, designed for high-speed turns, and the wind direction often shifts throughout the day due to the influence of ridge and sea winds, adding an extra layer of complexity to the races.

Website:Boat Race Karatsu(English)


7.Boat Race Tokoname(Aichi)


Situated conveniently near both the Centrair and Meitetsu Tokoname transit lines, Boat Race Tokoname holds the distinction of being Japan's nearest boat racing venue to an airport. Embracing the local culture, the racecourse features a large "Maneki-neko" (beckoning cat) statue crafted in the iconic Tokoname pottery style.

Spread across three levels, the racecourse offers a variety of viewing options. The first floor, known as the "Mermaid Floor," provides multi-vision monitors for race-watching, along with an amusement park and designated areas for women and children. Each floor is equipped with polling stations and bleacher seating. The second floor offers an array of specialized seating options, including areas reserved for women and couples, as well as premium "Royal Seats" equipped with individual monitors. The top floor, referred to as the "Marine Floor," is a paid area that features a complimentary drink corner.

Boat Race Tokoname doesn't skimp on dining choices. With seven eateries on the first floor, three on the second, and one on the third, visitors are spoiled for choice. The venue offers everything from food cart-inspired outlets and specialty shops to full-service restaurants and cafeterias. Among the standout menu items is the "Dote-don," a dish featuring rice simmered to perfection. Weekend specials include chashu (pork) noodles and the uniquely large "Jackpot" buns, along with "Ogura Sando," a dish exclusive to Aichi Prefecture.

Track Features

Situated on the eastern coastline of Ise Bay, Tokoname Racecourse offers a unique racing experience on its seawater surface. The course is isolated from the open sea by a sluice gate, minimizing tidal variations. The expansive water surface ensures thrilling, high-speed races.

Seasonal winds play a significant role here: ocean breezes in the summer and monsoon winds from the northwest in winter. These winds often create challenging headwind conditions, making starts tricky and favoring teams with strong dashes. However, in calmer conditions, boats tend to navigate more towards the inside of the track. Despite a windbreak net on the course's west side, strong winds can still disrupt races.

Hosts key events like the "Mermaid Grand Prix," "INAX Cup Toname Grand Prix," and the "Newcomer's League (Young Lion Cup)."

Website:Boat Race Tokoname(English)


8.Boat Race Gamagori(Aichi)


Boat Race Gamagori is a boat race track located in Gamagori City, Aichi Prefecture. The nearest stations are Mikawa-Shiotsu Station on the JR Tokaido Main Line and Gamagori Racecourse Mae Station on the Meitetsu Gamagori Line. A free shuttle bus service is available from Gamagori Station on the JR Tokaido Main Line or the Meitetsu Gamagori Line. By car, it takes about 15 minutes from the Otowa Gamagori Interchange on the Tomei Expressway. Boat Race Gamagori offers "night racing" on all days. This is considered rare among the 24 boat racecourses in Japan. The night races are called "moonlight races" and are popular with many fans.

Boat Race Gamagori has several stores on the first floor near each gate and on the second floor, where menus such as "kushikatsu (skewered pork cutlets)" and "dote-don" are especially popular. In addition, takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and fries, which are standard items on the menu, are also recommended.

Other events at Boat Race Gamagori include the "Night Pair Boat" event, which allows visitors to board a pair of boats with the racers and experience a trial ride on the water at night. This "Night Pair Boat" event is held regularly at intervals of several times a month. On the stage named "Totomaru Stage" inside the venue, there are also interviews with the players, events by boat ticket forecasters, raffles, and giveaway events.

Track Features

Located in Aichi Prefecture's Gamagori City, Boat Race Gamagori is easily accessible via Mikawa-Shiotsu Station on the JR Tokaido Main Line or Gamagori Racecourse Mae Station on the Meitetsu Gamagori Line. A complimentary shuttle service is available from both stations, and by car, it's a quick 15-minute drive from the Otowa Gamagori Interchange on the Tomei Expressway. The racecourse is unique for its nightly "moonlight races," a rarity among Japan's 24 boat racing venues.

The venue boasts a variety of eateries on both the first and second floors, offering popular dishes like "kushikatsu" (skewered pork cutlets) and "dote-don." Standard fare like takoyaki and fries are also on the menu. Special events include the "Night Pair Boat'' experience, where visitors can join racers for a night time trial ride on the water. These events occur several times a month and are complemented by interviews, raffles, and giveaways on the in-house "Totomaru Stage."

As for the track itself, Boat Race Gamagori features a brackish water surface, blending seawater and freshwater. The course is notably wide, especially on the 1-mark side, allowing for dramatic turns and maneuvers. The track's calm waters and minimal wind interference make for high-speed races, often filled with thrilling reversals at the 2-mark.

Website:Boat Race Gamagori(English)


Enjoy the excitement of betting on a boat race!

Boat races are a popular event in Japan, and they take place in different locations across the country. If you're traveling to different areas, it's a great opportunity to watch one of these races. Being there in person allows you to immerse yourself in the thrilling world of boat racing, providing an exciting experience. Additionally, these events often feature specialty foods, offering you a chance to savor various culinary delights while enjoying the races.

PIJ Writer
PIJ Writer
PIJ Writer, a seasoned connoisseur in his 40s based in Japan, boasts an unparalleled depth of knowledge and experience within the vibrant landscapes of both drinking and gambling, alongside his well-documented ventures into various red-light districts. This extensive exploration encompasses not just the nocturnal delights of Japan's red-light areas but also its myriad of bars, horse racing, pachinko, and many others. Drawing on his firsthand experiences, he conveys the appeal and characteristics of Japan's diverse adult entertainment districts and his enjoyment of the nightlife scene through his writing for PIJ.

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