Motorboat racing is one of four forms of legalized gambling in Japan, and there are racecourses all over the country. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Heiwajima Racecourse.

It was pretty interesting and I was happy with the photos I got, but it’s probably not for everyone.

Most of the people who go to watch the races are middle-aged and older down-on-their-luck males, and no one seems to get very excited about the races themselves. I don’t think I saw anyone smile the whole time I was there. It’s quite interesting, though, and admission is only 100 yen.

If you show up with a camera, a security guard will tell you that you need permission and take you to a little room where you have to fill out a simple form and promise not to take photos of the other spectators.

These Ryoichi Sasakawa statues are outside every Motorboat Racing facility.

Getting there:
From Tokyo Station, take the Keihin Tohoku Line to Omori Station. From there, go out the East Exit. There’s a free shuttle bus that runs every ten minutes on race days. The shuttle runs from 9:40 AM to 430 PM and leaves from Bus Stop #4. You can also walk (10 min.) from Heiwajima or Omori Kaigan Stations on the Keihin Kyuukou Railway. Here’s a map.

Here’s an explanation of the races:

Here’s an old but very interesting Sports Illustrated article.

A blog called Tokyo Times has a completely different take on Motorboat Racing from mine.