A Day in Nagoya: Boat Race Tokoname

As a photographer in Japan, I get to see some pretty cool stuff, either on assignment or just out exploring with my camera. As I explore, I’ve started making a mental tourist map of places to revisit with my wife, to take friends and family who come to visit, or to suggest to first-time travelers in Japan. So, I’m going to start a new section here on the blog called “A Day in Nagoya,” where I guide you, my readers, around my new city with camera in hand. Since I live here, I have more than a day, but everything I plan to feature is something that you could do if you were short on time in the city. And of course, as this is a photography blog, I’m going to try to choose places, events, and activities that have a strong visual appeal. Mind you, if you only have one day here, you’ll want to choose carefully, because there are a lot of fun options. Hopefully this new section will help you do just that.

First up, Boat Race Tokoname:

kyotei boat race in tokoname, near nagoya.

Racers try to break out at the start of the race.

If you’ve ever taken the Meitetsu Line from Chubu Centrair International Airport to Nagoya Station, you may have looked out the train window and seen the boat racing arena at Tokoname. Perhaps you’ve even seen a race underway. I’d been curious about these races for awhile, so I decided to head out there last Sunday and see what it’s all about.

The Japanese term for this type of racing is kyōtei which simply translates as “boat racing”. The sport is one of four types of racing (also including horse, bike, and motorcycle) on which betting is legal in Japan. These are small, one-person hydroplanes, and races consist of 3 quick laps around a 600m water course.

kyotei boat race gambling in japan

Boat racing is one of four types of “public sports” for which betting is legal in Japan.

I’m not a gambler; I went to photograph the races and learn a little bit more about the sport. There were a couple of other photographers, but most people came to bet. Still, it was nice to see a few families who seemed like they were just enjoying watching–and listening to–the boats on a beautiful and warm autumn day in Japan.

Click on an image below to enter the gallery.

Boat Race Tokoname is located within easy walking distance of Tokoname Station on the Meitetsu line. General admittance is ¥100 (less than a buck), you can sit inside or out, and there several cheap and delicious food options available. Check the website for more information.

Ben Weller is a photographer in Nagoya, Japan. View his website here or contact him for assignments around Japan or Korea.

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