Hubby and I went to see boat race in Lake Biwa (Biwako in Japanese) in the morning of 4th January. It was a motorboat racing place called Biwako Kyoteijo located in Otsu city of Shiga prefecture. The formal name of this boat race is ‘Biwako Motaboto Kyosojo’ or ‘Lake Biwa Motorboat Race Course’. The administrator of this race course is the Shiga prefectural government’s Business Division of the Department of General Affairs. In fact amongst the 24 boat race courses in Japan, this is the only government administered race course. From the stands of the race course building, Mount Mikami, Biwako Bridge, Hira Mountains, Omi Bridge, and Hamaotsu city can be seen. The mascot character Binachan of this race course is named after the largest fish of Lake Biwa, which is the giant catfish named Biwako Onamazu.
Biwako Kyoteijo race course is located in Lake Biwa which is a fresh water lake. The race course is located at an altitude of 85 meters. It was opened in 1952. It is the second motorboat race course to have started in Japan, the first being Tsu Kyoteijo in Tsu city of Mie prefecture. All the boats and engines are of the same type provided by Yamato Motors. The motor is Yamato 301 type having large duct silencers. Two newspapers named ‘Kyotei News’ and ‘Kyotei Derby’ giving exclusive information about the boat races are available at the race course.
We reached Biwako Kyoteijo at about 9.40 am. After parking our car at a parking lot, we walked for ten minutes and reached the race course building. We had to wait inside the building for about 20 minutes for the ticket counters to open. While waiting in a long queue of visitors, we noted many interesting features inside the building. We saw a big stage platform set up for various events and ceremonies related to the boat races. We also saw posters giving information about various professional racers competing at this race course.
Biwako Kyoteijo building
Boat Race Biwako
I am standing in front of the building
A stage platform inside the building
A poster giving information about professional racers
At about 10 am, the ticket counters opened and we purchased tickets worth 1000 Yen per person as fee for admission and seat reservation. Reserved seating arrangement is available only on the fourth floor of the Kyoteijo building. Unreserved seats are available at the first through third floors of the building. We got tickets for the fourth floor reserved seats from where we got a wonderful view of Lake Biwa and the racing course. A large clock situated at the starting line in the lake was located right in front of our seats. An electrical scoreboard located in the lake was also conveniently situated in front of our seats. I noted that most of the visitors were busy reading about that day’s racers and other details.
Panoramic view of Lake Biwa and the racing course
View in front of us along with a large clock situated at the starting line in the race course
An electrical scoreboard
Visitors and the race course as viewed to our left
Race course as viewed from the front
Visitors and the race course as viewed to our right
It was the first time for hubby and me to see boat race and so we wished to know and see every aspect of the race. Hubby got busy reading a pamphlet about the basics of the boat race. I just walked around the fourth floor corridor and enjoyed viewing the beautiful posters stuck to the huge columns. While taking photos, a building security staff kindly informed us that we had to take permission to take photos inside the race course. So hubby went to the concerned authorities, got permission for taking photos, and had to put a green colored band on his arm so that all the security staff could easily see the band.
It was a very shiny day
Hubby reading a pamphlet
Fourth floor corridor and columns with posters
I am standing next to a beautiful poster
I am standing next to a poster of a professional racer
Hubby with a green colored band on his arm
Lake Biwa boat race is a hydroplane racing event. The race is conducted on a 600 meter circular course. Six boats race three laps around the course in counterclockwise direction. Races are generally over in about two minutes. There are twelve races a day. This kind of boat race employs a premature start system. When the boats receive the signal to leave the docks and select a starting position, a large clock situated at the starting line begins a one-minute countdown. At about 12 seconds before the clock reaches zero, the boats race up towards the starting line at full speed and must cross the starting line within one second after the clock reaches zero. Before the actual race begins, the competitors conduct practice runs around the course to ensure the proper functioning of their boats and also to provide bettors with useful information. Detailed information about boat racing in Japan can be found at this home page. Please click here for the details.
The boat race started at about 10.15 am. We enjoyed viewing several races. It took me some time to grasp the basics of the starting of the race but eventually I understood the concept. The professional racers are really fast. We got very much excited seeing the races. It was fun. We took a few photos of some of the races. In addition, I compiled a video of one of the races.
A boat race
Another boat race
Yet another race
Enlarged view of two motorboats
Boat race is one of the four ‘public sports’ in Japan where parimutuel betting is legal. The other three sports are horse racing, bicycle racing, and motorcycle racing. All other sports bets, including casino gambling, are banned. After watching a couple of races, we decided to bet on the next few races. Hubby filled out an optical mark recognition betting card. Next he paid several hundred yen and submitted the card at one of the many counters available at the fourth floor. A printed ticket was given to him where the professional racers and the amount of money we bet was printed. We bet on the racers of three boat races. Surprisingly one of our predictions was correct and we won that bet. Since we were novices, hubby called it the beginner’s luck. Anyway we were very happy.
Hubby filling out an optical mark recognition betting card
Window counters at the fourth floor where we paid money for betting and submitted the card
A printed ticket was given to hubby at the counter
We won one of the bets
After enjoying viewing a few more races from the fourth floor, we went down to all the lower floors and tried to see the races. From the first through third floors, we could hardly see anything as all the seats were occupied and we were too far inside in the corridors of these floors. But we loved viewing the race from outside the building standing right next to the race course. The sound of the motorboats speeding past us added to the thrill and excitement of watching the races. I compiled a video of one of the races we viewed from outside the building.
Third floor corridor
Third floor corridor and the window counters for betting
Race course as viewed from the third floor
Second floor corridor
First floor corridor
Kyoteijo building as viewed from the outside
A few stalls selling food items and the race course in the background
We viewed seven races and then left Biwako Kyoteijo building. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the boat race in Lake Biwa. In the afternoon we went to see a Ninja House about which I will write in the next post.