The Other Hugely Popular Thing To Do At Miyajimaguchi Station!


Think of Miyajima and thoughts immediately turn towards Itsukushima Shrine and it’s bright red torii gate in the sea. The deer roaming the island and oysters may get a mention. The quirky temple on the east of the island is unlikely to be spoken of and one of Japan’s gambling hotspots is also unlikely to come to mind!

I had barely heard of boat race until I went to watch a bit of Keirin cycling in 2019 in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka. That was when I first heard it mentioned as one of three gambling sports in Japan along with horse racing. For some reason though all I could picture in my mind was people racing with remote-controlled boats!!

Once I was done with the giant milk carton building and abandoned stations up in Miyoshi I still had a bit of time to myself back in Hiroshima city so I went to Miyajimaguchi station to finally see what boat race was all about. The majority of passengers disembarking were naturally going over to Miyajima by ferry but there was also a healthy number of people heading the short distance to the main Boat Race Miyajima building’s entrance point.

Having paid the 100 yen entrance cost (live “sport” doesn’t come much cheaper than that in Japan!), I immediately went to the information desk to ask if they had any information in English and was quite surprised to find they had a three-page handout explaining the rules, the lingo used, how to make a bet and so on. See if you can spot where I’m copying lines from that in this post!

An example of the boats used

Each race consists of six competitors in different coloured uniforms racing around the course for three laps. Simple. What is far more complicated is the flying start which is used instead of the standing start seen in atheletics, Formula One and so on.


Timing is of the utmost importance because if the racer crosses the start line before the needle on the giant clock hits 0 then it’s called a flying start. On the other hand, if the racer crosses the line after one second then that’s a late start. In either case, the boat is disqualified from the race and any bets placed on them are refunded.

The aforementioned handout (which is also online) did show how to fill in the form but it still seemed rather complicated, and on this occasion I just couldn’t be bothered to stumble my way through it. Watching such a sport having not placed a bet does seem a little bit pointless though!

For the record, there are 24 different boat race stadiums dotted around Japan from  Gunma in the north to Nagasaki in the south. Before I turned up at Miyajima, I really was just expecting it to be full of old men as was the case with keirin cycling. However, I was quite surprised to see how many families and young couples were there. Whether that’s the case at the 23 other places I really don’t know!

The food on sale was one of the highlights of my afternoon watching Keirin a few years ago but with very limited cash on me this time I couldn’t really try as much as I wanted and so just settled for a single item.


Boat Race Miyajima is open every day between 09:00 and 17:00. There are twelve races throughout the day so with such a cheap entrance fee it’s easy to just drop in for a short time. I only stayed around for a few races to get the idea about how it works. It was quite interesting to see but looks a lot more fun to actually do. I’d love to have a go at riding one of them!


I certainly wouldn’t recommend Boat Race ahead of going to Miyajima island as that really would be madness! However, popping in for an hour or so after that could be a nice way to round off the day.

Click here to read ‘Warming Up For Tokyo 2020 Cycling With A Trip To See Some Local Keirin Action’

Click here to read ‘A Day At The Races For The Japan Cup’

Click here to read ‘Feel The Force At This Hidden Pop Culture Cafe In Hiroshima’

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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1 Response to The Other Hugely Popular Thing To Do At Miyajimaguchi Station!

  1. Pingback: 8 Days In Hiroshima: A Milk Carton Building, A Star Wars Cafe, Abandoned Stations, Snowy Hot Springs, Japan’s Best Value Meal, Train Trips, Waterfalls, Boat Race, Family Time & More! | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

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