Gym hunting in Japan

A major fitness center located in the suburbs of Nagoya

A major fitness center located in the suburbs of Nagoya

Looking to shed those calories? Bulk up? Had a doctor tell you to cut back on those cheese infilling delicacies? Or you just simply want to be fit and awesome? Then a gym/fitness center is definitely for you! But first up, FIND A GYM. That in itself is a very daunting task especially for new timer “gaijins” who have little to no Japanese ability. I was in a gym membership back in my home country so gym hunting was at the top of my priorities once I got back to Japan. My search for the perfect gym became a tedious and frustrating task especially once it became apparent that the fees were a whole lot more expensive than what I am used to, even for Japanese standards. I tried running around my neighborhood and doing home exercises but it was still not enough so the search went on until I compiled sizable information that can help the would be gym goer.

Here’s a breakdown of the major gyms/fitness centers that offer the usual standard gym program plus a variety of add-ons that may or may not be useful for the average gym user. (golf in a fitness club seriously?)
• Konami Sports Club
• Tipness
• Gold’s Gym (best for those who are more into free weights)
• Oasis
• Megalos
• Sports club renaissance
• Savas sports club

All of these big operators offer plenty of options that include pool facilities and classes such as aerobics, golf, water aerobics, etc. Though I am not a fan of anything outside the huff and puff of free and fixed weights, I have to admit some of these options are useful and interesting. It’s Japan, the land of cool automated toilets after all!

Most of these gyms/fitness centers offer full gym memberships for around 8,000 – 14,000 yen a month which translates to roughly 80-150 USD. Generally, it depends on the location itself. If you are in one of the major cities then expect to shell out more than usual.

An alternative, and a much cheaper one at that, is to find a local government run sports center. These centers usually charge 200-400 yen per visit, yet expect the facilities to not be on par with the major gyms. If you are a student, then try to look into your school’s facilities. More often than not, they will have one.

In addition, anticipate the usual Japanese brand of service in these centers so don’t be surprised if certain ‘unusual’ rules will come at you when you sign up for that gym membership. As with most establishments in Japan, tattoos are prohibited. Though some would require you to cover your tattoos if you have one when inside the gym. Also, indoor sneakers are required.

In the event that you decide to sign up try to bring a friend who speaks Japanese. As with most establishments, the Japanese are very thorough in their procedures so expect to spend a little more time listening to lengthy speeches on the do’s and don’ts and down to the tiniest detail. One might be intimidated by the seemingly endless rules and etiquettes but that’s all part of the experience. Gyms vary from place to place and country to country and Japan is no different. They take ‘meticulous’ to a whole new level and with all the rules, a foreigner might seem to commit a faux-pas.

All in all, the Japanese way of fitness and weight training system may be different than what you’re used to but it should be seen as a unique part of the country’s culture that I think should be experienced by all weight/fitness enthusiasts.

Guest post by David Balway.


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