Fitness in Japan
Trying to keep fit in Japan has been slightly challenging. The first week when I was living with my family in Gifu it was fine. I could easily go for a run and do backyard exercises. Plus they would cook very healthy meals too. But since moving to Tokyo it’s been harder.
At first Luis and I went for runs to different parks and gardens. Running in the streets of the city that never sleeps can be a bit difficult. It is all narrows footpaths and you have to dodge a lot of people. (lesson learnt – don’t run during peak times) Plus side it’s always safe because you have people around you all the time. So I thought I could just go to the local park and do a circuit. The so-called ‘parks’ here in Japan are not like our beautiful green parks. The parks here have a small rusty playground and just dirt ground. No grass! These parks definitely wouldn’t pass council approval in Australia. Really not appealing but we got to do a workout utilising the bench & bars. (Random note: at this park, we saw a lady walking a tortoise 😂 added photo for proof)
Anyways, we both really miss the gym so we started to check out some local ones. Gym’s here are called ‘health or fitness clubs’. The most expensive ones have indoor pools, sauna, steam room & onsen (Japanese public baths). But they usually want either a 3 or 6-month contract and costs about $23-28 a week. However, if you have tattoos that can be a problem. If you can hide it while training then that’s fine but you won’t be allowed to use all those extra facilities. Tattoos are still taboo in some places but mainly in the gyms because there are a lot of elderly members that still think anyone with a tattoo is in the yakuza (even if it’s a butterfly tattoo on your ankle🙄)
We don’t want to be locked in a contract or pay a lot of money. So we thought we can just do a pay per visit. But at most of these health clubs, they are charging $20-25 per visit!! So after doing some online research, we found a local gym charging $4.50 per visit which allows you to train for 2hrs. Of course, if you wanted to train 5 days a week then it works out to be a similar price as the other gyms. But we are just using it 3-4 times a week temporarily.
Training at this gym has been an interesting experience….
First, when you get to the counter you buy a ticket and pay there first. Then the staff asked us if we had training shoes. We both looked at our feet and said: “yes these ones”. Then the staff said, “no, you can’t use outside shoes”. We were a bit confused on what he meant. Then he told us we have to rent their training shoes. So we had to pay $3 each to rent these pristine white Asics lookalike shoes. Then before entering the change room, you have to take off your shoes and put your ‘outside shoes’ in the locker then come out and put on your clean gym shoes. But I saw other people just bringing their gym shoes in their bag and walk in with other shoes. (So we learnt the way to save money on renting shoes).
The training area is like the size of our 24hr gyms like Snap, Jetts or Anytime but with more people. Before we started the staff told us to read this important information. On the sheet, it said ‘Only use the treadmill for 20mins max and only do 15-20 reps on each machine’. I was like what😧? I normally do about 30-40 reps on each machine and run for 30-45mins! I thought this was crazy. But then realising the ratio between equipment and people were very different. People would stand next to your machine and wait for you to finish or if you took too long they will tell the staff then the staff will tell you to get off. The floor staff are not personal trainers they are more like security guards of the gym. They stand there watching everyone making sure they stick to the rules.
You also don’t have to put down a towel while you use the machine. Each machine has a small towel you use to wipe down after use. People are quite conservative in Japan. No ones exposing their stomach or cleavage or wearing colourful, crazy pattern gym clothes. (there go half my gym clothes) Also, you know those funny gym videos you see online of people doing strange exercises. Yup, I see one of those in real life nearly every time. (Yes I desperately want to video it but the “security guards” are always watching 👀) The studio classes are always filled with elderly people during the day and they are always interesting to watch. Some of the classes I’ve watched and thought what’s the purpose of those exercises? And the instructor always likes to throw in some English words too. (2in1 fitness and English class) They also have a stretch corner with a stretching video but no shoes allowed on the mats. (they really hate shoes inside) and also most importantly a blood pressure machine to make sure you’re still alive.
It’s amazing how different gyms can be in other countries. Australian gyms are the complete opposite. But it’s all for the experience so you can laugh about it later. Now I am used to training there and following the rules without even thinking. A gym is a gym, it doesn’t have to have fancy equipment or have to be a fashion show. All you need is a treadmill, weights and you got yourself a gym. Now I enjoy my 20min treadmill runs overlooking the city whilst listening to some Tokyo Drift.