Gym Rat 101: Working Out in Japan

Photo: Tokyo Times on Flickr

Gym Rat 101: Working Out in Japan

Mike G

Being in Japan means doing things the "Japanese way", I know that's a no brainer. But what about when we're at the place where most of us use our brains the least; the gym?

In the west, the gym, is for better or worse is a testosterone fueled space where you can grunt, strain, and vent. A sweat filled heaven where you shake off and push through life's frustrations, be it of that day, week, or even month. For me, I've worked out on and off for years. I'm totally a "Gym Rat", and getting your sweat on in Japan comes with the same maze and rewards of learning and trying new workout routines . 

For the visitor and tourist you can all ways go with the universal icon that is Gold's Gym. The clubs offer day passes if you're not a member in your home country and can generally cater to Frequent Flyer Flexers.  If your stay is a for few months there's also the recognizable Anytime Fitness, and Fit 24, depending on available promotions,one could pay for a 1-3 month's membership with relative ease.

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jh- on Flickr

For the expat, there's also the local city's athletic centers; by far the cheapest options around, as an example the Kawaguchi City Athletic Center only charges ¥350 per visit to use it's training center. They usually have multiple types of facilities available. Pools, basketball and tennis courts; but these may have restrictions and registration rules; but if it's your wallet that's on the diet, your gaijin card and your local athletic center could be just what the doctor ordered.

But whether commercial or communal; one of the member's first dead ends with Japanese gyms is (surprise, surprise), NO TATTOOS! This rule is not just enforced while on the workout floor. I've been turned away from a club after my tattoos were seen while I was only asking about fees. But don't let that stop you. This is Japan, the fashion capital of the world! There are so many sports shops here with great workout clothes, you'll have no problem finding something that looks and feels good as your cover for your awesome skin art. A great workout can make you feel like a superhero; might as well dress like one. Don't be afraid of the spandex. Speaking of superheroes there's one who hit's the next Japanese gym obstacle; and that's the Hulk.

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No Tattoos sign Photo by cava_cavien on Flickr

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Erik Drost on Flickr

"Hulking", or "Lunk" is a term for those who grunt loudly, yell, and drop weights. It should not be a shock that "Hulking out" does not go over well here in Japan. Here being courteous goes hand in hand with benching serious weight. Wiping down machines after sets and not taking rest breaks on equipment after sets are examples of what I'm talking about.  Think of it more as going "Big Friendly Giant" and less "Hulk Smash".  The same needs can be met, you'll still have a great time.                   

Whether you want to drop weight, or pick up some muscle the gyms here in Japan are available. You may end up changing your workout style along with your workout routines.