If you’ve spent any time in Tokyo, you’ve probably walked past a gym or two on your daily commute to and from work or school. Gyms in Japan have been a point of discussion among the foreign community for years, mostly because the way they run differs greatly from anywhere else! Joining any gym is a big step and having a rough idea of how gyms in Japan operate will be helpful in making an informed decision. Below I’ve compiled my best pieces of advice on what you should know before taking the plunge.

Choosing Between Private and Public Gyms

There are a few options for those shopping around for a gym that works with their schedule and lifestyle. For those who are only interested in visiting the gym once or twice a week or enjoy various activities like swimming or playing basketball, public gyms are a great option to look into. Public gym facilities vary on the ward you live in, but typically are much cheaper than their private counterparts (roughly 400-600¥ per use) and do not require memberships. Public gyms in bigger wards such as Shinjuku and Minato have a variety of facilities to enjoy as well.

Amenities You May Find at Public Gyms:

  • Sauna and steam room

  • Gymnasium

  • Material arts studio

  • Archery range

  • Pool

  • Showers and lockers

  • Weights and training room

  • Track for running

  • Conference rooms

  • Dance studio

Private gyms, such as Gold’s Gym and Anytime Fitness, are much more conspicuous and you’ve likely seen them in larger metropolitan neighborhoods. Given that there’s simply more to choose from, you can shop around and find what type of gym is better suited to your needs. Private gyms tend to be on the smaller side, more expensive than public gyms, and typically require a monthly membership to join. On the positive, their equipment is usually top-of-the-line and they’re operating hours are extremely flexible.

Gyms in Japan are EXPENSIVE

If you’ve already started looking into gym memberships in Tokyo, you’ve most likely discovered how high prices tend to be. I’ve been a member of a few gyms in various areas of Japan but I’ve never paid anything less than 7,000¥ a month. At the highest, I’ve paid over 12,000¥ per month for full-time use of a gym with a pool, sauna, steam room, weights and fitness room. While the amenities at this specific gym were amazing, the price was unbelievably steep given that the gym had limited hours.

In a sample cost breakdown, if you were to choose to become a member of Anytime Fitness for example, your monthly membership (depending on location) can cost around 7,678¥ per month on top of startup fees including a deposit for a members card, key money, enrollment fees and so on which on the lower end can cost around 5,000¥. However, other gyms may have other fees and you may be paying closer to 9,000¥ or more in startup fees as well as your first month’s membership.

On top of that, most gyms in Japan require indoor shoes so if you haven’t gotten yourself a pair, this will be another added cost you’ll need to think about.

Rules Differ at Gyms in Japan

For both public and private gyms, rules are a big part of ensuring everyone’s experience feels enjoyable and safe. Unfortunately, some rules are a bit harder to wrap your head around especially if you’re used to doing things a different way. Below I’ve listed a few rules to keep in mind when going to the gym in Japan, note that some of these vary depending on which gym you’ll be going to.

Important Rules to Keep in Mind:

  • Showing tattoos is prohibited

  • Must change into your indoor shoes to use the facilities

  • Use of fitness bracelets and watches in pools is prohibited

  • Must have a cap and goggles to swim in pools

  • Take off indoor shoes and use slippers when using the bathroom in the gym

  • No loud music or talking loudly in the fitness room

  • Must wipe and clean machines after use

  • Pay attention to time limits on machines and weights

  • No photos or videos allowed

Let’s talk about tattoos. In recent years, gyms in the greater Tokyo area have been somewhat lax in their rules regarding tattoos. Meaning, it’s okay to have them, but you still have to cover up. Years ago if you were to walk into a gym intending to sign up with tattoos visible, you’d be flat-out rejected for membership. Luckily now when registering, you’ll most likely be warned that you’ll need to cover them while using the facilities, even swimming. Still, depending on who greets you at the front desk the day you decide to sign up for a membership, you may still want to think about covering your tattoos anyways, just in case.

While signing up for the gym in Japan can sometimes be a bit of a hassle in the beginning, having a regular exercise routine, wherever it may be, is a great way to balance your life and release stress. Are you ready to hit the gym?