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What To Expect from A Gym Membership In Japan

Are you into fitness? Thinking of signing up for a gym membership in Japan? Or are you just curious about what gyms are like in Japan? Whatever the reason, below are the things that I found out after signing up for a gym membership in Osaka.

Applying Requires Japanese
You would think someone would speak English at gyms but that’s not always the case. Although Japan is slowly pushing for more people to learn English, you would need to know a good level of Japanese if you are thinking of getting a gym membership. Luckily, My Tomodachi Japan (MTJ) was able to handle all the paperwork for me and I was able to start my workout on the very same day. No Japanese needed. They also help if you have tattoos. Some gyms don’t allow members to have them but MTJ helps you find a gym if you do.
There Aren’t Many Foreigners
This depends on where your gym is. I signed up for a local gym in my neighbourhood. It was a small 24-hour gym and I rarely saw other foreigners, maybe once a month at most. Because of this, I would get more stares because I wasn’t Japanese. I got used to it but it was definitely uncomfortable during peak hours.
Machine Instruction/Settings
You might have guessed it, instructions to use the weight machines and cardio machines are all in Japanese. It’s Japan and since the Native language is Japanese it’s something you are going to see everywhere. The weight machines are self-explanatory and the pictures on the side of the machines help if you don’t know which muscle is being targeted. The cardio machines have color- coded buttons, start is green and red is stop. Learning Hiragana and Katakana makes using them easier.
Gym Facilities
Gym facilities are essentially the same, with minor differences here and there. Larger gyms typically have a small onsen attached to the showers and locker rooms. If you’ve never been to a Japanese bath house, it’s good to know early on that Japanese people are comfortable being naked being around the same gender. As an American, this was something I was not used to and I felt very self-conscious changing in front of other women. After a couple of weeks, I realized it wasn’t a big deal and I got used to it but it was a big shocker.
Limited Machines
I love my current gym but since it’s small some of the machines that I used in America are not available. The hanging-leg raise machine, rowing machine, assisted pull-up and medicine balls were some of the things I couldn’t use. Larger gyms may or may not have them but it’s always good to tour multiple gyms in your area if these are a must for you.
People Exercise Differently
If you’ve had a membership in America before, you know that some people train hard. This isn’t always the case in Japan. While some people definitely go all out in their workouts, more often than not you will see people stretching more and weight lifting but not going outside their comfort zone. Speed training isn’t popular in Japan so beware if you do intense interval training that you might be one of the few.