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Whether you’re building strength, working on your cardiovascular health, or wanting to join some group fitness classes, signing up for a gym membership can help you achieve your fitness goals in Japan.
Chances are, there will be some differences between how gyms at home work, versus gyms in Japan. Read on to learn more about how to sign up for a gym membership in Japan, gym rules, and some easy Japanese language tips for the gym.
Private vs public gyms
Broadly, there are two kinds of gyms in Japan: those that are run by private companies and those run by the local city ward or municipality.
Public gyms are much cheaper and don’t require memberships. You just pay for the time you wish to use the gym for, which can be as cheap as 400 yen in some places. This is great if you don’t want to commit to a long-term contract and want to save some money. The downsides are that they get extremely busy and their equipment isn’t always the best quality. If you’re looking for a gym where you can speak English, you’re mostly out of luck with public gyms.
On the other hand, private gyms are more expensive and usually require you to sign up for a membership. But they have better selection of equipment and you may be able to find a private gym that offers some English support.
The cost of a private gym membership will vary depending on the gym and what type of membership plan you choose. Generally, you can expect to pay between 7000 and 10,000 yen per month. Membership plans could include daytime-only plans, family plans, classes only, etc. There is usually a different price for daytime versus evening memberships, with the latter being more expensive due to popularity.
If you decide that private is the way to go, then your next step will be to sign up for a membership. The exact process will be different depending on the gym you choose, so keep in mind that this is just a general overview.
Visit the gym you would like to join and speak to a staff member. If you’re not confident in your language skills, try to bring someone with you who can speak Japanese.
Or, you can try saying:
ジムの会員手続きを申し込みたいです。 Jimu no kaiin tetsuzuki o mōshikomitai desu. I would like to sign up for a gym membership.
Or if you would like to see if they offer a free trial before signing up:
無料体験はできますか？ Muryō taiken wa dekimasu ka? Can I do a free trial?
They will show you around the gym, explain the terms and conditions of your membership, as well as the gym rules. Once you’ve been given a thorough tour and had everything explained, you’ll start your application.
Make sure you bring your Residence Card (zairyū kādo在留カード), the card you want to use to pay your membership fees (or your Japanese bank account information), and ensure you have enough money to pay the sign-up fees. Make sure you also have someone in Japan who you can provide as your emergency contact person.
Once you’re signed up and have paid the necessary fees, you will have your photo taken and be given your entry card/tag.
A couple of things to note:
It’s common for the bigger gyms to ask you to sign up for a credit card that’s sponsored by the gym, so they can charge your gym fees to that card. If you’re rejected from applying for that card, your gym may not accept your registration or payment by another card.
Be aware that the sign-up process for joining a gym in Japan can be lengthy. We recommend you apply for your membership on a day when you have plenty of time.
Other phrases that might be helpful
How much does a membership cost? 会費はいくらですか？ Kaihi wa ikura desu ka?
料金はいくらですか？ Ryōkin wa ikura desu ka?
How does membership cancellation work? 退会する場合の手続きを教えてください? Taikai suru baai no tetsuzuki o oshiete kudasai.
Some gyms may offer the ability to sign up online, but that will depend on the gym.
Rules at Japanese gyms
You might find Japanese gyms come with more rules than those back home. Each gym differs, but here are some of the most common rules you’ll find once you start using your gym membership in Japan.
No outdoor shoes inside the gym
Just like you would take your outdoor shoes off when you enter a Japanese home, you will need to change into a pair of indoor shoes when going to the gym. This means shoes that are clean and which you don’t wear outside.
No cameras or phones
Privacy is a big deal in Japanese gyms, with some places not allowing mobile phones in the workout area at all. Taking selfies and photos of others is largely frowned upon, although it might be okay to use your phone to listen to music while you work out. Check with your particular gym to avoid any issues.
Tattoos are still seen as taboo in Japan and some gyms won’t let you join if you have visible ink. Cover up tattoos with clothing, or a plaster if possible.
Keep noise to a minimum
Making a lot of noise, including dropping weights onto the floor, playing your music loudly, etc, is frowned upon. It’s important to be courteous of others using the gym, which includes not making loud noises.
On top of these conditions, there may be other rules at your gym. These could include no spotting, no super-setting, and more. Please check thoroughly with your gym.
Alternatives to joining the gym
Getting a gym membership isn’t the be all and end all if you want to work out in Japan.
If you prefer exercising outdoors, head to your local park for a job, go for walks around your neighborhood, or head out to the mountains for some hikes. Some parks actually have basic equipment, like bars, for calisthenic training.
A great option if you live in a bigger city, is to see if there are fitness communities you can join. For example, SOGO is a popular fitness community that does free bootcamps in Yoyogi Park every Sunday morning. Meetup.com is a great place to find groups to join where you can get your exercise in while meeting new people.
Japanese words and phrases for the gym
Like anything in Japan, going to the gym will be harder if you don’t speak the language. Although it’s certainly possible to get by on minimal Japanese! Here are some basic words and phrases to help you understand a little more at the gym.
Exercise 運動 Undō
Work out トレーニング Torēningu
Strength training 筋トレ Kintore
Aerobic exercise 有酸素運動 Yūsanso undō
Dumbbell ダンベル Danberu
Barbell バーベル Bāberu
Bench ベンチ Benchi
Treadmill ランニングマシン Raningumashin
Can I use this? これを使ってもいいですか？ Kore o tsukatte mo ii desu ka?
Are you finished with this? 終わりましたか？ Owarimashita ka?
Weigh up your Japanese learning options
Want to understand more than just the basics? Go! Go! Nihon can help you to live and study in Japan with one of 20+ partner schools around Japan. Learn more about our language school partners here.
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