To join a gym in Japan can be quite an ordeal, both financially and emotionally. Big chains like Konami and Itoman have strict membership guidelines and can cost the customer upwards of 10,000 yen (or more!) a month. Classes tend to be large, herd-like events where personalized instruction is hard to come by. Changing rooms can also be territorial and for those of you with even the slightest bit of subcutaneous decoration (i.e. a tattoo) forget it – you’re not welcome here.
A sensible economic alternative is to scout out the local ward community center (taiikukan – 体育館). Hours are consistent, with doors opening at 9 and closing twelve hours later. A basic entry day ticket for adults is 390 yen, which gives you access to the training room, locker rooms and showers. Depending on which ward center you visit, basketball courts, outdoor running tracks and even indoor pools are also be available at the same price. Spend 3,000 yen and you can get a 10-pack of day tickets (kaisuuken – 回数券) to use at your convenience without worry of expiration.
While the exercise machines may not be as cutting edge as those at the big membership gyms (West Ward Community Center features well-maintained rigs at least 30 years old), you’ll find they’re quite enough for any serious health nut and, what’s more, they’re almost always free! Guests are generally of an older set and the atmosphere at my local gym – Nakajima Koen Taiikukan (中島公園体育館) is always friendly and laid back. On top of that, I don’t catch any flack for the ¾ sleeve tattoo decorating my left arm. If anything, it’s a way for curious old ladies to start a conversation with me.
So, whether just visiting or a resident of the city, the next time you feel the urge to bust a gut, hop on over to your local community center and spend some time sweating with the oldies. Whether you decide to come back or not is wonderfully inconsequential, as you will have paid half of what you would for a cold pint of beer in Susukino. Just because summer’s over there’s no excuse to slack off – the next rainy day off you have, pay a visit to your ward fitness center.
For more information check out this link to the official website; be sure to run the page through Google Translate if Japanese is not your thing: http://www.shsf.jp/facilities/index.html