Gym Culture in Japan

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To start off the new year I, like many others, decided to get a gym membership in hopes of finally attaining some of my new year’s resolutions. I am happy to report I have been consistently working out for several weeks now. Many gyms have their own unique “gym culture” and I have noticed many things about gyms in Japan that differ from gyms I have been to back home in the US.

The first thing I learned about gyms in Japan is how unreasonably expensive they are. Even with a student discount I had to pay upwards of $100 for my first month due to fees, and every following month I am expected to pay about $50. The prices are a major reason as to why I took so long to decide to get a membership. I was also told from other people that some gyms required you to prove basic proficiency in Japanese to make sure you are able to follow gym rules without any confusion, however, my gym had no such qualification and despite the language barrier between the staff and myself they were very patient as they tried to help me register for a membership.

After finally deciding to get a membership, it was not too long before I started to notice differences between my gym in Japan and my gym in the US. One rule that doesn’t affect me much but has proven to be a nuisance to my friend is that visible tattoos are prohibited. Due to the stigma of tattoos being associated with Yakuza (Japanese mobs), my friend is expected to cover his tattoos with his clothing or tape so as to not make others uncomfortable. Staff also requested my friend to not use chalk while weightlifting to avoid making a mess. There also seems to be an expectation for everyone to not get too loud. We have never been approached regarding a noise complaint, but the entire gym does not get very loud, although I contribute some of this to the gyms being significantly smaller than the ones I have been to in the US. My final observation is that most of the Japanese people who attend my gym are on average older than I am accustomed to in the US. The gym definitely is a place for people of all ages, but despite being near a very large high school, I don’t think I have ever seen someone my age or younger. In the United States I think there is a much larger demographic of young adults going to the gym, and I am not quite sure why it seems to be so much smaller in Tokyo.

Despite the high prices and extra restrictions, going to the gym in Tokyo has been one of the best decisions I have made. I look forward to continuing to workout and carry my progress back with me to the US.