I mentioned before that I have been exercising pretty frequently, which brings me to now. I never thought that going to a gym in Japan would be so significantly different from having a gym membership in America. In some aspects it’s not–it’s more like they actually enforce the rules rather than give guidelines (at least in America it felt like the rules were more like guidelines…).
So when you go to a gym to sign up for a membership you’ll want to have all your information on you. Most likely, if you’re a gaijin, you won’t have a Japanese credit card because we’re not cool enough for that. Long story short on that one is I’m pretty sure Japan feels as though foreigners can’t be trusted, though I’m not sure if the new alien registration card (which isn’t actually called an alien registration card anymore) that they are releasing in July will allow for more “rights” for foreigners because it’s pretty much the same card as a Japanese citizen. Except you’re a foreigner–and you’ll probably still be treated like an alien…
(e.g. “So in America… do you eat rice at all?”)
Anyways, signing up for a gym membership is way more time consuming than it is in America. They want a whole slew of information that in America they really don’t seem to care much about. In America I’m pretty sure I gave them my address and phone number, handed her my credit card and then went on my merry way. In Japan you give the same information but like any contract of any kind they want a part of your soul… They want your health status, if you have any illnesses, if you’ve had surgery, if you have any weaknesses… how many partners you’ve been with–okay, maybe not that bit of information.
However, in Japan they do payments a little differently from how they do it in America. I think it’s safe to say that most Japanese people have bank accounts but it’s also safe to say that most Japanese people do not have credit cards or debit cards that they can use to buy items at stores. In fact, when I signed up for my bank account the closest thing they have to a credit card was the nifty Tsuruya credit card that you can only use at Tsuruya. Most banks do not offer online banking, either. When you pay a bill it usually comes to you in the mail and you then take it to the nearest convenience store and pay it. For the gym membership, however, I had a choice of paying it in cash every month or allowing them to take it directly out of my bank account. To do that I needed to bring my bank book (which has the same information as an American checkbook would in regards to bank number and account number) in with me and they would take my account information down so they could pull the money directly.
Afterwards it takes about 2-4 months for their system to accept your information and proceed to take the money out of your account every month. For me, by the third month it still hadn’t verified my bank information yet and I found myself having to pay in cash while being reassured that it will probably go through by the fourth month. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Other than that, it follows pretty normal Japanese rules. When you check in you get your locker number and before you can move on to the locker area you have to take off your shoes. After that point your outside shoes are not allowed on the floor. In the locker room no shoes are allowed, but once you leave you can put on your gym shoes which are shoes that are basically inside shoes… but for the gym. I’m sure there may be people who wear outside shoes in, but I was told they wanted me to use shoes that were not used outdoors. It reminded me of when I was in high school and I had “gym shoes”! Except we all wore them outside.
Depending on your plan you can have access to the pool, the studio (basically workout classes), etc. I enjoy the workout classes (specifically body combat). There are always a bunch of staff on duty and they are always wandering around to make sure people are okay. In America I don’t think the staff really batted an eye at me once. Most just stayed behind their desk and texted or… zoned out?
Long story short: it’s a lot of fun and I kind of like being part of the gym community in Japan over America. The people and staff are really nice (even if they’re supposed to be) and I feel welcome. Now other members are slowly warming up to me and chatting with me time to time. It’s a nice feeling. 🙂
Also, despite the fact my gym is called Konami, and pretty much has the same logo as the game company, I’m a little disappointed I can’t workout and play games at the same time using their machines. 😦