Before I came back to Japan, I did a LOT of research. YES, I was here before and YES I decided to come back (after a series of really fortunate events). So, I was accustomed to most things in Japan. Especially the gyms. The “overpriced” gyms that included bright lights, loud classes and smiling women behind a desk with bright eyes, long eyelashes and glimmering, porcelain skin. My first conquest: FIND A GYM.
On my very first, sweaty, train ride to work I FOUND A GYM. Konami Sports Club. It is a franchise in Japan possibly one of the most popular. You can find Konami from Tokyo to Osaka, Kagawa and Fukuoka. I happened to be in Kagawa and happened to look to my right on the train and happened to say: YES there it is. (Then I sighed, smiled and planned my workouts).
Quick back story (yes, read it quickly): My husband owns a gym in Italy and is a personal trainer/does body building/professional soccer player. I have been training for some building competitions as well and fell in love with lifting weights.
Let’s bring it back: Ever so graciously, my lovely friend from a city 40 minutes away came with me to help me sign up for membership. This is, because my Japanese sounds like a baby crying and hers is pretty flawless. The trainer smiled brightly and bowed four times before telling us to take off our shoes, handing us slippers to wear in the gym. I first, wanted to see what the gym had to offer before I signed up for anything. And I quote: “I need to see if it has what I need,” I said matter of factly.
I was impressed and maybe a little skewed by the bright lights, loud classes and shiny women that seemed to flitter pass us almost like fireflies. It seems to be a custom (as from previous experience) that it should take no less than 1.5 hours for a person to sign up for gym membership in Japan. After 5 minutes of the trainer explaining what the machines did, nicely, I told him, I understood, explained about my husband (watched as he opened his mouth the utter the words: EHHHHH) and went about my way to explore on my own.
Customarily the trainer is supposed to explain what machines are, how they work, when they work, the classes the gym offers, who goes to the classes, how they get to the classes, why there are classes, why the machines are being used, what to do on a machine, what to do off a machine, where to stretch, where to run, where to lift, where to change your shoes, where to use the bathroom….etc. OH then they repeat the information.
So, thankfully, I had a wing-woman for the trainer to talk to while I quickly made my rounds. I was pleased. They had everything I needed (or so I thought at the time). I made the sign for Okay and he bowed, smiled and took us to sit down. For five minutes it was my turn to convince him that I wanted a gym membership. For thirty minutes we went over the types of memberships and times. He clarified four times about the different prices (they offer a more expensive plan if you want gym insurance in case you get hurt- I decided to decline). For 10 minutes he explained gym rules and made sure I understood them (in Japanese). For the record, we had been there an hour and I had yet to sign up.
Finally, I said OKAY!! Ikimashou (let’s go). “Dear sir, please, kindly, if you can, let me sign up please. I’m hungry and I just want to go home and eat, or cry, because it’s been an HOUR,” is what I wanted to say. Being thorough is one thing that is great in Japan, because the Japanese RARELY (in my experience) make mistakes (though, once I didn’t receive 400Yen in change at McDonald’s; that was another crazy ordeal). And this trainer was determined that NO ONE was going to make a mistake with my membership.
Although, he failed to mention that the times that worked best for me (oh yes, you are restricted to certain times you can go to the gym) were only for people 25 and younger. And, then there was another 10 minutes of clarification; some awkward laughing because I am 29 and finally a decision made. I picked another plan. Five minutes of explanations on the times and days again (being thorough here). Finally, he got up to get the paperwork for me to sign. He allowed me to sign it in Romaji (Alphabet) as it would be faster than writing in Japanese. I didn’t have a cell phone number at the time, but we didn’t tell him that, we just gave him my friend’s number (that would have been a pickle- ever try ordering something extra in Japan?
The issue that was debated included the fact that if I started my membership on the following Tuesday (as I had originally mentioned- they close on Monday), I’d have to pay for the month of June and July. But if I started my membership on that Saturday, I only had to pay for June. I was confused, but after five minutes of convincing him that I really am fine with starting on Saturday, I was able to pay for that month.
And I signed my health away!!! So, am I done? Nope, let’s talk about how I ‘m going to pay for my workout pleasures. I told him I’d pay in cash that day and to put it on my Debit Card in the US because I hadn’t received my Japanese bank information yet (yes I signed up for a gym before I could even use an ATM). He said OKAY. Then, he ran my card in a really cool, wireless machine. Only, my card said: No thank you. The card didn’t work. Another ten minutes of me explaining that my card only works in the Japanese Post ATM and that’s the problem and that I will bring my bank information next week. He said OKAY.
Oh but wait, there’s more. He had information in English that he gave me about the rules and regulations in the gym. When he decided to go over them, again, in English, I said: I have to go. Nicely. I wasn’t rude, but we had gone over this information 30 minutes ago. He told me that he needed to give me my gym card. Yes! I’m finally in. After ten minutes, my card was in my hand! Then, he said: Oh wait! Let’s take your picture. I looked malnourished and tired, but I smiled and cursed (I was Hangry=hungry+angry) grabbed my card, bowed my thank you’s and apologies and ran out!
Things You Need to Know:
- Bring your gaijin Card
- Bring cash (expect to pay for two month’s dues)
- Bring a form of payment so that they can take out monthly dues
- Expect to be at the gym for at least 1.5 hours
- Possibly bring a friend that speaks Japanese as that will take off time
- Bring Inside shoes to train (you will need to only use inside shoes at the gym)
- Smile and know that the trainers are being thorough