Praise the powers that be—at least, when it comes to providing cost-friendly sports and exercise facilities. Whereas the handful of ubiquitous private gym chains (Gold’s, Tipness, Konami Club) charge membership fees of 12,000-plus yen per month, daily use of the municipal gyms that are standard in most wards of Tokyo costs under 500. The commute won’t exceed the limits of your ward, and all you need is ID to certify that you work, reside, or study in the area.

You can even thank Japanese etiquette for the wipe-down that is de rigeuer after using the machines.

At the gym in my far corner of town, I pay just 200yen for an afternoon and the use of stationary bikes, treadmills, a battalion of Nautilus equipment, or 20-kilo barbells, if I were so inclined. Admission fees at the Shibuya Sports Center training room are slightly higher—400yen for unlimited time for adults and high school students, although junior high school students pay only 100yen, and over-60iers and people with disabilities receive free entry—but then again, the Momijigaoka municipal gym doesn’t have a soccer field in annex. Much less one that can accommodate three different teams at once.

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Photo by Mine Serizawa

On a Wednesday evening the sports center was still crowded, or perhaps just beginning to fill up as the city’s kaisha-in emerged from their shirtsleeves. The three ages of man were playing soccer on an immense, stadium-lit field, with tennis courts adjacent, and karate black belts training in a tatami room in the central complex opposite. Reservation of the field and courts is handled through an online system—but while all the tennis foursomes in Shibuya vie against each other for the use of courts, they can at least expect a shorter queue-up thanks to the restriction of gym services to the constituents of the ward.

The training room as well as a “toddler’s room” with multi-colored, floor-to-floor foam padding and an aerobics room occupy the third floor. There is even a restaurant on the second floor overlooking the pool (for those partial to spectator sports, I guess) that offers udon and ramen for around 500yen, katsudon-rice-soup sets for 700, special sets for kids…and, astonishingly, 600yen beer sets.

Finally. You won’t be lying when you’ve been putting away Sapporo and gyoza and calling it going to the gym.

Photo by Mine Serizawa

Tip: Buy prepaid cards instead of paying each time you visit the gym to get a 10% bonus, e.g., a 1,000yen card will get you 1,100yen worth of gym time.

Information on sports facilities in various wards can be found at the following links:

Credit to Paul Goodchild on the Gaijin Guide website.

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