I was in Japan recently for a 7-day trip, to explore a new culture and visit one of the busiest cities in the world, Tokyo.
I have to be honest, I knew a little bit about Japanese culture from movies, books, and speaking to Japanese friends of mine. However, it is totally different when you are experiencing life there in person.
Being someone who trains on a regular basis, the first thing I wanted to do when I arrived was find out where I could train during my stay there. I was googling gyms in my area and the most popular gym that appeared was Gold’s Gym. The famous gym, was started by Joe Gold in Venice beach, California back in 1976.
I thought to myself this is going to be incredible, going to Golds Gym in Japan.
The morning after I landed, I went to visit Shibuya. For those who don’t know, Shibuya is where the world-famous crossing is. I was in awe of this place, it was somewhere I had always wanted to visit. As I was walking around getting to know the area, I came across Golds Gym. It was an extremely hot and humid day, I had a backpack with my gym clothes so I thought, why not get out of the heat, into the cool aircon of a gym?
Seems counterintuitive, going to the gym to cool off but believe me, mid-August during a heatwave the gym was a blessing!
Gold’s Gym Shibuya is located on the 5th floor of the Cocoti building, not exactly easy to find as a tourist. Especially coming from Australia where gyms are everywhere!
I eventually got to the reception area of the gym and walked over the counter.
As I walked over, the lady behind reception had her arms in an ‘X’ shape, thinking she was saying the gym was not yet open. I pulled out my trusty Google translator app and asked if I could use the gym on a casual pass.
She looked horrified as if I had just asked her to hand over her wallet!
Turns out, she was refusing me entry into the gym because I have a half-tattoo sleeve, which unfortunately meant I could not train.
This came as quite a shock, and after doing some research, most Japanese gyms have a strict no-tattoo policy. Tattoos are seen as taboo, as they are associated with the Yakuza criminal organization.
Here are some of the rules to remember when entering a gym/fitness facility in Japan:
1) Tattoos. Tattoos are taboo in Japan, associated with the Yakuza criminal organisation, they do not allow entry to anyone with tattoos. If you do go to a Japanese gym, i would highly recommend covering them up for the duration of your workout.
2) No Outside Shoes. You cannot wear outside shoes in Japanese gyms, they have strict rules around this. You must either bring a pair of shoes with you, or you can rent a pair from most fitness facilities for an additional fee.
3) Cost. The price of entering the gym as a visitor can be very high, roughly $40-$60AUD per visit. They are also very strict on Identification, so make sure you bring your passport or drivers licence to the gym with you.
4) No Photography. Gyms in Japan are very strict on photography and videography. Some gyms don’t even allow mobile phones on the gym floor – they consider them anti-social.
All in all, Japan has a very high standard of gym etiquette. So, it is important to be respectful of the gym rules, as you could find yourself unable to train if you don’t.