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Why Gyms in Japan don’t actually suck.

 

I wrote previously about Gold’s Gym in Japan, I wrote about the rules and restrictions along with some of the good points that I had experienced.

Since then I have read many articles and forum posts criticising strange rules and regulations that Gyms in Japan impose and how foreigners struggle with them. I have also had the chance to extend my experience of Gyms here. This article is in defence of that criticism and also some points out some things that, in my opinion, Gyms in other parts of the world would benefit from implementing.

Clean

  • Indoor only shoe policy results in the environment being cleaner for everybody this way, how can that be a bad thing? The cleanliness of a Japanese Gym is phenomenal.
  • The staff clean, reset and calibrate the equipment constantly.
  • The close the Gym one day a month (while frustrating) it’s done in order to fully clean the entire venue.

The Staff

  • The trainers and staff are professional and attentive.
  • When they turn up for their shift, they casually walk the gym and greet the customers, it’s just a nice touch.
  • If you need a spot while you bench your body weight + some they are happy to oblige, not only that I have seen them rush to the rescue of overly ambitious lifters.
  • Again, the staff will also walk around the floor and clean the equipment, reset and keep the free weights organised if needed.

The Customers

  • Yes, it’s true you do see some very funny exercises that look like they are training for a new kamasutra position being performed by the odd Japanese patron, but the average local gym goer knows what they are doing.
  • No one is on their phone sitting on the equipment pretending to be ‘resting’ between sets
  • Even the serious Japanese lifter will usually either be in ‘focused’ mode, or more often than not have with smile on their face. The only grim reaper alpha douche bag’s I have encountered in my experience so far I’m sad to say are not locals.
  • Customers nearly always always clean and re-rack / return equipment correctly after use
  • Politeness when waiting for equipment or when moving around the gym. Always a polite nod and patient.
  • Honest, just yesterday I had to remove my sports watch while deadlifting, towards the end of my session I realised it was missing. While it would have been very easy for someone to ‘lift’ it (pun?), of course it was waiting at the front desk after someone had turned it in. Petty crime just isn’t a thing here.

Lastly, the major gripe you read about: No Tattoo Policy

Yes, it’s clear a Gaijin (white person) isn’t going to be a member of Yakuza, but exactly how are they meant to impose the restriction for Japanese people and NOT for Gaijin? Separate rules based on one’s race is clearly not a behaviour we want to encourage, no matter how innocuous the subject may seem.

So there you have it, a few reasons why I think the Gym’s in Japan are great. Of course I’m not saying it’s perfect, but these are things I miss when I’m not here and visiting Gym’s elsewhere that just don’t have the top notch experience that Japan is able to serve up through it’s community first attitude, excellent cleanliness and focus on excellence in customer service.

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Runners Station, Kojimachi.

Front Entrance Variety of clothing and supplements Common Area Garmin Watches for hire / sale. Shower Capsule Mens Locker Room #1 Mens Locker Room #2

Situated 500 meters from the Imperial Palace running track, you quickly get a sense the owners of Runners Station Kojimachi have thoughtfully crafted this environment with a genuine knowledge of what a runner’s needs are and that they share a passion for running as much as you do.

Runners Station Kojimachi offer a variety of services, with the core facility being the use of a locker and a clean shower + towel rental. This is priced at only ¥700.

Other services include the option to store running shoes (via monthly membership) to rent a garmin watch or running shoes and you can also purchase from a variety of running clothing and supplements they have available.

Coffee and Tea facilities are available in the communal area for ¥100 and there is free wifi available too!

They are located directly above Kojimachi Station on the Yurakucho line and easiest to access if you take Exit 4 and follow the stairs to the top.

Although I have yet to encounter an English speaking staff member this really is not a barrier. They have even created a handy PDF map and explanation in English to help us non Japanese enjoy the service and the route.

Runners station is a warm, welcoming and friendly environment that is dedicated to the service of runners wanting to enjoy the ever popular Imperial Palace running track and I recommend you try them out for yourself.


 

Hours of Service
Weekdays (Tue-Fri) 10:00 to 22:30 (21:00 last admission)
※ Monday Closed

Saturday 8:00 to 20:00 (18:30 last admission)
Sunday and holidays 8:00 to 18:00 (16:30 last admission)

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Where to run in Tokyo. Yoyogi Park.

 

Located in central Tokyo, Yoyogi Park (代々木公園, Yoyogi Kōen) is a staple destination for runners of Tokyo.

Given it’s central location it is easily accessible by public transport, with train stations ‘Harajuku‘ (Yamanote Line) , Meiji-jingumae and ‘Yoyogi Kōen‘ (Chiyoda Line) all taking you to the parks doorstep.

Yoyogi Park hosts all the facilities you need for an enjoyable run as there are plenty of toilets, water fountains, vending machines throughout the park. The paths are superbly maintained and if you are looking to go for an afternoon or evening trot, the inner loop paths are well lit.

 

One less common known points about running in Yoyogi Park is that it offers not only one, but two running routes; an inner loop and an outer loop.

Yoyogi Park – Inner Loop

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 15.15.32

This one is as simple as following the footpath around the park from any of the main entrances. It is possible to weave around a little as there are a number of foot paths to choose from that are all connected, just stick in one direction (for some reason, counter clockwise is the standard in Japan) and you can easily explore the options. The example pictured below is the very inner loop.

Length: Approx 1.3 km long
Track: 100% Pavement
Good for: Interval training, short jog under 10k, people watching while you jog.

 

 

Yoyogi Park – Outer Loop

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 15.15.56

This is also pretty easy to find as long as you know it’s there! Locate one of the main entrances and look for a worn path that follows the outside of the park. You can traverse the park and see a different perspective of Yoyogi and enjoy a trail run like feeling.  Depending on the weather you might want your trail shoes for this path as it can be muddy in parts if it has been raining. This loop is slightly longer and offers a trail run feel despite being in the center of Tokyo city.

Length: Approx 2.6km long
Track: 20% Pavement / 80% Dirt Trail
Good for: Trail run feeling, longer runs (longer distance means fewer loops)

Tips for running in Yoyogi Park

  • It can get very busy and a congested during weekends and public holidays when the weather is good. If that is the case when you plan to go, head out early to avoid the crowds
  • There are a number of large crows living in the park. Generally they are a bit of a nuisance as they sometimes do like to swoop low as you run past but I haven’t heard of them ever causing any harm
  • Careful to avoid cyclists as there is a cycling route in the park that’s used mostly for parents with young children to enjoy so keep an eye out especially when you are crossing the cycling path
  • Don’t run in the Meiji Shrine area of the park (the right side entrance to the park after exiting Harajuku station) it’s forbidden to do so and there are too many tourists to make it a comfortable location to jog anyway. Stick to the routes above.
  • Take a break from your run by the dog fenced area (you will pass it on the inner loop) and enjoy watching the dogs at play
  • If you would like a locker, a place to shower and change after your run the check out Nohara by Mizuno. This service is especially for runners and as shown in this google map and as you can see it is conveniently located in Harajuku. The service is available to the public for a small fee.

 

 

 

 

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Where to run in Tokyo. The Imperial Palace.

Where to run in Tokyo. The Imperial Palace.

If you are visiting Japan for the first time and looking for a place to run that’s central in Tokyo then look no further than the Imperial Palace. The track at the Imperial Palace is the quintessential Tokyo City running destination and it might well be the most popular of all running locations in Tokyo for Gaijin and local Japanese alike.

Why is Running at Imperial Palace so Popular?

  • Central access from a number of stations in the area makes getting there by train easy. There are nine train stations (Hanzomon, Sakuradamon, Hibya, Yurakucho, Nijubashimae, Tokyo, Otemachi, Takebashi, Kundanshita) that all either take you right to the route or close enough for a short walk/jog or jog to the track
  • There are no traffic lights or other reasons to stop/start along the way
  • It’s an even 5km loop start to finish, so it’s simple to measure your 5km 10km 15km etc etc distance if you don’t have a sports watch
  • Access to numerous clean public restrooms along the route
  • Water Fountains access for a quick sip or replenishing your water bottle. Especially handy if you are doing multiple loops in the summer time.
  • Community spirit of runners is alive. Rain, hail or shine and regardless of time of day, there seems to be always at least a handful of runners out enjoying the course with you
  • Well lit and safe while Tokyo itself already has an exceptionally low crime rate the Imperial Palace is well lit and guarded by numerous police who are stationed around the palace
Gardens at Imperial Palace
Gardens at Imperial Palace

Helpful Tips

  • Most (maybe all) of the train stations have lockers if you need to store goods while you jog
  • Check out the running services in the nearby area such as Runners Station where you can shower, use a locker, grab supplies – you can even rent running gear from them if you need it. They even have an english text imperial palace running map illustrating the water stations/bathrooms.
  • Run only counter clockwise around the course, it’s simply an etiquette that’s followed by all to keep congestion to a minimum.
  • Much like most of Tokyo, there are no trash cans on the loop so be mindful of this and hold onto any litter until you are home.
  • In contrast to the last point and somewhat out of place for Japan there are no vending machines along the route, if you seek a drink other than water you can simply cross one of the roads at the traffic lights and run for a while. You are bound to come across a vending machine in no time.
  • The route can get congested as some areas of the path narrow and the runners numbers do get high during peak times. The Japanese runners of course are generally highly courteous people, locals will nearly always clear the way when they can ‘sense’ you are wanting to pass. If you are stuck and the person is unaware, simply call out Sumimasen (pronounced soo-mii-mah-sen), which simply means Excuse me!

 

Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace
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Cheap & Healthy Eating in Japan.

 

Cheap & Healthy Eating in Japan. FamilyMart.

After lunch today, I decided I would share exactly how dead easy clean eating is in Japan – even if you are on a budget. 

Todays lunch menu:

  • Salad
  • Boiled skinless chicken breast (really delicious)
  • Boiled egg
  • Sparkling water
  • Banana 

All this for under ¥1000 (around $8USD)!! It was all purchased from the Family Mart, loaded with protein and less than 500 calories.  They even give you hand wipes and chopstick + toothpick along with the purchase. 

So, get yourself a healthy and quick lunch on a budget is dead easy, just walk into any Family Mart (they really are available prolifically throughout Tokyo) and you will be presented with literally dozens of healthy and budget priced options (along with a gazillion other fascinating food products you will be tempted to try, but that will wait till cheat day right?) 

 


 

 

Itadakimasu!

The word ‘itadakimasu is spoken before eating and is roughly translated as “I humbly receive” It’s nearly always used before eating food by Japanese it’s much like saying “Bon appétit”!