Quick Observations From: A Japanese Gym

February 5, 2010

I finally joined the local gym in town, the Sports Club Axtos, this week after putting it off for, oh, five months. I blame The Wire, which I’ve been watching like the cliche I am. I haven’t been to this gym much yet, but the two times I went have convinced me Japanese gym aren’t drastically different than their American counterparts. But there are a few differences worth blogging about!

– The application process could drive even the strongest willed to insanity. Assuming the strongest willed knew no Japanese. It took me and my friend Jonathan (who has some Japanese knowledge) two hours to complete the process, filling out mystery form after form. At one point we had to check a bunch of boxes, but we had no idea what they were saying. I may very well have signed up for duty as a human test subject in the near future. Stay tuned. I originally wrote 700 words (!) about the entire process, but decided it was trash. Here are the bullet points:
* I initially signed up for a membership that didn’t actually exist.
* Had to redo the forms because the concept of a middle name rattles the Japanese gym application system to its very core.
* Had one of the worst photos of me ever taken for the membership card. I look like I’m about to bite someone.
* Did I mention this took two hours?
* In an effort to sell us even further on the gym, the lady guiding us pointed out the “Japanese girls” working there. She either knows her Western stereotypes well, or knows how to sell a business.

– This gym includes a feature called the “e-book.” It’s a passport sized book where you keep track of your fitness progress. There is a cluster of computers in the main workout area where you can go to update the book. It’s very hi-tech, which is why I don’t do it.

– Most of the machines in the main gym room are pretty standard pieces of workout equipment. The one exception – three mini-bullriding machines. I don’t see the physical benefit from sitting on a mechanized bronco, but it looks kind of fun.

– Each machine comes equipped with a towel, so you can wipe the seat down when you are done. The Japanese, they love their cleanliness.

– Men are much more willing to use the traditionally “girly” machines, chiefly the leg ones where you spread your legs apart. I always felt there was a stigma about using those if you were a dude in America, but here nobody cares.

– Everyone resets the weights to the lowest level when they finish using them. This unfortunately means you can’t fake being really strong by switching the total weight to some stupid high number and hope the next person thinks you are Hercules reincarnate.

(Japanese Fun Fact #41: Today in class I played Jeopardy with the third year students. They though America’s birthday was September 11th, and that Michael Jackson was the president prior to Obama. To their credit, they spelled “Barack” like I used to (that is to say, wrong), so I can’t make fun of them to much.)

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