Tokyo is an athletically active city offering all sorts of opportunities to swim, workout, or hit the links. There are countless English-language offerings for expats, some of which can be identified through simple Web searches, while others can be identified through Metropolis Magazine (http://www.metropolis.co.jp). Expats that become members of some of Tokyo’s exclusive membership clubs such as the Tokyo American Club (http://www.tac-club.org) or Yokohama Country & Athletic Club, have access to a host of athletic options including a fitness center, golf, swimming, a large variety of aerobic programs, and assorted other activities. On a more individual basis, some sport recommendations in Tokyo include:
Fitness centers can be found in just about every district in Tokyo and include Gold’s Gym (http://www.goldsgym.jp), Tipness (http://tip.tipness.co.jp/), Work Out World (http://www.wowd.jp). Each facility is well stocked with the latest in weightlifting and cardio equipment. For additional program fees, fitness center members can also have access to the facilities aerobic programs. Classes are taught in Japanese, but the programs are straight-forward enough that non-English speakers should not have much difficulty getting through the work-out.
Japanese love their golf, but due to the lack of available land in Tokyo, most courses are located one to two hours outside the city by car. Some of the hundreds of courses available are members-only, but many of the courses do allow non-member access. Despite the overabundance of courses and Japan’s repeated recessions, playing golf in Japan is very expensive with green’s fees usually starting around US$150; US$300 fees is not at all unheard of.
- Outdoor Japan’s “Golf in Japan” Web site (http://www.golf-in-japan.com) is an excellent resource for not only identifying some terrific courses, but the message boards provide good analysis of how the course plays. The site also offers suggestions for city driving ranges, and reservations for a tee time can be booked through the site.
- One popular expat friendly course includes Gotemba (http://www.gotembagolf.com), which is situated at the base of Mt. Fuji.
- Windsor Park Golf and Country Club (http://www.wpgcc.com) provides very affordable play with access to family-friendly amenities including free babysitting.
While tennis is a big sport played across Japan, there are few courts that are expat-friendly in the sense that scheduling court time can be a major headache if you aren’t a full-fledged member of the club. That being said, Tokyo Lawn Tennis Club (http://www.tltc.jp) in Minami-Azabu/Hiroo specifically caters to the expat population and is centrally located. Membership is required at this club, but gaining access to the courts tends to be less complicated. Shinagawa Prince Tennis (http://www.princehotels.co.jp/) in Takanawa, sports nine quality courts that can be fairly easily scheduled in advance (although you’ll need to speak some level of Japanese when calling to request a court).
Swimming in Japan is inexpensive, yet frustrating considering how rules-sensitive the public pool operators are. Most pools require the use of swim caps and forbid the use of sunscreen in the pool itself. The lifeguards at these facilities also clear the pool at least every hour – and sometimes every half hour – which can be particularly annoying if in the middle of a workout. This has led many Japanese and most expats to seek private pools within fitness centers (mentioned above) or at membership facilities such as the Tokyo American Club where the experience is more comfortable. That said, some of the major public pools include:
- Komazawa Olympic Park (1-1 Komazawa Koen, Setagaya-ku; Tel:03-3421-6121)
- Meiji Jingu Swimming Pool (9 Kasumigaoka, Shinjuku-ku; Tel: 03-3403-3458)
- National Swimming Pool (2-1-1 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku; Tel: 03-3468-1176)
Yoga is particularly popular in Japan and there are a variety of locations where it can be practiced under masterful instruction.
- Yogajaya (http://www.yogajaya.com) is one of the most popular, offering programs in Hatha, Sivananda, Ashtanga, and other forms.
- International Yoga Center (http://www.iyc.jp/en/yoga.html), offers Ashtanga programs at several locations in Tokyo, including in Roppongi.
- Tokyo Yoga Center (http://www.rajay.org/yoga/tyc.html) teaches BKS Iyengar yoga in Aoyama and Roppongi.
Additional Yoga classes can be found in Metropolis Magazine.
While soccer is an extremely popular sport in Japan, the lack of space within the city means that there are no full-size public fields to play on. As such, a spin-off sport of soccer has developed, called Futsal, which is essentially competitive soccer played on a remarkably smaller pitch. The most well-known in Tokyo is the Adidas Futsal Court (http://www.adidas-futsalpark.com/shibuya/) located on the top floor of a building in Shibuya. The Tokyo Gaijins club (http://www.tokyogaijins.com/) has a database of more than 500 members (90% of which are foreigners), that play regular games at a couple of city locations.
The martial arts scene in Tokyo is naturally significant, with both traditional Japanese martial arts and other Asian and Western arts on offer. Providing an exhaustive list of all the Karate dojo’s is impossible in this format (although lovers of the art should check out the Japan Karate Association at: http://www.jka.or.jp), let alone the many other Japanese arts centers including Aikido, Judo, Kendo, Sumo, and others. Those looking for expat friendly martial arts should check out Metropolis Magazine. Some non-Japanese martial arts programs in Japan include:
- Capoera (http://www.abadatokyo-tama.com)
- Krav Maga (http://www.kravmaga.co.jp/) – the martial arts used by the Israeli Defense Force
- Tai Chi (http://naturalhealingcenter.com/creative/danharrington.htm)
- Wing Chun (contact Sifu Embrey at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com) – the martial art Bruce Lee studied before creating Jeet Kune Do.
Skiing and Snowboarding
With hills just 1.5 hours outside the city by bullet train, access for a weekend is an easy experience. Some popular destinations include Gala Yuzawa (http://www.galaresort.jp) and the dozens of slopes at Naeba Ski Resort (http://www.welovesnow.com/eng/japan-ski-resorts/naeba-ski-resort.html) which are open from November to part of May. Skiing in Hokkaido (http://www.skiing-hokkaido.com/) is also very popular with expats given the snow-quality and the short flight from Tokyo to the second largest island of Japan. If traveling to Hokkaido, be sure to check out the expat-friendly Niseko ski area including http://www.skiing-hokkaido.com/resort/02village.html.