• Life & Culture

How to stay active while in Japan

Gyms and Sports Clubs

There are a myriad of options available for gyms and sports clubs. Many municipalities provide public gyms and sports clubs, which citizens can join for a modest fee. Large sports club chains like Tipness, Konami Sports Club, and Gold’s Gym have facilities throughout Japan. As a general guide, you can expect to pay around 10,000 Yen per month for membership. Gyms and sports clubs in Japan are pretty much on par with what you would find in North America or Europe. Many include 20-25 meter indoor swimming pools.

School Sports

There are opportunities to play various sports for all ages, and school plays an important role in the community. Kindergarten and lower elementary school students can play in a private sports club that can be joined for a moderate fee. Most martial arts can be started at as young as 4 or 5 years old. When a student starts 5th grade, school offers free after-school activities to participate in. Middle and high schools also encourage their students to join school sports clubs.

Prefectural and national-wide level contests and tournaments are held every winter and summer for all sports. Some of the tournaments, such as the National High School Baseball Championship, have an inordinate level of popularity among fans that equals that of professional sports.


Running is an increasingly popular activity, with many taking part in 10km, 20km and marathon races all over Japan. If there is a traffic free area, such as a park, a footpath along a river or the beach then it is advisable to exercise there. You will see such areas full of runners and walkers on the weekend. If you do go running around your neighbourhood, please dress in the interests of decency, make sure you are visible if running at night and be careful of traffic and other hazards.


Riding a bike is a very common form of transportation around neighborhoods. Cycling for fitness is very popular as well, with a growing number of hardcore cyclists sporting the latest in two-wheeled equipment and accessories. You probably won’t have much trouble finding someone in your area who is also interested in a ride. They are likely the best people to help you connect with the wider cycling community in your area.

Football (Soccer)

The Japanese love soccer. It is one of the most popular sports, both for players and spectators. Generally, Japanese fall into one of two camps: the soccer fans and the baseball fans. You will never have to go far to find a game of soccer or even a team, both for men and women, that you can join. Japan hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup.


The other half of the die-hard sports fan groups who are not into football (soccer) follow baseball with a passion. Generally, baseball is played at the school level, and then you go into your adult life as an unwavering supporter of your high school or university team. Baseball is really big business (and a sport, of course) in Japan.

Martial Arts

Martial arts are a major sport in Japan, especially amongst young people. Most of the martial arts are usually suffixed with “do” on the end of their name – kendo, judo, aikido, etc. If you wish, you will have no trouble getting involved with a martial arts club in your school or community.


Japan will host the Rugby World Cup in 2019, and because of this, the popularity of rugby is on the rise. For example, many Japanese don’t know much about New Zealand, but they know the All Blacks rugby team. Rugby is a common sport played between companies.


Tennis in Japan is a major game for players. With the exception of Wimbledon, tennis isn’t so much of a spectator sport in Japan. Like soccer and baseball, you will not find it hard to find a game of tennis, and you won’t have to look far to find a tennis club you can join.

Snow Sports

Much of the north and central areas of Japan experience significant snowfall during the winter months. Even areas of Japan that don’t experience much snowfall have easy access to areas where you can do snow sports. For example, in Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture, there is a resort area owned and operated by JR East, which is a major railway company. It even has a special shinkansen (bullet train) line and terminal station that is only open during the winter months. The station is connected directly to the skiing and snowboard slopes. These types of facilities make access to the snow fast and economical. In this particular case, the journey from Tokyo Station to the Gala Yuzawa ski resort is less than two hours. At most of these places, you can also rent all of the equipment and apparel you need for a modest price.

Water Sports

Water activities for recreation have a small following in Japan. The most popular is probably scuba diving. Fishing is popular. Small boat activities on rivers and waterways do attract enthusiasts. Surfing is very popular in the seaside communities of Japan.

Motor Sports

Japan is the home of many high-performance motor racing brands such as Kawasaki and Honda, not to mention a slew of automobile brands. Throughout the year, there is a range of major international motor sports events held at various locations throughout Japan, including the Japan Grand Prix, which is a race held on the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship, usually at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture.