The so-called “state of emergency” currently in place in Tokyo and other parts of Japan has meant that my gym has been closed since late April. To say the least, this has been extremely annoying. Not only because the gym is one of my happy places, but because a disrupted workout routine means that stomach fat starts creeping back alarmingly fast.
But even more exasperating is that last May, the exact thing happened — a state of emergency was declared, gym closed throughout May, I gained stomach fat. It’s like a nightmarish year of coronavirus playing out over again, except with no Go To Travel and the stupid Tokyo Olympics looming instead.
So this time, I decided NO MORE. I will not let the incompetence of the Japanese government reverse my months of gym gains! I began hunting for alternatives and came across the perfect solution: private rental gyms in Tokyo.
Private Rental Gyms
Private rental gyms, either run by a company or a business-savvy individual, are basically just rooms with gym equipment that you can rent out for a block of time. They are usually available 24 hours a day, and are bookable by the hour online through a third-party listing website. Prices generally range from around 1,000 yen to 3,000 yen per hour in my experience.
During this state of emergency, I tried three of these private rental gyms in Tokyo, each via a different listing website. The quality of my experiences varied, although this did not always correlate with price. If you’re thinking of hitting up one sometime, you can read my views of each below.
24h Rental Private Gym Rep! Kinshicho Branch
(Booked via Smart Kaigishitsu)
This was the first private rental gym I tried, and it set the bar pretty high because it had the best facilities and most advanced door unlocking system.
After making a booking on Smart Kaigishitsu, you will get an email with the pin code to unlock the door. This pin code is dynamically generated based on your booked timeslot, meaning it will not work at any other time. I.e. If you booked the gym for 12:00 – 13:00, the pin will only work from 12:00 – 13:00 and not a second before or after.
If you can’t be bothered physically punching in numbers, you can also unlock/lock the door from your account page on the Smart Kaigishitsu website. Which means, you can unlock/lock the door without even being physically present. Pretty cool.
Facilities-wise, this private rental gym was also the best. In addition to the standard gym equipment (power rack, dumbbells, bench, some hybrid machine), there is also a toilet, free WiFi and solid Bluetooth speakers. Blasting your favourite EDM music while working out has got to rank among the most satisfying things in everyday life.
There is also air-con, an air purifier, and sanitizing sprays with cloths to wipe down equipment.
The Rep! private rental gyms cost 990 yen for 30 mins to rent, with a minimum booking of 1 hour. So a workout session would cost 1,980 yen per hour, which is pretty reasonable. The rate is half price between the hours of midnight to 6am.
Tengcle Fitness Tsukiji
(Booked via Spacemarket)
First of all, let me just complain about the Spacemarket website seemingly only working in IE (as of May 2021). While you can view the listings in Chrome or Brave, it was impossible to load the booking page after selecting a room, and also impossible to login. When trying to login via Chrome or Brave, I saw my inputted password appear in the URL bar as it attempted to load the account page, which is a huge security flaw.
That aside, the booking process was pretty straightforward. Select a timeslot and pay (you can use AmazonPay) and your booking is complete. Like with Smart Kaigishitsu, you will receive an email shortly after with a dynamically-generated pin that only works for your timeslot. Unlike Smart Kaigishitsu, there is no way to unlock the door remotely via the website. But that is not a big deal.
This private rental gym was located in an old, slightly creepy apartment building in Tsukiji. The gym itself occupied one of the apartment rooms, complete with a unit bathroom and kitchen sink. Equipment consisted of a power rack, PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells, an exercise ball, etc.
While it was the most spacious private rental gym of the three I tried, it lacked WiFi, speakers and even disinfecting wipes. There was only hand sanitizer. I struggled to have a satisfying workout.
One of the reasons I decided to try this private rental gym was because it was having a 50% off opening sale. As it had only opened in the past week, the hourly rates were all half price. Usually over 3,300 yen per hour, I booked it for 1,732 yen. Though I have to say, given the facilities it is not worth 3,000 yen. They may improve in time, but I have no intention of using this gym again (and the Spacemarket website too if possible).
Art Gym Nishishinjuku
(Booked via Instabase)
Instabase is another website like Spacemarket where people can rent out various types of rooms by the hour. While browsing through its list of private rental gyms in Tokyo to find a cheaper option to Rep!, I came across Art Gym Nishishinjuku.
The booking process is like the others, except the pin you get in the email is not for the door, but for a key station that holds the key. This is fine, except the pin never changes. So what’s to stop people from just getting the key and using the gym without booking/paying in the future? I guess it relies on an honesty system.
Anyway, when using the gym on the day, you need to first go to a key station at a co-working space called Work & Stay Bampky. Punch in the pin number to open the key locker and pull out the key from its slot.
The gym itself is located in the basement of a nondescript building in west Shinjuku less than a minute’s walk away. There are three keys, but if going during business hours the building is normally already open.
Art Gym Nishishinjuku has the standard gym equipment, although they seem a little worse for wear. The power rack is extremely hard to adjust and the adjustable dumbbells are often broken. The weights don’t have a rack or anything, so are generally just left on the floor. I find it’s easier to just stick to the curved barbell when doing squats and deadlifts in this gym.
There is WiFi and a small Anker Bluetooth speaker, but since some small firm has its office next door, you can’t really blast music that loudly. An air purifier runs 24/7, and there is a stack of disinfecting wipes as well as hand sanitizers. One mild inconvenience is there is no toilet or sink, so you can’t pee or wash your hands until afterwards.
The cost per hour depends on the time and day of the week, ranging from 990 yen to 2,200 yen. Less popular times tend to be cheaper. I basically only book the cheapest timeslot (12:00 – 13:00 on weekdays) when possible, so it’s been good value for money. You can also get 15% off for last minute bookings, but there’s no guarantee any good (cheap) timeslots will left. So you may end up actually paying more by waiting.
More small annoyance I have with the operator of this private rental gym is their incessant messaging. Every time I make a booking, they will find something to message me about before the usage day. The first couple of times, it was a general thanks for booking and information about picking up the key, which was fine. But after booking and using the gym over five times, I’m still getting these PSA messages like, “one set of dumbbells are broken,” and then before the next usage “it’s fixed now,” then the next day “actually it’s still broken.” I kid you not. And then one that said, “We’ve had an increase in customers lately which may cause an inconvenience to you, but look forward to your continued patronage.” Because they obviously couldn’t find any other reason to send a message.
I understand that this may be their way of customer service, but honestly, it is unnecessary and actually puts me off wanting to book again. If it’s not super important, stop blowing up my email!
Final thoughts on private rental gyms
While Art Gym Nishishinjuku is not as snazzy as Rep! Kinshicho, it’s half the price so I can’t complain. I consider it the happy medium between price and facilities, so it’s the one I’ve been consistently using for the past few weeks.
But I got a long-awaited email from my regular gym today that they will reopen on June 1! So hopefully that will be the end of the need for private rental gyms for me. I can’t wait to go back and finally resume working out in my happy place with familiar equipment. 🙂
Feel free to read more posts about my life during COVID-19 in Tokyo.