24-hour gyms get in the zone in Japan offering no-frills workouts, easy access

Kyodo

Twenty-four-hour gyms are proving popular not only in the cities but also in the suburbs, giving busy workers the option to squeeze in a bit of exercise during off hours.

These gym are popping up in greater numbers — fitted with training machines but without swimming pools or dance studios typical in traditional fitness centers.

Anytime Fitness opened the first 24-hour gym in Chofu, Tokyo, in 2010, and now boasts 234 branches located in 18 prefectures. Joyfit 24, also based in Tokyo, operates 160 outlets in 12 prefectures.

Tipness, a major fitness club operator, has also entered the fray, opening 68 outlets of Fastgym 24 in four prefectures in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The gyms are cheaper to set up and maintain because they can cut back on manpower and rent. Fees are thus cheaper. Traditional fitness clubs usually charge users a monthly fee of ¥10,000 or more. Most 24-hour gyms cost less than that.

On a recent afternoon, several men and women who appeared to be in their 20s to 40s were quietly working out at an Anytime Fitness facility in Ebisu, central Tokyo. Boasting floor space of just 30 sq. meters, the gym features about 30 training machines.

The entrance to the gym is locked and can only be accessed with an ID card with an IC chip. No staff are available between 7 p.m. and 10 a.m., but security cameras and emergency devices monitored by security service companies are everywhere.

Sho Fujii, 28, a gym member who works in a restaurant nearby, said on certain nights he appreciates that the premises remain open around the clock.

“I sometimes come here before work,” he said. “But I like it especially during the night, because it’s less crowded and I can use machines without a wait.”

Fujii left the gym at around 3:30 a.m. But the gym had visitors throughout the night.

Anytime Fitness officials say there’s no point in closing the gyms at night because they would only be saving on electricity bills.

“We have been opening branches at a faster pace over the past year or two,” said an official of Joyfit 24, adding that the firm plans to open more branches in the countryside.