Before we even get into this, there’s something I have to say in the interest of full disclosure: I’m a bit of a gym rat and I have more than a little bit of a bone to pick with Japanese gym etiquette, so apologies if I sound a little harsh or gripe-y, and/or you feel the strong wind of me chucking dumbbells in frustration throughout this article.
Having experienced the joy and wonder of numerous American gyms – often 24 hours, never too crowded, always sprawling and well-equipped, cheap and usually never exceeding more than two elderly men gleefully prancing naked through the locker room at any one time – you can imagine the soul crushing disappointment I felt upon coming to Japan and realizing that even the best gyms routinely exceed US$150 a month to use, rarely stock all the equipment you’ll need, and are generally populated exclusively by old dudes who spend 10 minutes chatting up their buddies while sitting on the only bench in the place, and the rest of their “workout” enthusiastically blow-drying their testicles in the locker room.
The only small consolation I have is that, apparently, one of the gym-frequenting writers at Japanese sister site is similarly miffed by the myriad annoyances of Japanese gyms… and he’s even been kind enough to sit down and badly sketch out all the craziest folks who’re likely to ruin your workout:
The Blowdryer Misappropriator
As I mentioned before, using the blowdryers in the locker rooms for purposes not generally intended is a favorite pastime of the primarily geriatric Japanese gym-goer. This will typically include using the device to dry their wispy tuft of chest hair, the aforementioned drying of genitals, and, in the worst case scenario, drying of the butt crack – which often entails a full 90-degree bend at the waist while, naturally, pointing the posterior towards the nearest doorway.
Our Japanese writer describes the generally harmless though nonetheless thoroughly annoying “Grunter” – that guy on the weight bench who’s really giving it his all; eyes bulging, veins popping, and air rapidly escaping from his lungs in such a manner as to produce a loudly reverberating NNNNNGGGHHHHHRRRAAAAAAW.
This is the one time I am going to vehemently disagree with our Japanese writer; if lifting a weight isn’t sometimes physically difficult and/or uncomfortable enough to make you want to yell, you are not lifting enough weight. The gym is a place of loud music, clanging barbells, noxious odors and a bunch of sweaty people gettin’ swoll. If you want peace and quiet, the library is just down the road.
As the name suggests, The Predator is that creepy guy who obviously only comes to the gym to try to pick up women. Their typical M.O. is to scan the room for the first attractive girl who appears to be doing an exercise wrong and then swoop in to offer (equally wrong) advice. Women should avoid these men at all costs.
Luckily, they are quite easy to pick out because of two distinctive traits: They’re almost always out of shape, and are always, always, without exception, wearing a garishly colored bandanna.
The Instructor Fan Club Member
These frequent visitors are mostly harmless unless you happen to be an instructor of some kind at the establishment. In Japanese gyms, they typically take the form of middle-aged or older housewives who will hang out at the gym allllllllll day in order to take the same instructor’s classes over and over again. Every. Single. Day.
The Sauna Exhibitionist
A species closely related to the Blowdryer Misappropriator, the Sauna (or Jacuzzi) Exhibitionist can be found lounging around in these areas with legs spread as wide as possible for maximal, eye-searing exposure to anyone with the misfortune to accidentally glance in their direction. More advanced practitioners will lose the towel altogether and just let it all hang out, and may also mark their territory by sitting nude on the locker room benches until their unique scent is infused into the wood itself for all eternity.
That’s where our writer stopped short. Believe me, I could go on with about another dozen or more types of annoying people at Japanese gyms, such as the guy who uses wrist straps on the assisted pullup machine (seriously, WTF?!) or the dude that constantly yells at you to put the weights down quietly and then proceeds to beat the living bejeezus out of the punching bag like he’s the frikkin’ karate kid, but I’m not all that great at drawing and I don’t think my heart can take the additional blood-boiling rage.
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