1) went to a big chain gym in a city, Gold's Gym. (the other big chain is Anytime Fitness, i think...not sure if there're others). it was $25 just to have 1 session. i was too tired to bother for that sort of price so left. think the monthly price was about $110 (or more).
2) went to the local gym (a medium-small complex with big swimming pool) to look around. they have about 5 machines (leg press, lat pulldown bar, some weird side push thing, you know the sort). no pullup bar, but the chief trainer showed me that you can rig one out of the lat pulldown if you know the trick. thank god. the heaviest dumbell is 10kg but there's a screw-end dumbell so i can build my own one with the handful of weights there. no bench, no rack.
3) attached to the above complex is a separately-advertised 'personal trainer' program. the guy owns a room next door with his own squat rack/bench/weights. it's about $124 for 16 seventy-minute sessions. you need him to accompany you. standard is 2x a week, i said i might be interested in 3x. that'd be ~4 weeks for ~$100 i guess. but 70 minute sessions is a little short, and having a guy stand there with me all the time? he sorta hinted that maybe i'm better off at the above complex gym instead, and I agree, i don't want to have to be phoning this guy to re-arrange one of my 16 meet-up sessions all the time.
4) went to the other 'local' gym. it's a big complex in an industrial park about 20 mins bike ride away. went on monday at first, but of course gyms aren't open in japan on mondays, duh. also gyms in japan don't tend to open before 10am. like, if you try to visit a gym before 10am, expect it to be closed, afaik. it's like expecting to be able to buy size 12 shoes or an XL sized jacket (japan XL, not american XL) within an entire town. expect to simply not find any, unless you're paying mid-high range prices.
anyway, i went back there today because it's not a monday. forgot my gym shoes but they had rental ones, thank god. i don't think 'training in your socks' is a thing in japan, afaik they will just say 'no.' gym just isn't really a thing there, so anything out of the ordinary is definitely not going to be permitted.
the girls got the chief guy to come out to me. he showed me that you pay for membership via a vending machine at the door. you put in money and get a ticket, take the ticket back to the girls, pay for rental shoes, take your shoes to the shoes locker, give the key back to the girls, who give you another locker key, go to the changing rooms where you put your other stuff in a locker, then he led me through to the gym part of the complex. there were, i think, 3 machines, and 5 treadmills, and a mat. that was it. i really expected a bench and rack there, it's a huge complex in an industrial park, called a fitness park, and the other local gym woman seemed pretty sure it had more facilities than them. there were zero free weights.
the man with me then spend about 5 minutes trying to explain something to me, i couldn't understand at first. turns out that he was trying to explain that the rule of the gym is that you need to be able to read japanese so you can read the safety instructions on the side of the 3 little machines. i'm literally talking a push machine, a lat pulldown, and something else i didn't even bother to look what it was. finally i understood that he was trying to ask if i had a japanese friend who could come and read the instructions on the side of the machines for me. it was so laughable. he then led me back to the locker to get my stuff, trade the key, get my shoes, get a refund for my ticket and for the shoe rental, and off i went back home.
that is my experience with japanese gyms so far. it's kinda sad. the kids are all very sporty (they're forced to all do 1 sporting club after school every single day, at my school), but working people do not gym it seems, or maybe some of them run. the working hours in japan are said to be really retarded (like finish at 7pm), and afterwards - i have been told - cannot confirm - the culture is to go to a bar/restaurant after work every single day with friends or coworkers, then just go home late. i don't know to what extent that is the case, but i'll find out eventually. maybe going to my new gym (when i can get some money out to sub to it) will show me what sort of people go there after work