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Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Curves and live-in temples


Kirsty has heard of a new fitness chain. "It's called Curves. Do you know anything about it?"

Turns out to be quite a story. Curves International, based in Los Angeles, was founded by fitness expert Gary Heavin. He began selling franchises in 1995, and now has 9,500 fitness clubs worldwide, 8,500 of which are in the U.S.

Curves Japan was launched July last with three clubs in Tokyo -- in Machida, Shinagawa and Toritsu-daigaku -- and now there are 12 others scattered around the country. But watch this space...

Because, claiming to be the first fitness and weight loss facility dedicated to providing affordable, one-stop exercise and nutritional information for women, 15 more Curves Clubs are due to open nationwide in Japan this month, -- 21 in April, 32 in May, and 50 in June. And this is only the beginning . . .

For women only (the concept I am told does not work for men), each club consists of 12 machines arranged in a circle interspersed with 20 running boards. Making use of all 24 stations in just 30 minutes works just about every muscle in your body. You can go as often as you like for a flat fee of 5,900 yen a month, though three times a week is recommended.

Recommendations largely come through word of mouth; in line with the concept, women find it easy to support one another to achieve their goals.

As of now, there are two Web sites. That created in L.A. in English ( www.curves.com ) has an easy-to-use facility for locating addresses and contact numbers for clubs all over the world, including Japan. Japan's site is for the moment in Japanese only ( www.curves.co.jp ) and does not as yet have a locator. But this will change before summer.

Remember you read about it here: how to get curves.

Live-in temples

Eugene has a friend coming over to Tokyo from the US who would like to submerse himself in the Japan experience.

"I have heard that some temples allow foreigners to live in the temples and hope that you have some information. He only had one or two weeks and is coming March 20."

The Tourist Information Office in Tokyo (03-3201 3331) advises that there are no temples in the central metropolitan area that offer rooms to non-Japanese.

The most easily accessible is Manpuku-ji at 2-4-8 Koshigoe, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa-ken 248-0033 (phone 0467-31 3612). Their Web site (in Japanese only) is at www.ocn.ne.jp~mnpk

It costs 5,000 yen to just stay, and 10,000 yen including two meals. But reservations are taken for 6 people and more only. Very helpful staff, but there is no English spoken. (Japanese always say this; quite often they have at least a few words.)

Or try Daiyuuzan Saijo-ji, at 1156 Daiyun-machi, Minami-Ashigara-shi (Odawara way), Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0127 -- it's a great base for exploring the foothills of Mount Fuji. Phone (0465) 74-5880 (again, no English spoken but very friendly). A Japanese Web site is at www.daiyuuzan.or.jp

Finally -- and I am going to check this out myself as it sounds so interesting -- there is Komadori-sansoo, a family-run "ryokan" (traditional inn ) attached to a Shinto shrine. There are 40 such establishments scattered around the country apparently.

Located at 155 Mitake-san (yes, it's on a mountain), Ome-shi, Tokyo 198-0175, it costs 7,500 yen to stay, including two meals. With a meditation under a freezing waterfall -- the ultimate Japanese experience for sure -- it's 10,500 yen. For all this plus a Japanese guide book thrown in for good measure, the fee is 12,500 yen. The owner speaks some English, and his two kids sound fun. Phone (0428) 78-8472.

Eugene, if your friend goes further afield, to Kyoto say, there is far more of a choice. Kyoto's own TIC, across the road from the station, will be happy to help.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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