Swimming Pools
Researched by Kaoru Yoshino and Cornelia [5 December 2002]

Of all the sports supported in Japan by municipal governments, swimming stands out as receiving perhaps the most attention next to development of parks. There are swimming pools virtually all over Japan. They come in all shapes, states of repair, indoor, outdoor, all-year, partial year, and entrance is sometimes free (particularly for children) up to about Y500 for an adult. It would be pretty much impossible for me to provide a list of all of them. However, with some help I've translated the information page handed out in my local Bunkyo ward in Tokyo, to give you an idea of some typical rules and policies. There are generally lots of them!

If you have trouble finding facilities for swimming in your local area, the best place to ask is at the city hall (or your Japanese neighbor if your Japanese is up to it). Year-around facilities are vastly supplemented in July and August when many local governments open elementary school swimming pools open to the public during the summer holiday. Many parks have "wading pools" for children (and adults!) in the hottest months. If you look at the page on ice skating rinks, you will notice that some of these are actually seasonally changed from swimming facilities (such as Edogawa-ku Sportsland).

If you have children who are avid swimmers, but you can't get them into a local team because of communication issues you may ask at the international schools if there is a swim team, your child can join. In Tokyo, the International Buccaneers Swim Team whose head coach, David Moodie, is the Aquatics Director at St. Mary's International School, may be a possibility.

For those people interested in diving, it's difficult to find swimming pools that have a high diving section. The only one I've come across in Tokyo is:
Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center
2-8-10 Tatsumi, Koto-ku Tokyo 135-0053
Website: http://www.tatsumi-swim.com/
Tel: 03-5569-5061, Fax: 03-5569-5068
Mail: info@tatsumi-swim.com
Here is a very limited .pdf download information file in English.
They have introduction diving courses for anyone at 3rd grade and up (yes, adults too).

What follows is a translation of the pool rules in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo.

Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, October 2002

(Information not guaranteed to be accurate and subject to change --translated from their hand out.)

There are two municipal pools open almost all year and both have almost the same rules and fees. However times and availability of lessons differ. This information is primarily for the Myogadani Sports Center. Minimum age requirement: 3 years old and toilet trained.

Sports Center Swimming Pool (closest subway: Myogadani station on the Marunouchi line)
03-3944-2271 (indoors: One 25 meter pool and one shorter, shallower pool)
Hours: 9:45 -13:30 individual use, 13:30 - 15:30 group use, 15:45 - 20:30 individual use, CLOSED 3rd Monday of every month. If the 3rd Monday is a holiday, then the closure is on the Tuesday following the holiday. Every year the pool is closed for annual maintenance for a whole month but the month varies (it was December a couple of times in the past but Annual Maintenance this year is from 12 February until 14 March 2003).

Sogo Taikukan Swimming Pool (Comprehensive Gymnasium): 4-7-13 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Nearest subway stop is Yushima station on the Chiyoda line.
03-3814-4271 (indoors, but I have never seen this one)
Hours: 9:45 - 11:45 group use, 12:00 - 20:30 individual use, CLOSED 4th Monday of every month. If the 4th Monday is a holiday, then the closure is on the Tuesday following the holiday. Also check for annual maintenance closure.

Adult: 2 hours ticket Y450, extra hour Y230; Passes: 1 month Y3800, 3 mos Y9800, 6 mos Y17000
Child: 2 hours ticket Y190, extra hour Y100; Passes: 1 month Y1900, 3 mos Y4900, 6 mos Y8500
A child is any person not yet in 10th grade of school (approximately 15 years old and under).
Locker: Y10
Buying and renewal of pass is available until 20:00. One 2.5cm x 2 cm ID photo is needed for pass.

Notes and rules:
- During swimming lessons some section of the pool may be closed to the public. You can check the pool calendar for details.
- Every hour there is a 10 minute break during which the water is checked.
- During July and August the pool is open all day for individual use (9:45- 20:30).
- The 2 hours ticket includes changing time. Keep your ticket when you buy
it and present it when you are leaving. There is a date stamp on the ticket imprinted by the ticket vending machine.
- All swimmers, male, female, child, adult or bald, must wear a bathing cap and a bathing suit. If you forget your cap, you can buy one (Y350). They come in different colors.
- Under 4th grade children must be accompanied by a guardian who must be a high school student or older. One guardian is required for every 3 kids. The guardian must also wear a suit and a cap.
- Please listen to the life guard. All jewelry (including watches) and eye glasses must be removed. There is a small tray where you can leave your eye glasses as you enter the pool area from the shower area. Swim goggles are OK.

Free Days:
The pool is free every Saturday, except on school holidays/vacation days, from 9:45 - 12:00 for elementary and middle school children (including 9th grade) to ward residents or students attending a school in Bunkyo-ku. For 4th grade and under one guardian is also allowed in free of charge. (This is a new policy that started in April 2002 to give kids a place to go when Saturday school was discontinued.)

Swimming Lessons (Myogadani Sports Center):
7th grade and older: Free swimming lessons are available during the following hours:
Wednesday: 10:00 - 11:50 teacher: Inoe, 16:00 - 17:50 teacher: Obara, 18:30 - 20:20 teacher: Tooi
Thursday: 10:00 - 11:50 teacher: Kikawa, 16:00 - 17:50 teacher: Kikawa, 18:30 - 20:20 teacher: Kikawa
Saturday: 10:00 - 11:50 teacher: Miyakawa, 16:00 - 17:50 teacher: Saito, 18:30 - 20:20 teacher: Saito
(The teachers are all women in this case.)
The lesson lasts for 20 minutes, and you are only allowed one lesson per week. Each session accommodates a maximum of 8 people. Please ask at the office counter inside the pool area (in Japanese) for a time slot.

Swimming Test:
Children under 4th grade who pass this test can swim alone without a guardian present.
* The test consists of swimming 50 meters free style or breast stroke and "bobbing" for 7 meters. "Bobbing" is the first thing taught in a Japanese swimming class. It is not "treading water". What do you do if you can't swim and you go into the water over your head? You hold your breath and drop to the bottom and push off, rising out of the water enough to get another breath and orienting yourself to the most likely point of escape (shallow water or edge of the pool). Then when you bob down again you push off in that direction of escape. You keep doing this: getting a breath, sinking to the bottom to push off in the right direction, getting another breath... until you reach safety.
* The test is administered on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday until 18:20. Please ask at the pool office.
* The fee for the test is just the regular entrance ticket (Y190 for a child) and if the test is passed, Y350 for a special swimming cap (which allows the staff to recognize the child's special status). If the examinee does not pass, and there is no guardian present, the examinee must leave the pool facility.

Other Swimming Lessons:
Please check at the main office (in Japanese). I know that most of the child lessons are in such high demand that swimming students are chosen b y lottery. These ran April, May, June, September and October in 2002 for elementary school students (various times). June and September they have lessons for kids aged 4 - 6 (once a week only on Sundays). There is a cost but apparently it is considered quite reasonable in comparison to other facilities (such as the private sports school at Sugamo station, for example, which also offeres soccer, tennis and gymnastics). The brochure for 2003 will come out on 25 February in the ward newspaper. Every year the dates differ slightly.

Related links and information:

Taito-ku's Kiyoshima Indoor Swimming Pool in English. address: 6-16-8 Higashi-Ueno,Taito-ku, Tokyo. tel: 03-3842-5353
Tokyo City English Information desk: 03-5320-7744
Tokyo Metropolitan / Tama Area Ward and City Offices
Tokyo With Kids - Forums: Education in Japan: Swimming

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