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This article explores the ways in which the spatial layout of the Japanese fitness club reflects and organizes bodies according to cultural ideologies of leisure, gender, status, and hygiene. Based on qualitative research conducted at two fitness clubs in Japan. I examine how social relationships between men and women, clients and employees, and managers and staff are structured by the enclosure and exposure of space, the division of rooms, and the attention to cleanliness. I argue that the architecture of the fitness club is lied to power inequities that serve to regulate and manage bodies according to late capitalist ideals of efficiency, productivity, and hygiene. I emphasize that these ideals, however, often present certain contradictions when juxtaposed against longstanding cultural standards of effort, health, and beauty in Japan.
The author is with the Department of Anthropology, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI.