by Dan Harris
Below are some tennis courts at hotels. These are closer but, precisely for that reason, have less of a resort atmosphere. The courts are at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel and the Tokyo Hilton Hotel.
The Prince has nine indoor courts with artificial lawn, basically available on a first-come, first-served basis. Weekend and evening times are the most difficult to get, while early morning hours are much more easily available. The place is open 24 hours a day on Thursdays, Fridays and the day before a holiday, and 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. on other days, so “early morning” can be as early as your body can stand.
Rates reflect good ol’ capitalist supply-and-demand: cheapest is ¥7,000 per court per hour from midnight to 9 a.m. weekdays, going up to ¥14,000 per court per hour for 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and 6 to 10 p.m. on weekdays. Two of the courts are “private,” i.e. enclosed apart from the others, and have a rate structure a few thousand yen higher than the above.
There’s no air conditioning but lots of opened windows and vents in this huge pre-fab building. Friends have debated the gain of shade from hot summer sunshine against the loss of any cooling breeze.
Lessons are available at ¥5,000 for 50 minutes, but the coaches have limited ability in English. Reservations can be made at tel. 3441-0020 or 3441-0090 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Cancellations three days prior are at no charge, but there are charges for cancellations thereafter.
Getting there: The Shinagawa Prince Hotel complex is right across the street from JR Shinagawa Station. The huge tennis building is on the back side of the complex, all the way up the slope.
By train: From the station, directly across the street, you’ll see a McDonald’s on the corner. Go past McDonald’s into the pathway behind the buildings facing the Pacific Hotel and towards the bowling alley of the complex. Follow the pathway past the bowling alley, all the way up—about 300 meters.
By car: From the Roppongi/Azabu area, take Sakurada-dori (Route 1) south. At any intersection soon after passing Mcguro-dori, turn left to move over to the two-lane road that parallels Sakurada-dori. Continue south. As you pass the Shin-Takanawa Prince Hotel on your left, you’ll come to a corner where, if you turn left, you’ll go down a slope and end up right at Shinagawa Station. Don’t turn left to the station; instead go straight ahead into the slightly narrower road. The huge tennis building is about 100 meters in from this corner, on your left. For (charged) parking, turn left just before the building.
The Tokyo Hilton in Shinjuku has two courts—one for singles and one for doubles. The surface is now a hard one with a rubberized coating. Wind swirling among the nearby skyscrapers sometimes provides added liveliness to the ball.
Strictly speaking, court usage is for hotel guests. Joel Johnson, the tennis pro there, says corporate and group relationships have been set up (such as with the Tokyo American Club) which also gives non-hotel guests usage. Call him at the hotel’s general number, 3344-5111, to get his advice on the whats and hows of this. The charge is about ¥2,000 per person per hour. He can also give you directions to the hotel, among the cluster of skyscrapers west of Shinjuku Station.