by Dan Harris
I’ve talked about public courts, resort courts and hotel courts. Now here are two clubs in central Tokyo for your consideration—one small and cozy, the other larger and impressive.
The smaller one is the Meguro Tennis Club, near Naka-Meguro. Among its better qualities is immediate membership—immediate play—upon paying the membership fee. This well-hidden club has two doubles courts with artificial lawn, one doubles hard court and one singles hard court. You can play soon after rain.
The clubhouse is modest but sufficient with lockers, showers (for men, anyway) and lounge area. The 99 percent Japanese membership is quite friendly and approachable, and you’ll be able to practice your Japanese language at this club since foreigners are scarce. While a member there, 1 found I could play three to four sets of singles straight through if I arrived at 8 a.m. on a Saturday.
Regular membership fees are ¥150,000 for one year, ¥550,000 for five years, plus monthly dues of ¥7,000 per month. There are cheaper membership categories for weekday-only play. By the way, you need not be a club member to use the courts under the lights at night; just call up and make a reservation and pay the charge.
To get to the club from Meguro Station, go north toward Ikejiri-Ohashi on Yamate-dori, about 600 meters to Aobadai 1-chome intersection. Turn left, go up the long slope about 600 meters to the third traffic light. Turn left again onto a narrow road and sharp downslope. About 50 meters on the left side is the entrance and parking lot. Telephone number is 3711-4551 (Japanese is best); address is 5-12-20 Kami-Meguro, Meguro-ku.
The other, larger club is the famous Tokyo Lawn Tennis Club (TLTC for short). TLTC is smack in the middle of Azabu, on land worth jillions of yen. Honorary members include several members of the Imperial family.
Turning to practical matters, TLTC has nine doubles courts and one singles court. Being all clay, these courts are out of action the day following a heavy rain, whereas the four public courts next door are useable 10 minutes after the same heavy rain, since these have artificial lawn and good drainage.
On weekdays, the courts are available from 6:30 a.m., making possible an hour of tennis before work, which I find more attractive than going through some workout program. The clubhouse is excellent, with a very pleasant lounge area, a modest food service, drinks, showers, ofuro and lockers.
TLTC was founded decades ago with a charter that included the fostering of international friendship, so TLTC has an active program for accepting foreigners. The foreign membership is substantial.
There are long standing groups of friends who tend to play together, but it is quite easy, after joining the club, to just walk in any weekend and be asked to join a doubles foursome within 10 to 30 minutes.
The two major membership categories are Term Regular Member (TRM) and Permanent Regular Members (PRM). Then there are spouse and children categories under these. The TRM is limited to five years, absolutely not renewable or convertible to PRM. The TRM membership fee is ¥100,000 with monthly dues of ¥29,700, while the same fees for PRMs are ¥1,200,000 and ¥13,000 respectively.
Waiting times from application to acceptance vary depending on the size of the waiting list, amount of turnover among current members and other circumstances. I’ve heard the waiting time for TRM being as short as three months and as long as a year. My PRM took three years. You can pick up an application form from the administration office just inside the clubhouse main entrance.