by Dan Harris
If you need a quick shot of tennis, there are two locations in the Jingu Gaien area you may want to try. I’ll not suggest that time slots are wildly available, but by central Tokyo standards, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you can get a few days to a few weeks before the day you want to play. The locations are the Jingu Gaien Tennis Club’s eight indoor and the Jingu Gaien five outdoor public courts.
For the indoor courts: the court surface is carpet, the ball bounces low and fast. Being indoors eliminates rainy-season uncertainties. All-whites (white pants or skirt, and mostly white shirt or blouse) are required; the first time there, I had to buy some white pants at the pro shop. Anyone can reserve hours between 3 and 11 p.m. on all days, up to a month in advance. Persons who are not members of the Jingu Gaien Tennis Club, i.e., just about all of us, must pay at the time of reservation. You might find out what time slots are available by calling 3401-7818 in Japanese. Court fees are ¥5,150 per hour. Visitor fee is ¥1,030 per visitor. For four visitors playing two hours, that calculates to be—uh, um, carry the five, yes, yes: ¥4,635 per person. For eight players on the court for two hours, it is ¥3,348 per person. Changing rooms available.
For the outdoor courts: These are hard courts, set amongst a lot of greenery. They are next to several baseball diamonds, so after no rain for days and with some wind, the area can be pretty dusty. Basic fare, but it’s tennis. Main sign-up day is the 16th of each month for time slots in the following calendar month; for popular slots, sequential sign-up numbers are handed out from 4 p.m. on the 15th on a first-come, first-served basis. Few of us can get to that sign-up process, but take heart: there are generally some slots left.
For weekend play, the pre-10 a.m. slots and the post-5 p.m. slots seem to be frequently open on one court or another. These slots seem to get gradually taken, too, the more days that have passed since the 16th. Cost is ¥9,500 for two hours. No visitor fees! Wear any color clothes you choose! You must pay at the time you reserve; you’ll be given a receipt showing court time and payment. No refunds, except for rain-outs. Of necessity, you’ll have a chance to practice Japanese with the staff at the reservations office. You can check open times at 3403-0923; they will hold a reservation for one day only, within which time you have to get there and pay. Changing rooms available near the reservations office.
Directions: let’s use Aoynma Itchome intersection as a starting point (this is also a stop on the Ginza subway line). Go about 300 meters along Aoyama Dori towards Shibuya. You’ll come to a large “T” intersection with a tree-lined boulevard leading off to your right. Turn right onto this boulevard.
For the indoor courts: About 150 meters from the “T” intersection, on the left side, is a very large round-roofed building which houses the indoor courts. Turn left at the short road just beyond this building. At the end of the road on the left, up some stairs, is the office for the indoor courts.
For the outdoor courts: Continue on the tree-lined boulevard until it ends at a curved road. Just across the curved road is a fountain; beyond that are several baseball diamonds, and beyond those in the distance, is a square stone building (the Meiji Museum). Take the curved road to your left, staying on the inside of the curve of the road. About 200 meters from the fountain, on your right, is a cluster of three two-story buildings. The reservation office is in the middle building on its baseball diamond side. The courts themselves are strung out end-to-end on the opposite side of the baseball diamonds from the reservation office. There is a fence locking entry from anywhere except from the direction of the reservations office, but you have to go to that office first anyway before you can play, to show your receipt.
Coming by foot or taxi is recommended since parking is tough in this area on weekends.