Going to the gym isn’t always fun. The decor can be bland, the radio always seems to be playing your least favorite song, and not a single TV in the place ever seems to be tuned to a show you are actually interested in watching.
But what if there was a place where none of that was true? What if there was a gym where the music always rocks and you can participate in workouts specifically tailored to your interests?
Enter Clara, a Japanese gym that specifically targets otaku women. (The term “otaku” initially referred specifically to fans of anime and manga. Today, it encompasses most any type of “nerdy” fanatic, such as idol enthusiasts, gamers, or aficionados of vintage electronics.)
Clara started with two Tokyo locations, one in Ikebukuro and one in Akihabara. A third location, in Osaka’s Shinsaibashi area, opened on April 10th. It’s the first Clara gym in the Kansai region. 
Helping Otaku Women Love Their Bodies
Clara founder Sakuta Yoko, also known as SAKU, realized that many otaku women in Japan were uncomfortable with their bodies, but lacked the time to do anything about it. These women were busy pursuing their hobbies, so they rarely made time to go to the gym. They felt that their looks prevented them from attending events like live concerts or collaboration cafes. Those interested in cosplay were reluctant to dress as some of their favorite characters. They felt they did not have the “right” body type.
Sakuta herself has been an otaku and cosplayer for nearly twenty years. She began actively working out a few years ago when she realized that her dislike of her body was affecting her ability to participate in and enjoy her hobbies.
However, Sakuta struggled to connect with the trainers she worked with at the gym. “For example, they wanted to work with me on my diet, but I’d be embarrassed to share [the details of] a meal I’d had at a collaboration cafe,” she explained. This led to the creation of Clara, which opened its first location in July 2020. 
Clara Lets Its Customers Shine
Clara is the first of its kind, a gym that truly centers otaku women and encourages them to love their bodies rather than criticize them. Each trainer employed at Clara’s various locations is herself an otaku woman. They help their clients create personalized training regimens centered around their jobs, hobbies, and interests.
Plus, Clara gyms establish a fun, comfortable workout environment by playing anime music and decorating with posters, character figures, and other otaku goods. Recently, Clara has even collaborated with several popular male voice actors and idols to create narrated exercise sets and workout videos.
When asked what led her to select the name “Clara” for her gym, Sakuta explained that it comes from a Latin word meaning “shining.” She wanted Clara to truly be a place that “made otaku women shine.” Its name and logo project brightness and strength.
She definitely succeeded in her goal. Within a few weeks of Clara’s initial opening, there was a wait list of over 100 women interested in becoming members.
Customers Can Be Proud Of Their Hobbies
Each Clara location emphasizes this theme of “support.” Customers bring their own stuffed animals and other items. They can place these next to them when they work out on the treadmill or other equipment. They are also able to request favorite songs be played while they are working out.
In the future, SAKU would also like to have “support fans” – round hand fans (uchiwa) with supportive messages written on them, inspired by those used to cheer on members of various idol groups – custom-made for some of Clara’s regular customers.
Every gym is lovingly decorated with figurines, stuffed animals, and other pieces of merchandise. These come from popular anime, video games, idol groups, and more. Sakuta makes sure to include representations of characters from her own favorite properties. Her favorites include Final Fantasy VII, Sengoku Basara, Fate/stay night, and more.
When asked to name a specific favorite character, she immediately responded with The Prince of Tennis’s Minami Kentaro. SAKU even posed with him in a wedding dress in a Clara location in 2022. Minami, who captains the Yamabuki tennis club and has won several doubles matches, would definitely approve of SAKU’s devotion to fitness!
A Shining Future For Clara
The opening of the Osaka location of Clara was a major success, with wait lists for the gym’s services developing almost immediately. When asked about plans for expanding the franchise, Sakuta named Nagoya and Fukuoka as the next cities where she would like to open a Clara location. She also hopes to expand the Clara franchise as far north as Hokkaido, ideally targeting a major city in the prefecture such as Sapporo.
Clara’s unique business model is something that Japan has never seen before, and success and popularity will hopefully continue far into the future. We here at Unseen Japan wish the best for Sakuta and Clara locations both old and new, and encourage all the otaku women working out at Clara to continue shining their brightest!
 Clara Gym official Web site. https://claragym.com/
 Interview with Sakuta Yoko