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How this studio owner found her competitive advantage by offering bilingual Reformer Pilates classes in Japan

A Pilates instructor working with a client on the Cadillac at a Pilates studio in Japan

Living in a new country with two young kids while suffering from sciatica is a situation that could break a person. But for Taeko Farthing, it led her to discover freedom from pain, a new community and career path.

Taking Pilates lessons in Singapore not only relieved her of sciatica, but it also helped her face the challenges of making friends and building a new life for her family thousands of miles away from her home country of Japan.

“Pilates enabled me to rebuild my core strength and within six months I was free of pain. From that point on, I realized that physical health really is a prerequisite for happiness,” she says.

After six years as a client, Taeko decided to train as an instructor and got a job at the studio teaching the Japanese expat community as well as English-speaking clients.

When she and her family returned to Japan in 2019, she felt that there were opportunities to expand and develop her own niche in Tokyo’s Pilates market by focusing on Reformer Pilates.

Taeko Farthing, the owner of Re-Juvenate Pilates, on the Cadillac

She also noticed that there were few options for the fast-growing English-speaking expat community in Tokyo.

“Having been an expat myself, and having experienced a language barrier, I am acutely aware of the loneliness and isolation that can be part of a move to another country. As a result, I felt I had something to offer to the expat community here in Japan in terms of my ability to teach in both English and Japanese, and to offer expats a friendly place where they can come and get fit and healthy.”

Since she couldn’t find the type of studio she wanted to teach at, she and her husband Adam decided to create it.

A group of clients doing Pilates on Merrithew’s SPX Max Reformers

Building a bilingual Reformer Pilates studio in Japan

Taeko and Adam started looking for rental properties in early 2020, but it was a daunting task. Not only was it difficult to find something suitable for the group Reformer classes they wanted to offer, but they also had to put down a huge deposit just to secure the rental.

Since Taeko also wanted to offer a fully bilingual business, she had to translate her website, booking system and advertisements into both languages, and find bilingual receptionists and instructors.

Finally, they found a bright and airy location for their studio in Omotesando, but then COVID-19 struck and they had to put their opening on hold. They waited out the first lockdown, decided to go for it in May, and finally opened Re-Juvenate Pilates in August.

“Looking back, it appears to have been a brave decision, but we expected a quiet start in terms of customer numbers anyway, and we knew that the pandemic would not last forever. We were making a long-term commitment to the Pilates industry, so it seemed silly not to get on with it and start building the brand,” Taeko says.

Re-Juvenate Pilates has six Merrithew SPX® Max Reformers for group classes, as well as a Cadillac, Stability Chair, Ladder Barrel and two V2 Max Plus Reformers with Vertical Frames for private sessions.

“I was familiar with Merrithew because my studio in Singapore had all Merrithew Reformers and all the instructors were trained in STOTT PILATES®. I briefly worked at another studio in Tokyo and the machines were from another brand. After teaching on those, it was clear to me that Merrithew’s machines were superior in terms quality, versatility, features, functionality and customization.”

With many of its employees and customers having lived or worked abroad, Re-Juvenate Pilates has an international ambiance that makes it inviting to the expat community.

“Japanese culture often dictates a certain formality in the communication between teacher and pupil, and in many studios here you will find that translates into a rather cold atmosphere. The atmosphere at Re-Juvenate is respectful, but at the same time relaxed and friendly, more like what you would find at a studio in North America or Europe,” she says.

Group classes are not segregated by language. Instead, the instructors simply switch between English and Japanese, so expats and locals learn alongside one another, which fosters a more inclusive community.

A group of clients doing sitting Pilates exercises on the SPX Max Reformers

Taeko’s tips on growing a successful boutique studio

  • Marketing: We’ve done most of our marketing through online advertising and social media, with a bit of offline advertising. Going forward, we will focus more on SEO and content production as we feel that our brand really differentiates us from the competition, and it can be hard to convey that message via paid ads.
  • Attracting new clients: Re-Juvenate operates a trial system, and we are proud of the high proportion of trials who sign up to learn with us after their initial trial is over. We attribute this to the high quality of our instruction, which is delivered by our professionally trained and motivated instructors.
  • Creating a welcoming studio atmosphere: Our studio is light, airy and beautiful and has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Our wonderful studio assistant and friend, Maiko san, has a gift for making our customers feel at home at the studio. She is very knowledgeable about Pilates and is currently training to become an instructor herself.

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