Every morning, millions of people across Japan engage in Radio Taiso, a 10-minute calisthenic routine set to bright, tinkly piano. First broadcast on Japanese national radio in 1928, Radio Taiso was inspired by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., an American company that invented the format to encourage city dwellers to start their day with light exercise. Throughout the simple workout, a cheerful voice guides participants through 13 stretches designed to improve mobility, fitness, and muscle strength. Radio Taiso is targeted at all ages and skill levels and requires no equipment. In fact, each move has a variation that can be done sitting down, truly making it suitable for anyone to join!
Following WWII, Radio Taiso was briefly banned by the occupying powers who deemed the group exercises “militaristic.” However, the ban lasted only six years. In 1951, NHK, Japan’s leading public broadcaster, began airing a tweaked and more playful version of Radio Taiso.
Today, Radio Taiso continues to be aired on NHK every day at 6:30 AM. Additionally, there are several recordings and videos available online for use at any time of the day.While stretching in unison with co-workers or strangers may sound a little strange to those living outside of Japan, Radio Taiso is a well-established part of life within Japan. Many segments of the population, including factory workers and office employees, participate in Radio Taiso daily to kick off the workday.Large groups of elderly people practice Radio Taiso together in public parks and neighborhood groups often organize community stretching programs for schoolchildren during summer break. In fact, even the characters in Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing” game series perform Radio Taiso!
Radio Taiso is often listed as one of the factors contributing to Japan’s long life expectancy and is believed to build morale and group unity among those who partake. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get your blood flowing and your mind active, try following along with a Radio Taiso video.
About the author:
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.