What do you do as part of your morning routine? There’s the usual hygienic maintenance, the cobbling together of breakfast and caffeine, and then rushing out the door to catch the morning commute or navigate traffic.
For people in Japan, there is something a bit more special to add to the list. Known as rajio taisō, or radio calisthenics, these exercises are often done early in the morning before work to improve health, increase morale, and create bonding between colleagues. The latter is perhaps one of rajio taisō‘s strongest benefits. Rather than seeing it as a chore, many treat it as a fun activity they can enjoy with friends, or even as a gateway to getting to know someone better.
As befitting such a widespread ritual, the exercises are set to music played on the national public radio channel at various times. The soothing refrain accompanies easy aerobic exercises that wake people up while getting them into a good mood for the long day ahead. No equipment is necessary, so this can be done wherever there is enough space. Some even do it right in the office!
Exercise has always been good for us, and these radio exercises aim to bring a bit of health into hectic lives, especially in Japan where there is a strong culture of long working hours and little time off. For workers who arrive early and stay late, there may not always be time to go to the gym or take an evening walk. Instead, they can enjoy some light exercise in the morning to get them pumped for the long day ahead.
The practice is not as prominent as it once was, but it is still a common enough sight. Radio exercises are usually optional at companies, but most employees will choose to participate. It is especially popular with the elderly and retirees, as it provides physical activity and the chance to bond with peers. There are even groups for children, and the practice can be seen at schools, especially during the annual sports day.
If you’re in Japan, take an early stroll around town yourself, and maybe you’ll glimpse people gathered at a park, a community center, or a parking lot, ready to start their morning group exercises. For those that want to participate but don’t know the moves, fear not! Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, NHK, has a handy guide on their website (Japanese only).
Meet the Edo Period nomadic monk responsible for the popularization of Sencha. Baisao (売茶翁) went by several names over the course of his life. As a child he was Shibayama Kikusen. When he became a buddhist monk, he changed his name to Gekkai Gensho. As he grew...