Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Summer Vacation Rajio Taisō (Radio Calisthenics) in My Neighborhood

My neighborhood association sponsored morning calisthenics for a two week period on weekday mornings that coincided with children's school summer holiday. These simple and light exercises are known as rajio taisō (radio calisthenics) and were originally created to pay homage to the emperor and then later as exercises for soldiers. They were banned after WWII and then reintroduced by NHK Radio in the 1950s with the nationalistic/militaristic elements (mostly) stripped down. These days it appears on NHK TV as well as the radio. Sometimes older people gather at parks early in the morning to do them. They are also done at sports festivals and other occasions. It seems as if most Japanese adults know the moves as they did the exercises often when they were children.

Announcement poster on neighborhood bulletin board

Except for the days it rained about 40 people gathered at the local shrine at 7:00 AM for the exercises. Most of the participants were elderly; unfortunately not many children came. This should not be seen as a reflection of the lowering birthrate in Japan, at least in my neighborhood. There are a lot of kids I see playing everyday and who turn up at the summer and fall festivals. Perhaps children don't want to get up early during their vacation? Or maybe they are more interested in video games? Still we had an age range from 2 to 95 years old. The event was also a chance to meet and greet neighbors we haven't seen for a while and build community solidarity. And the children who did come received snacks and candy everyday.

Participants' stamp card indicating which days they participated
 (it rained on the days without stamps), a gift card for all who
 participated and a popsicle treat for kids (the other snacks and 
candy were eaten by the participant before I could photograph them)

See the exercise movements on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS92XkVKM0Q

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