Looking at the Culture of Radio-Broadcasted Exercise
Imagine going to a school where, instead of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, your day began with an exercise routine. This is commonplace for students in Japan. In the United States, we imagine exercise as taking place in a gym filled with people using various machines or lifting weights. However, when looking at the fitness regimes of other nations, like Japan, the image of exercise is different. Rajio Taiso, or “radio exercises”, consist of a range of exercises involving rhythmic movements that are broadcasted over the radio and television several times a day.
The idea of broadcasting workouts did not originate in Asia. The MetLife Insurance Company sponsored 15-minute radio workouts in major cities of the United States during the 1920s. Although it was unsuccessful here, Japanese insurance agents heard of the idea and brought it back to their country, where it has flourished.
The practice was pitched as a way to improve health and promote unity of Japanese soldiers while they were at home. The exercises consisted of stretches that could be done by people of all ages. This way, citizens could do the routines in a group setting. Today, Rajio Taiso remains an integral part of Japanese daily life. Children fill their Rajio Taiso attendance cards during summer school, where they are rewarded for their enthusiasm. Some companies require workers to do Rajio Taiso during their breaks to revitalize themselves. Senior citizens are the biggest Rajio Taiso enthusiasts, taking part while sitting chairs if they need to. Rajio Taiso has also spread to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Indonesia.
Surprisingly, there is some controversy associated with the requirement of this exercise. In Japan, someone who refuses to take part in the exercises at work can face a severe pay cut or even termination. However, it is a crucial part of Japanese culture, as depicted in Japanese movies, television, and even Animal Crossing!