Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

I’m still stuck in hospital because my wound hasn’t closed up yet (if you’re not squeamish, I posted a pic of it on flickr), but I am feeling a lot better and quite a bit antsy. I can’t even take a walk down the hall though, since I’m tethered to the negative pressure dressing system. So, to get the circulation going in my body just a bit, I’ve cautiously been doing Radio Taiso, or Radio Exercise, every day, using the YouTube video here:

Radio Taiso is a Japanese cultural institution, broadcast several times a day on both television and radio by NHK, the national broadcast station. According to Wikipedia Japan (in Japanese), it started on NHK Radio in the 1920s, to promote the health and well-being of the populace. (Apparently the exercises are based on ones devised by the American Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as an advertisement for the company.) The exercises consist of simple calisthenics that can be done by anyone - the current version that is broadcast on NHK television demonstrates someone doing the exercises in a chair alongside the ones doing them standing up. Each Radio Taiso set is about 4 minutes. The two sets that have been broadcast the longest, since the 1950s, are just known as Radio Taiso Number 1 and Radio Taiso Number 2; a Number 3 was discontinued in the 1940s. The video above shows Number 1 and Number 2 done in succession.

Here’s my mom and me doing Radio Taiso last summer, in Brittany of all places, when it was raining hard outside (I’m the one in the baggy blue t-shirt and black pants):


There’s also another exercise program shown every day on NHK called Minna no Taiso or Everyone’s Exercise, but Radio Taiso is the one that every knows and loves. Here’s Minna no Taiso, followed by Radio Taiso Number 1:

School vacation and Radio Taiso

Summer vacation in Japan is pretty short compared to other countries; for kids in the Tokyo area and much of the country, it just started this week, and lasts just until the end of August. Most Japanese families don’t take a long family vacation away from home, though many do take a few days off around Obon, a period in early August when people traditionally go back to their home towns to pay respect to their ancestors. In any case, kids are kept almost as busy during summer vacation as they are when school is in session, with homework and various planned activities. (One part of summer homework is usually to keep a diary. I always forgot or just neglected to do mine when I was in elementary school, so the last couple of days of August were long diary-sessions to frantically fill in my diary with made up stuff.)

Radio Taiso is one of those activities that kids are encouraged to do during the summer. Every day, often twice a day, early in the morning and in the evening, they are gathered at a neighborhood park or somewhere and put through either Number 1 or Number 2. If they show up, they can get their attendance card stamped. Having perfect Radio Taiso attendance is considered to be a very good thing, as is going to the community or school pool every day. Adults show up for the group Radio Taiso sessions too. (Actually, outside of summertime most young people wouldn’t be caught dead doing Radio Taiso in public, since it’s considered to be something that only senior citizens do. But who knows, it may make a comeback for nostalgia reasons.) Here is a photo of some people doing Radio Taiso in a local park (photo credit: CookieM):


Radio Taiso has been taken up enthusiastically by companies, community groups and so on ever since its inception. The images you may have seen of docile looking Japanese factory workers all exercising together, which seems to fascinate Westerners? They were most likely doing Radio Taiso. On a darker note, Radio Taiso was exported by the Japanese Imperial Army to countries they invaded during World War II.

In any case, if for some reason you are stuck indoors this summer like me, give Radio Taiso a try - the video is in Japanese of course, but quite easy to follow anyway.

One final video: here’s a parody of Radio Taiso…it may be a bit harder than the official ones ^_^

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14 comments so far...

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Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

Hmm - yes that last one is just a tad harder... <(o.0;)> (LOL)

Keep healing quickly! がんばって! We miss the food posts, but it's fun to read about cultural things and new bento boxes too.

avlor | 20 July, 2010 - 16:40

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

Oh man, I did these when I was in Japan with some of the schools I was staying with. As a bunch of Americans we tried way too hard, and we felt completely stupid doing it.

Get better though! I've had you in mind since the hospital visit.

Shnooks | 20 July, 2010 - 20:55

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

Hi Maki,

Wishing you a quick recovery. What a great idea to exercise with YouTube! Thank you for this post as I grew up in Tokyo during the 70's and recall the radio exercise #2. It was very nostalgic to see this again. What amazes me is that EVERY Japanese person knows this exercise! Loved the commentator's voice in the parody. Get well soon!

Jenny Hones | 21 July, 2010 - 05:37

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

I did the first one! That was so much fun! :)

Jessica | 21 July, 2010 - 06:05

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

Get well soon, Maki! I am glad to see that you are posting articles again. This means you are recovering nicely :)

Sue | 21 July, 2010 - 06:21

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso)

Oooooh! Now a chapter of Yotsuba that I waded through recently makes more sense! I wondered why a bunch of kids would want to go to the park to do exercise and have a card stamped for attendance. I swear, I learn new things every day.

Well, I hope you take it easy on the side twisting - I wince thinking about the bandages pulling. Heal up!

J Hunt | 21 July, 2010 - 07:39

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

How funny! I used to wake up and do this every morning and just got back in to the habit, so I was surprised to stop by your blog and find a post about it.

Best wishes for your speedy recovery~

Christine B | 22 July, 2010 - 01:12

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

I don't know what model your hospital uses and how big it is but at the hospital I work at we had the shop guys make a little plywood platform that could attach to the back of a wheelchair to put the wound vac on. That way the patient can sit in the chair and propel themselves with their feet and exercise and move around.

They probably couldn't get something like that done in time for you but it would be worth mentioning it to them for future patients.

Ranuel | 22 July, 2010 - 01:29

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

The model they use in the hospital is actually built into the wall, next to the outlet for oxygen. So basically i'm tethered to the wall with a long hose... But, when I go home (hopefully next week!) they are going to give me a small compressor that can be carried around, even in a backpack, and a nurse will come to check/change the dressing regularly. Can't complain about the thoroughness of the French healthcare system!

maki | 22 July, 2010 - 08:45

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

Get well soon!

I was watching this and my wife Keiko started doing some of them and did the narration too!

Some of those would not be good on my bum shoulder!

Gregg Leonard | 22 July, 2010 - 06:30

Re: Radio Taiso and Maki in hospital

All the best for your speedy recovery! I hope that you posting new stuff means you're mending well.
Thanks for this post. I've had "fun" with back pain for years and pretty had to stop exercising completely because anything I could think of made it worse. But I tried the Radio Taiso exercises (sitting, going carefully on those back bends) and this feels like something I can actually do to get back into things. How great!

Rebecca | 22 July, 2010 - 09:28

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

Hi Maki,

I love reading your blog.
Wishing you a speedy recovery. :)

Yael | 22 July, 2010 - 22:01

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

My mnemonic for the perfect word to describe the effects of a Japanese summer seems peculiarly apt here:
Gnats who bat, eh?

I once spent a couple of weeks up on the 52nd floor of the Mori Roppongi Hills building and a highlight was watching a local school perform these exercises in their outdoor grounds way, way below.

Loretta | 23 July, 2010 - 08:05

Re: Radio Exercise (Radio Taiso) and the Japanese summer

I just wanted to say thanks for this! I saw this post ages ago but didn't have a computer to say thanks and now I do. I've done some of the excersizes (although I am not in a hospital or anything, but England's going to get cold soon) and I like them. Thanks!

MN | 6 September, 2010 - 12:52

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