Radio Taiso

One of those time-honored traditions you see in Japanese television is a small TV show on NHK,1 the national TV station, called rajio taisō (ラジオ体操). The word taisō means exercise or calisthenics, and that’s basically what it is. Aired in the morning (mid-morning here in Seattle), the show usually features three or more ladies doing a simple workout with some light piano music in the background. One is always seated, so that elderly or disabled members of the audience can still follow along, too.

This is an edited, but pretty representational episode:

Since we have TV Japan here in the US (which plays a lot of shows from NHK), sometimes I see it at home. My wife likes to keep trim, so when the show comes on, she will follow along. Sometimes my daughter will too if she’s home.

According to this article, the concept started as far back as 1928 on radio (hence the name), but was adapted from an American radio broadcast that had started in 1920. It was briefly banned after World War II by the US Occupation because of possible military undertones, but resumed after some edits and changes were made. So, the show has continued in one form or another for the last 83+ years.

I always thought this was a great idea. Since Americans have a problem with obesity (myself included), it seems like any exercise is better than none. Radio Taiso is fairly intensive; you will sweat a little bit after 10 minutes. However, it’s pretty easy too, so really anyone can follow along. It reminds me many years ago, when I studied in Hanoi, Vietnam. When I went to Lake Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, I saw lots and lots of elderly people doing Tai Chi together in groups. You only see this if you go there early in the morning (around sunrise) because it gets too warm and busy later. As the article above shows, Americans used to have calisthenics programs too, but it seems we’ve lost that tradition (and gained weight too). It’s a shame.

At the very least, having a small routine like Radio Taiso gets people thinking a little bit more about their health. Speaking of health, I am going to the gym now.2

P.S. It was a coincidence that I wrote this just before Christmas….maybe. 😉

1 Growing up in the US, where all major TV stations are privately owned, I was surprised in my youth to find out that other countries had national channels (Japan, UK, Ireland, etc). :p

2 I am happy to work in an office building with a gym. Having a gym really close by helps ensure success I think, rather than having to commute to one after work.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

2 thoughts on “Radio Taiso”

  1. Wow, it’s a surprise to find the idea was from the US. In addition to the basic health benefits, there are lots of other side effects–people who meet in the park for radio taiso form little clubs or communities. This provides a social group for retirees or others who might need that. Also, you know your neighbors. I haven’t lived in the US for a while, but my impression is that people isolate themselves from their surroundings, with heavy vehicles, houses in large lots and windows never open, gated communities. About the only time one is forced to confront the community is fighting over parking spaces at the mall, or on the internets! Probably these factors all worsen the problems associated with obesity and lack of exercise.


    1. You know, that brings up a really good point. After coming back from Ireland 3 years ago, we moved into our current home, and I still don’t really know my neighbors other than a few households nearby. My neighborhood is good about trying to organize community events (garage sales, BBQ’s, etc), but admittedly I never join. I feel kind of bad since people put a lot of work into it, but ironically I worry about getting too tangled in neighbor’s affairs (plus I like my privacy), so I just don’t attend.

      But yeah, the lack of community in American society hasn’t improved over the years and I don’t see it getting better anytime soon.


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