Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Radio Exercises

This morning Tetsu and I were just coming back from an early morning walk with Choco when we came across a group of parents and children gathered around a tape recorder.

Oh good! Radio Exercises! I had just been wondering if this custom has gone completely out of style and was thrilled to see that it is alive and well. I raced home to get my camera and joined the group for 5 minutes of health and community unity.

At 6:45 the group had assembled and the father in charge turned on the tape recorder and we all started swinging our arms and bending our knees in rhythm to the music. From the youngest child to the elderly grandpa to even little ol' foreigner me, we all knew what to do! That's how ingrained Radio Exercise is in Japanese culture. The music begins and like Pavlov's dogs we all start our synchronized movements!

Radio Exercise was introduced to Japanese citizens not long after the radio itself became public but it didn't become a national custom until after WW II. To bolster the Japanese morale and bring unity to the people after the war, the Japanese government introduced Radio Exercise as part of their education and health reconstruction program although the US Occupation banned it for a time as being too militaristic.

When I first came to Japan, you could often hear Radio Exercises music wafting from neighbors' houses and people would be standing in front of their houses waving their arms oblivious to anyone else around them. When taping became popular the Radio Exercises were brought into the companies and schools and before work or classes began everyone would line up and do the 5 minute routine together. It is very simple, very non-strenuous, just loosen up the joints a bit, and recently the routine has been adapted so that even the elderly and people confined to wheelchairs can do a similar form of stretching and waving.

When my kids became school age, the school and neighborhood collaborated during summer vacation. The schools gave out little cards while the community leaders arranged for someone to daily lead the children in the exercises every morning. After the exercises the children would get their cards stamped to prove they had joined in the activities and it was a point of pride to see if you could get perfect attendance. My kids were always quite sad that they only got a few stamps on their cards because we were usually in the States during Radio Exercise month.

This morning's neighborhood children finished their exercises and gathered around the mother who stamped all their cards for them. It seems that nowadays the program is only encouraged during this last week of summer vacation and for the past two days it has rained, so today was the first day for any of the kids to have a chance to get their cards stamped. Still, for them to get up by 6:45 at all is pretty good I think!

Well, no one gets very much exercise but Radio Exercise is a custom of Japanese summer!

I got a good laugh over this rough English translation of part of the Radio Exercise routine!


Quilt Pixie said...

the translations had me laughing... thanks so very much! I've seen movies with Japanese company employees all lined up exercising, but hadn't known it extended beyond a workplace ethic...

artfilstitch said...

The translations left me in stitches....good job! I wish this could be carried out in our country, especially with the children and folks that are suffering with obesity. Thanks for sharing this information and photos.

Amanda said...

Yes, like Quilt Pixie, I've seen films of Japanese employees getting to work early to join in the exercises and thought it pretty strange. Now I know the explanation for it. These days though it suddenly starts to seem like a good idea again.

comicbooklady said...

I don't know...that kind of group activity does not appeal to my individualist nature! It does sound a little too militaristic to me! I'll do my yoga in the privacy of my home! LOL! Love the translation!

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Your editorial comments made me laugh. Particularly the last one. You teach me so much about a culture I am totally unfamiliar with. Thanks!

Lynne in Hawaii said...

I just love the translations! What a hoot! But stretching is very important for the maintaining a healthy body and I believe that is the point of it all. Thanks for the laugh out loud!