Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Radio Exercise

If you are a citizen of Japan, you would know what RAJIO TAISO (Radio Exercise) is no matter what the age. It is a series of pretty simple movements set to very pleasant piano music that we all learn in gym class. There are two different types and you learn number one in elementary school, and two in middle school (I think). Each takes about 3 minutes to do and it's a good warm up for any sports you might play for the rest of the class so you do it.

But because it's something everyone knows, it has spread to places beyond the school gym. Some corporate offices and factory type of places go outside after lunch and do it all together before returning to work. It's team building and stretching all rolled up into one. Sometimes you can see such things happening from a subway if you ride it around that time of day. But of course for people between the ages of 12 to 35, it's totally dorky and no one wants to do it.  If they are forced, they just sort of do it.  There is a scene in a Studio Ghibli film, Whisper of the Heart,  where the main character has to go to a summer Radio Exercise and get her paper stamped to get credit and she totally goofs off because she is the only one attending. We've all been there.

The history of this dates back to 1928. Apparently, an American health insurance company aired something like this back then to promote general health of their people--because insurance companies need people to stay well and there were some epidemic of tuberculosis and such which prompted them to come up with this. Japanese insurance companies who learned this followed suit and developed what we now all know. Along with the piano music, a man would coach you through the moves so that you can follow along. It first aired on NHK, which is like PBS here and 80 years later, it still airs everyday, now on TV. They stopped during the war, and when some emergencies occurred, but other than that, it is apparently the longest running TV spot in the history of Japanese TV but it's treated as something senior citizen might do and that's it. Side note: the American occupational soldiers apparently found this to be somewhat creepy in that everyone was doing exactly the same move all together. Kind of like what we feel when we see North Korean children dance--I imagine and I can see why.

Recently, I read it in a Japanese magazine that this Radio Exercise is not to be dismissed.  If you do it right, it actually does a lot of good. I am lacking in exercise these days outside of walking the dog and felt like I should to something so I tried it.

It. Kicked. My. Ass.

I am a former dancer.  In my twenties, I was dancing about 20 hours a week. I obviously don't do that any more but I still choreograph shows and teach occasional dance classes so there should be some good base there.  And yet, after 6 and a half minutes of this, my heart was pumping more than it probably should, and the next day, I was sore. Kind of sad because it really isn't hard.  But also kind of a discovery. So I decided to do it everyday. I can do 6 minutes, everyday.

It been about a week now and I am a fan.  This is good stuff if you have a job that makes you sit all day. It's super simple but stretches and moves everything you need to. Of course, you would not think this to be anything if you are a kind of a person who works out a lot.  Don't judge me. I don't care about the dorkiness, because I am middle aged. I made my 6 year old daughter do it with me, and she had a good time. I don't know that she will continue, but I will, dammit.

In closing, I give you the visual.  Try it. It's dorky fun.