Radio Taiso: Japan’s Morning Exercise Ritual

  • The popular warm-up calisthenics in Japan is known as “radio taiso” or simply, radio exercise. You can hear it on NHK radio every morning.

    Calisthenics is a form of exercise that doesn’t use any equipment or apparatus and is intended to increase the body’s fitness and flexibility. This is also thought to be an overall body-weight training.

    The Origin

    Radio taiso originally came from the United States. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. or MetLife is one of the biggest global providers of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs. During the 1920s, in the major cities of the United States, Metlife sponsored a 15-minute radio calisthenics. Oftentimes, visiting employees of the Japanese postal insurance division would come and see the exercise. They then brought some sample exercises to Japan. They were primarily aimed at improving the health of the soldiers. This faded out in the USA and it never became popular.

    It was only in 1952 when the exercise was introduced in Japan’s National Radio (NHK). From then on, it became a standard radio exercise program played on NHK every morning. The first radio taiso broadcast was in commemoration with the coronation of Emperor Hirohito in 1928. Until WWII, everyone participated in a 10-minute exercise program every morning. This became a normal way of life.

    Radio Taiso Now

    Almost every school in Japan uses radio taiso. This is their form of warm-up during physical education classes. This is also used before the start of big events. Even companies use this as a way of building morale and a sense of unity. This can help both body and mind feel refreshed and reduce stress. If you make this a habit by doing it regularly, you will have no problem following the steps from beginning to end. The routine is very predictable and music seldom changes.