Radio Taiso and The Radio Exercise Trend

This one is a little wild: How does doing morning stretches radicalize a nation? Well, it’s not just the exercises, but it is one layer to an odd and fascinating relationship to stretching that developed in the 20th century here in Japan.

What is Radio Taiso (ラジオ体操)?

Radio Taiso was born into Japan in 1928 as a commemoration for the new emperor: Hirohito. You may know that name because he was emperor of Japan during WWII and reigned during Japan’s Showa Era (昭和, from 1926-1981). If you were unaware, Japan was well into its imperialist push in mainland Asia and the Pacific isles during this time. The exercises were a form of unity-building, and getting the populace pumped up and ready for any sort of military duty the emperor would ask of them.

Radio Taiso Posters - Two Second Street -
Shut up and exercise! via Tofugu and the Japan Post

The Japanese Post Office has a pretty extensive timeline of Radio Taiso’s history, so you should check that out if you want more info (link in Japanese only). Note that there was a period on that timeline where the exercises were banned!

But what happened that got it banned? Well, World War II saw a lot of military gusto from Japan, to say the least. When America began occupying the country after their formal surrender, the radio exercises were banned for being too militaristic. A few attempts were made to make them less aggressively militaristic, but they ended up failing to find a new way of presenting the exercises that connected with people. It wasn’t until 1951 that the more modern incarnation of Radio Taiso came into being, and thus, the wonderful stretches you can see in the early hours at parks or at the town hall on your Animal Crossing island/town.

Where does Radio Taiso come from?

It’s actually an American invention, if you can believe it!

Radio Taiso Chart - Two Second Street -
Old exercise chart from Japanese occupation via National Museum of Singapore

The Metropolitan Life Health Exercises (from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company) were broadcast over the radio in 1925 through 1935 as 15-minute exercise routines that were broadcast across the nation at 6:45 AM. They were largely inspired by another short daily exercise program, Walt Camp’s Daily Dozen, which was more a brochure with instructions versus a full-blown radio program. You can actually still purchase and follow these programs today!

Do people still do Radio Taiso today?

You bet they do!

Once the so-called ban was lifted, everyone resumed their morning stretches to get their juices flowing at the start of the day. You’ll see (if you’re up early enough) groups of elderly Japanese people in parks or other large open spaces going through and stretching together. These hardcore exercise radicals still use old-school radio broadcasts or recordings of such to get their morning workouts in.

Radio Taiso comes in a variety of flavors; you can find a routine that works for you and your individual tastes. Need a wide range of exercises for different skill levels? You’re covered:

Big fan of Demon Slayer? You’re covered:

Have a family of Pokéfanatics? Yes sir, you too are covered:

From a perceived propaganda machine to light morning routine for those wishing to wake up, Radio Taiso has had quite the ride! Do you think you’ll be adopting Radio Taiso for your morning routine? Let us know in the comments below!


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