Ichi! Ni! San! Shi! Go! Roku! Shichi! Hachi!

In the morning, every morning, across the entire Japanese nation one can hear the gentle sound of piano echoing around schoolyards, construction sites, near temples and shrines and in public parks. The same piano melody can also be heard every morning on Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK.

This is Radio Taiso (meaning “radio calisthenics”), the tune used to accompany a set of simple choreographed exercises practiced by millions as a way to encourage health and general flexibility, and also as a way to raise group morale and unity by doing the exercises in synchronization with one’s work colleagues, community members or fellow students.

To hear the unforgettable melody and instructive voice, click here…

There’s also the instrumental version, with piano only.

In particular at construction sites one can often see workers lined up in front of their building sites before the day’s work commences, labourers and management together, all swinging their arms and bending, stretching, loosening up for the day ahead.

Some offices and shops practice the custom daily, again with workers and management together to boost company unity.

At schools across the country, students perform the choreographed routine as warm-up exercise before their PE classes.

Radio Taiso is an integral part of the culture, the tinkling melody etched into the national psyche commanding instant recognition amongst almost all people, given that the practice is begun in one’s kindergarten years.

Here is a typical example:

NHK began broadcasting Radio Taiso in November 1928, although it’s history began 12 years earlier.

For those interested in learning the routine, here are some step-by-step instructions for the exercises.

The practice appears in all sorts of unexpected places too. Here are two particularly noteworthy examples:

~ by JapanGasm on 13 June, 2010.

3 Responses to “Ichi! Ni! San! Shi! Go! Roku! Shichi! Hachi!”

  1. I’ll be moving to Taiwan next month and did expect to see this in school yards, but the fact that this happens in construction yards as well is just fascinating. Thanks for the post and the videos!

    • Yes, the construction workers are great…I’m out trying to find a site where I can video them, but most often I only get glimpses from trains as I pass by…

  2. Thank you so much for showing the instrumental MP# piano version. I’ve been doing these exercises from video I recorded but want to do them away from home and I can do it without the instructor shouting Japanese “nonsense” that my friends would make fun of. I know the routine by memory so the music alone is great.

    I love your article about the exercise. I keep thinking of some way to get it integrated in the U.S. Because it’s fun and energizing.

    I notice most sites and blogs only have the one song, but there is actually a warm up song that precedes this, It’s slower and involves more arm work than this one you posted. if you check my youtube video you can see what I mean don’t know how historic it is but it is a great way to start the day :

    Thanks again for such a cool article.

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