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: