Japanese Calisthenics – How Do They All Know the Same Routine?

Recently in my Kindergarten class the kids have started to think it’s funny to do their ‘calisthenics’ while they are standing in the back of the room. They all do the same moves and I recognize them from videos I’ve seen. Usually the videos were of a bunch of Japanese men in hard hats and short-sleeved shirts with ties bending and stretching to the sound of some corny music. I’ve never seen children do these exercise! Time to do some research…


Photo Credit: ABC News

According to Wikipedia, radio calisthenics originated in the US – MetLife sponsored radio time devoted to exercise in the 1920s. The Japanese adopted it and bumped it up a notch by broadcasting it on NHK, their national radio station. Tofugu states that there are three official versions of calisthenics: “one for men and women of all ages, one to increase physical strength, and one that can be done while seated (for differently-abled persons and the elderly).”  The NHK broadcasts these radio calisthenics at 6:30 am and 3:00 pm everyday, according to Angry Penguins.

Calisthenics are not solely broadcast on the radio for personal use – they are also used in the workplace and at schools. According to Tofugu, children will participate in them at school and they are often performed in the workplace to boost employee  morale. I recently read on the blog, A Japanese Expat in Kyoto, that the blogger works for a company that plays the radio calisthenics tune every day at 8:25 am and 3:00 pm.  He goes on to say that it is not required that everyone participate, but the music still plays..


Photo Credit: trackers-trackers.blogspot

Well, I can’t say that I’ve seen anyone other than 5 year-olds perform these calisthenics, but I believe that they definitely occur. Japan seems to be all about “the group” and working as one and I can see how group calisthenics could foster this belief. I can’t say that I’d want to participate, but maybe one day I’ll get to witness this very Japanese way of exercise!


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