Literally, “radio exercise.” An exercise program broadcast over the radio in Japan. It has been aired every day since 1928, with the exception of eight days from August fifteenth to the twenty-second, 1945, when the program took a break for obvious reasons.
Rajio taiso was started by a government organization to keep the populace in tip-top shape. On the show, a piano plays as an energetic man leads people in light calisthenics. Some companies still start the day with a session of rajio taiso; others do it at three pm, just when everyone is starting to go into their post-lunch doze. Neighbors also gather to do the exercises in the early morning during the summer holidays. But many companies have stopped the tradition, and, frankly, the young generation considers rajio taiso a bit of a joke. It’s kind of like dancing to a Lawrence Welk record or doing one of those German beer hall dances where everyone clucks and squats. Visitors to Japan often find rajio taiso an amusing affirmation of their stereotypes of the country. But the show’s little secret is that it’s actually American. The first program was aired in 1925 from the New York headquarters of Metropolitan Life Insurance. Sometime around the stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression, American interests turned from radio exercises to finding food to eat. But in Japan, the program just kept building in popularity. By 1962, Japan was holding rajio taiso demonstrations of ten million strong.