“Run in such a way as to get the prize.” I Corinthians 9:24b
One day while on an early morning walk through the local park, I stumbled upon a random cluster of people who appeared to have assembled for a specific purpose. The group consisted of mainly older Japanese, but among them was also a smattering of middle-aged members and even a few children. Someone had brought a portable radio and placed it on a nearby bench, which was obviously the focal point of the gathering. They all seemed to be waiting for something to happen. Then at exactly 6:30am, a jaunty piano tune boomed from the radio along with the pronounced chant “ichi, ni, san…” (1, 2, 3…). Mesmerized, I watched as young and old alike proceeded in unison to move their arms, legs, heads and waists in rhythmic motion dutifully obeying the commands blaring forth from the radio. From my vantage point, they looked like marionettes on strings controlled by an invisible puppeteer. I was witnessing rajio taisō (ラジオ体操) in action.
Rajio taisō means literally “radio exercises” and it is basically a series of warm-up calisthenics that are practiced routinely across Japan on a daily basis. School children, random groups of people and even employees at many companies gather daily for this brief three-minute exercise routine designed to promote good health and community relationships. Many others opt to do the program in the privacy of their own home by tuning in to the same broadcast by NHK on either radio or TV. Recent surveys indicate that approximately 27 million Japanese participate in this scripted morning calisthenics program more than twice a week.
The concept of rajio taisō, which was an imported idea from overseas, was introduced to Japan in 1928 following the commencement of Emperor Hirohito’s reign. As part of its advertising strategy, a well-known American life insurance program had just launched the idea of mass calisthenics by sponsoring a 15-minute radio broadcast in several major cities. In Japan, this novel idea was adopted and initially utilized to improve the health and morale of Japanese soldiers. This early manifestation probably explains why similar rajio taisō programs continue to exist in formerly Japanese-occupied nations of Taiwan and China. Following Japan’s defeat in World War II, these seemingly harmless exercises were deemed to be too militaristic in nature by the occupying powers so they were temporarily banned. However, NHK radio (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai—Japan Broadcasting Corporation) revived the custom in 1951 with some alterations under the guidance of the Ministries of Health and Education. It is now broadcast four times a day with the exception of Sunday.
Exercise is obviously a worthy goal as it promotes physical and emotional health as we seek to live productive lives for the glory of God. But there is a higher level of exercise or training that better equips an individual for something better than just athletic competitions. The Apostle Paul alludes to this in I Corinthians 9:24 where he exhorts the people of God to take their spiritual walk seriously, similar to a trained athlete competing for a prize. This daily commitment to the things of God demands training, purposefulness and discipline, just like an athlete striving to win first place in their respective competition. Like rajio taisō, both young and old can join in this worthy endeavor and the spiritual benefits are many. Ichi, ni, san…
Watch this link for more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIW2PKqwXQc
Participate in rajio taisō by while watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GM3d3QP3ylM