Saturday, February 27, 2016

Radio Exercises in Tsuruma Park

Tsuruma Park in Nagoya was the first public park in the region. It was established in 1909.
The existing modern and classic buildings and monuments tell us many stories related to the origin of this park and life in Nagoya in the early 1900s.

The boy statue in front of us is one example.
He is frozen in the middle of doing calisthenics, called “rajio taiso”, which literally means “radio exercises”.

“Rajio taiso” has a long history of 88 years, from the first broadcast of exercise routines over the radio by the Japan Postal Insurance Bureau.
“Rajio taiso” is a kind of rhythmic exercise to music on the radio. The program starts at 6:30 in the morning every day and goes for 15 minutes.

The insurance bureau started this project so that people would be more conscious of maintaining good health since the Japanese life expectancy was quite low at that time. Strictly speaking the idea for radio broadcast calisthenics came from the US.  The exercise consists of 13 different but easy movements to stimulate almost all of your muscles -- even the inactive ones -- to get your blood circulating.

It was included as a regular group routine at elementary and junior high schools.
Later, in the 1950s, it was aired on TV as well as on the radio several times a day; it became very popular among adults at offices, factories and also at many other workplaces.
Currently, it is reported that 20% of the entire population, or around 27 million people, and 76% of elementary schools, still do radio exercises.

Regardless of age, almost all Japanese people can perform the 13 movements if they hear the music or sometimes simply by humming it. Here in Tsuruma Park, somewhere between 100 and over 350 people, usually seniors, gather around the Sougakudo bandstand for “rajio taiso” every morning throughout the year.Tsuruma Park is the perfect place for a “rajio taiso” gathering, and it has been this way for 50 years.

If you would like to join in doing “rajio taiso”, you don’t need to apply.
All you have to do is to get up early.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ahead of time

Just last week on February 3 , we celebrated ”Setsubun", the Bean-Throwing Festival in our homes, at shrines and in temples throughout Japan.

It is one of our seasonal, happy events, which drives away evil from our homes and brings in only good fortune and good health to every household by throwing roasted soybeans.

Meanwhile, according to the Japanese traditional calendar,  February 3 marks the last day of winter and we name February 4  "Risshun", the first day of spring.

Though I know we will have some more cold and freezing days until the real spring arrives here, it is exciting to have some signs of spring not only in nature but also in everyday objects, such as a flower arrangement on an alcove, a hanging scroll and even some cups and saucers that depict spring.  That way we enjoy some signs of spring in homes much in advance.

What's more, very often at a department store, we will find a seasonal food item with an appealing presentation such as "wagashi."  These are Japanese sweets and reflect each season in their shapes and colors. Defined wagashi is such a delight to our eyes and finally to our mouth.

All these things are something we have been practicing  for centuries and we learn this  from our parents and grandparents  as a common practice in our daily lives.  I do love choosing  a hanging scroll at our alcove when our traditional calender marks the arrival of season a little bit earlier.

Somehow we enjoy the signs of the season ahead of time.