How Japan’s Elderly Are Able to Stay Young (Seemingly) Forever
Why hundreds of people gather in Tokyo’s Ueno Park every morning to do a 3-minute stretching routine
It’s one of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets and may seem a little quirky, especially if you’ve never lived in Japan before. But every morning, if you go to Ueno Park in Tokyo at 6:30 in the morning, you’ll find hundreds of people gathered at a plaza — appropriately named Rajio Taiso Square — all gathered to do something very simple: stretch.
What is rajio taiso?
Rajio taiso, or radio calisthenics in English, is a popular stretching routine developed back before the internet or even before television was widely used. Radio was the popular form of national media in Japan, and every morning the rajio taiso program would play on the national news network — a short, simple exercise routine designed to get the muscles moving, blood flowing, and mind refreshed (you could even consider it the original Youtube workout).
Created with both the children and the elderly in mind, the movements were designed to be for everyone, at any level. Eventually radio calisthenics became routine in schools, workplaces, and government offices. If you grew up in Japan, you would be familiar with rajio taiso like an American would be familiar with their national anthem — except instead of a song, it is also a stretch.
The subtle health benefits of rajio taiso
Rajio taiso is divided into 2 parts, each just 3 minutes, and is still widely used today in Japanese PE classes, labor-intensive workplaces like construction companies, and sometimes at bigger, more traditional Japanese corporations, to help their employees start their workday with something other than sitting and staring at a screen. Even after leaving the labor force, so many people wish to keep this routine in their life that many retirees will end up joining public organizations, the most famous of which is the Ueno Park Radio Taiso Community, to go to a park every day at 6:30am to stretch.
This organization brings in about 300 individuals every morning, most of them in their 60s and above. A mix of newcomers and veterans, the…