After six months with only a handful of posts, this blog is back, and what better way to restart than with something sublimely silly: Japanese Synchronized Walking!
It just so happens that I'm a big fan of snazzy group movement — Busby Berkeley, marching bands, and massive chase scenes are all A-OK in my book — but this is different. It's... it's.... oh just watch first, then I'll tell you what I've learned.
On one level, it's all so serious, yet a lot of the humor seems intentional, and of course I couldn't help but enjoy the costume change (0:55,) the domino fall (5:04), the character poses (8:00), and all the intersecting patterns.
Here's the background, as provided by Makiko Itoh on the web site quora.com.
It is not a competition at all, but an exhibition put on by the Nippon Sport Science University (NSSU), a university dedicated to physical education. Most of the graduates go on to become PE teachers, trainers and coaches.
The movement is called "shuudan koudou"（集団行動）or group movement. It's similar to military movement exercises, or synchronized marches by marching bands, but more intricate. Among other things it's supposed to help train the NSSU students to manage large groups in the future. (Japanese schools often have morning exercises and assemblies and such where the entire student body is gathered together. They're expected to line up at equidistant from each other, stand at attention when the principal comes to the podium and that kind of thing.) I'm guessing though that it's just a fun thing to do.
Group movement is a tradition at NSSU along with things like cheerleading. As far as I know it's unique to NSSU. There are no open group movement competitions.
Most people love the synchonized movement and humor, but some find it uncomfortable to watch since it reminds them of military demonstrations that are similarily synchronized.
I'm thinking maybe the unease with it seeming to be too militaristic (or corporate) is what inspired the comic touches.
You can find some variations here and of course via a YouTube search.
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