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Health and Sports Day

Health and Sports Day 2019 and 2020

Health and Sports Day in Japan is a relatively new holiday that gives Japanese citizens the opportunity to be active and enjoy some time off from regular school and work.

201914 OctMonHealth and Sports Day
202024 JulFriHealth and Sports Day

In Japan, Health and Sports Day is known as Taiku no Hi. The holiday also allows people to enjoy pleasant fall weather before winter approaches.

History of Health and Sports Day

This holiday was created after the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Taiku no Hi originally celebrated the successful event that the Japanese and Tokyo governments organized. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics is also associated with several important milestones. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics was the first international sports event to be broadcast to the entire world without the distribution of physical tapes. The event also marked the opening of the Shinkansen, Tokyo’s famous high-speed bullet train. Health and Sports Day was first celebrated in Japan on October 10, 1966. October 10th remained Health and Sports Day until the year 2000. During this year, Health and Sports Day was moved to the second Monday in October. The holiday is now used to encourage fitness, clean living, and an appreciation for recreational sports.


On the morning of the second Monday in October, people across Japan wake up early to enjoy a light breakfast with their families. At about 8:30, or mid-morning, Japanese people go their schools or places of work to participate in a Health and Sports Day festival. This festival often begins with a parade. Health and Sports Day parades often include various companies, schools, and other organizations. The parade is often accompanied by marching bands and various musicians.

After the parade ends, the festival participants gather on an open field to observe the hoisting of the Japanese flag. The Japanese national anthem, or Kamigayo, is also played by a musician or through a loud speaker. After these formalities are over, festival participants prepare for various sporting events by stretching and performing light calisthenics. These activities are led by a radio broadcaster from a local station. These radio calisthenics are known as Radio Taiso and will be repeated in the evening after all of the festivities have ended. After the morning session of Radio Taiso, the Japanese people will participate in sports as a team with their classmates or coworkers. These athletic competitions, or undoukai, are very similar to university intramural meets. Some of the most popular events include classic track races, tug-of-war, and sack races. Many of the track events are relays, so teamwork is a common theme throughout the festival. Obstacle courses that require teamwork and cooperation are also popular events. The difficulty of these obstacle courses range from very easy to quite challenging. This often depends on the type of competitors that are expected to participate.

  • Kiba-sen

    Another popular event is kiba-sen, or a cavalry battle. This is a common schoolyard game that may be more commonly known in the West as ‘piggyback fighting’. In this game, each team is comprised of four players. Three players on each team stand in a triangle formation on the ground. A fourth player is hoisted onto the back of one of their teammates while the other teammates offer support from the rear. The fourth player, now in the piggyback position, wears a hat or bandanna. The goal of the game is to remove the hat of the opposing team. If a team is able to successfully remove the opponent’s hat, the opponent is eliminated.

  • Prizes

    The winners of Health and Sports Day events often receive prizes for their effective teamwork and athletic abilities. Most of the prizes are practical and can be used in everyday life. Some popular Health and Sports Day prizes include laundry detergent, vegetable oil, fabric softener, clothing, and other useful items. Winners are also publicly recognized. In small towns and villages, Health and Sports Day is a major event that is televised via local stations. Winners and participants have the opportunity to show their face on TV to make their friends and family proud of their athletic accomplishments.

  • Food

    The food of Health and Sports Day in Japan may not be as exciting as other holidays, but the options are still quite tasty. The common lunch for the holiday is a healthy bento, or lunchbox, with various assortments of sushi, onigiri, and stewed vegetables. This meal is consumed around mid-day after the completion of the athletic competitions.

  • Other Sports

    In addition to the wide selection of recreational activities, many Japanese people enjoy traditional sports. Some of the most popular sports in Japan are:

    • Soccer
    • Baseball
    • Aikido
    • Karate
    • Kendo
    • Judo

Health and Sports Day in Japan is a holiday that encourages people to lead a healthy lifestyle while enjoying the outdoors with friends and family members.