Japanese marching drill makes robots look sloppy

Japanese marching drill makes robots look sloppy

Tokyo college team wows crowds with millimeter-perfect human precision

shudan koudouLooking good, apart from that one guy out of step -- yes, him with the black hair, dark suit and ...

England and cheese rolling, Finland and wife carrying, Ireland and camogie -- to those peculiarly parochial, yet nonetheless impressive, sporting events we can now add the Japanese tradition of shudan koudou, or group mobilization.

Or, to put it more succinctly, “mingling” -- at least that’s an accurate description of the highly choreographed and coordinated display of marching seen in this YouTube video of a public display at a Japanese college.

Pounding it out

The all-male lineup in the show put on in 2009 at Yokohama Arena by students of Nippon Sports Science University in Tokyo, a college for teachers of PE, clearly spent more than a few after-school hours pounding the parade ground to achieve this level of perfection.

Whether walking backwards (yes, really) and in rank through each other or pelting headlong into a thicket of opposing suits, the result is poetry in motion with not even a (uniformly black) hair out of place.

Pulling together

While researching the background of the performance, we learned of a philosophy that might just explain the dedication needed to pull off a feat like shudan koudou.

Tokyo journalist Okito Toyoda gives one possible take on the mindset needed. “We have a word here in Japan, tai-iku kai-kei, meaning a person who is long on muscles and short on gray matter," he says.

“People call themselves this in a self-effacing sort of way -- meaning something like, ‘I may not be so smart, but I am a hard worker’ -- and are thought to be hierarchically oriented.”

Which of course, sounds like a reasonable explanation of a lot of the qualities of Japan to us.

If shudan koudou floats your hierarchically oriented boat, there are plenty more videos on YouTube, including several longer clips. Or just copy and paste the Japanese term, 集団行動, into the search box. Happy mingling.