Just when you start to feel like a fairly competent human, something like Shuudan Koudou slides into your Instagram feed to prove you wrong. Literally translated as “collective action”, Shuudan Koudou is the Japanese sport – no, art form – of walking. That is, walking forwards and backwards. Walking sideways. Walking whilst lightly squatting. Walking every which way, but always in military-level unison. A still-photo barely does it justice, so give your eyeballs the delight of this troupe in baby pink blazers, which we unofficially dub Wes Anderson’s dream army:
The sport’s been going strong since the 1960s in Japan, and notably at Nippon Sports Science University in Tokyo (affectionately known as “Nittaidai”). Based on their class photos, it looks like a pretty fun place to matriculate:
Founded over a century ago, Nittaidai is renowned for churning out olympic athletes, so their end of the year assembly offers a dazzling showcase of not only walking, but gymnastics, judo, and other sports, and all of them are executed in the same kaleidoscopic unison…
Japan’s love for uniformity is fascinating, and according to Yoshihiko Ikegami, author of The Empire of Signs: Semiotic Essays on Japanese Culture, interwoven into other cultural norms, like “teamwork, simplicity, and strong context-dependency.” When you watch that sea of feet shuffle across the stadium floor, you’re not just watching a novelty; these men and women (the latter of which have been active in the sport since 2011) have practised three days a week, for months on end, in preparation for the assembly. Which leaves us with one final thought: why isn’t this an olympic sport already?