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Touching on the culture points, I'm currently serving my second overseas tour in Japan. My previous OS assignment was Italy. During my 6+ years overseas I've seen an incredible difference in simple daily activity compared to our own back home in the US.

Here in northern Japan, you see kids walking to school every single morning, rain or shine, snow coated roadways or not. These same days there are dozens of cars lined up to pick up children at the school on base. The students on base have about a 1 mile walk at the most extreme example. Now I know safety, security, etc. can come into play in some cases...but our local area here has to be one of the safest possible communities to afford a child a healthy walk to and from school.

At the schools, the Japanese have an enormous sport/rec field where they hold organized activities and field days on, what seems to be, a regular basis. They even have unicycles and I see about 75% of them in use at any given recess time. From what I recall of school, about 15 minutes of recess time twice a day up to 7th grade and about 30 minutes of PE was the status quo.

Move on to the culture itself, and both the European culture and Japanese culture have advanced mass-transit systems that put people in busses and trains and require walks to and from stations/stops every day of the week and even for weekend outings. Around here, making the 2 mile walk from a train station to a festival is an every other weekend occurrence.

My last gleaming observation is in the elderly. One would assume, at first glance, that after you're too old to drive you dust off the bicycle to get around. In both cultures, seeing people you would expect have a hard time completing simple tasks around the house ride to the store for groceries on a daily basis is pretty impressive. If they simply can't ride a bike, then they push their little cart (looks something of a stroller) up and down the street doing their daily routine of socializing and shopping.

All in all, while the organized recreational sports for 25+'s in these cultures seem non-existent compared to our own rec leagues, the people tend to stick with modes of transportation that require physical exertion as opposed to hopping in the car and taking a trip down the road like you see in the US. Over the years, that likely contributes a great bit to their overall general fitness.

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