WORLD REPORT: JAPAN POM POM
Glitzy outfits and wild moves, these grannies prove that age is just a number, and the future is what you make of it.
Old age can’t stop these octogenarians from doing what they want – cheerleading!
If you’ve ever held the thought that you are too old to learn something new or attempt something different – you need to take a page out of these ladies’ books.
Based in Tokyo, Japan Pom Pom is a team of senior cheerleaders who’ve all taken up the sport for various reasons: from using cheerleading as an excuse to meet like-minded friends, to using it as a coping mechanism to deal with a rocky marriage.
The squad was founded by octagenerian Fumie Takino in 1996. Self-proclaimed to have been emboldened by age and experience, she attempted the feat which she would not have otherwise been able to brave in her youth.
Not open to just anyone – you have to be at least 55 years old in order to qualify. The average age in the 30-member cheerleading squad is 70 years old, with members ranging from 65 to 85 years old. Far from being a group for charity case grannies, these women are simply taking advantage of their retirement years to do something they would not have attempted in their earlier years.
Now 85 years old, Takino trains with her squad weekly at a local senior centre – something which they do not take lightly. Their dance routines, though wild, are calculated. Japan Pom Pom members have a training uniform with their own designed logo, while their individual costumes are especially sourced from the United States. Giggle as you might when these grannies strut on stage in their matching goldtrimmed miniskirts and glossy white knee-high boots, you will not be able to deny the skill and practice that has gone into their performance – of which there are many.
Japan Pom Pom performs throughout the year at various venues and occasions, ranging from sports and nursing homes, to charity events. They frequently appear on Japanese television and have even managed to raise millions of yen for charity after the 2011 earthquake. Just last year, they celebrated their 20th anniversary and their popularity doesn’t seem to be waning.
As one of the fastest ageing societies in the world, over a quarter of Japan’s population is over the age of 65. Today, the country is facing unprecedented social and economic challenges which are at the centre of public debate. While raising awareness on ageing and fundraising for charities are the squad’s main missions, keeping fit and having fun is also one of the reasons why the ladies get together.
Cheerleading gives the ladies an excuse to wear miniskirts and glitters that most people would consider inappropriate for their age. “As you grow older, your self-image does not age with you. You think your face is still the one you had when you were 30 years younger,” said Takino.
Senior cheerleaders Japan Pom Pom pose for a group photo in their performance costumes, before their weekly training at an elderly community centre. Based in Tokyo and founded in 1996 by 81 year old Fumie Takino, JPP members are 65 to 83 years old. Japan Pom Pom train weekly at a local senior centre and perform yearly at various venues and occasions, ranging from sports to non-profit events. Raising awareness on aging while fundraising for charities is the declared mission of the cheerleading squad.