Rah rah! Cheerleaders pep up dour Japan

Tue Apr 6, 2010 12:41am EDT
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By Yuriko Nakao and Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Japan may have little to celebrate with its economic recovery still fragile, so some cheerleaders are hitting the streets and stages to pep up the mood -- including one pom-pom squad whose average age is 66.

On a recent Saturday, some 20 members of elderly cheerleading club Japan Pom Pom performed at a competition near Tokyo, waving gold pom-poms and dancing to the rhythm in shiny red costumes adored with sequins and wearing bobbed silver wigs.

"I started cheerleading when I was 63 and I think I can dance much better and have made some improvements. Anybody can improve even if you are old," Fumie Takino, the 78-year-old leader and founder of the club, told Reuters.

The club, whose members' ages average 66 and add up to 1,520 years, practices two hours a week and often performs at children's hospitals as well as nursing homes.

Takino said that their main goal is to have fun.

"There is a lot of depressing news and the economy is bad. I must say, I can only do little to overcome this problem, but I hope we can provide energy and encourage people by showing how we senior cheerleaders are simply enjoying ourselves," she said.

The group's enthusiasm appears to be contagious.

In Tokyo's bustling business district of Shinjuku, Aya Saito, 33, has been dancing on a street every morning to the 1980s pop song "Mickey" for seven months as commuters rush by to work.   Continued...

<p>Fumie Takino, a 78-year-old cheerleader, practices cheerleading with other members of a seniors' cheerleading group called "Japan Pom Pom" in Tokyo March 24, 2010. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao</p>