Recently a Chinese kindergarten made headlines when the principal decided it would be a good idea to hire professional pole dancers for their welcome event. This cringe fest resulted in that particular principal getting fired (probably for the best) but it brought to mind a subculture of Japan that is seldom reported in the media. We’re talking about Japan’s pole dancing scene.

Pole dancing is often associated with nightlife, strip clubs and other after-dark establishments, but in the past few years competitive pole dance has begun taking over the world. There are huge international competitions ever year, which include rigorous scoring criteria similar to that of figure skating or ballroom dance, as well as mind-blowing acrobatics. It’s also really, really sparkly.

The World’s Best Pole Dancers

All facets of Japan’s underground scene have been explored by foreign media, especially when it comes to indie music and art. However, the country is actually super successful in the international pole dance world, and Polish studio (that’s polish as in “nail polish”, not polish as in “person from Poland”) in Tokyo is one such place where the best of the best train. Instructors from the studios have picked up trophies in competitions all over the world, including Japan, Korea, Australia and London, among others.

This particular studio offers pole classes, aerial silk classes as well as flexibility training with over 100 classes each week. There are classes for students of all ages (and we do mean all ages) starting as young as four years old. That’s right. Four years old.

Judgement-free Dancing in Tokyo

At a recent showcase put on by the studio, the “kids’ class” made up the opening act of the show. The kids performed surrounded by women and men wearing eight-inch platform heels and very little else as their parents watched on with huge proud grins on their faces. Many outsiders would likely see it as inappropriate, but like many underground communities, those on the inside are there because they’ve found a judgement-free space in a largely traditional society.

A Vibrant Subculture of Japan

The show was structured as a student showcase as well as a competition. The competitors either performed in the ubiquitous mega platform heels (no ankles were broken) or in bare feet depending on their style and were judged based on a strict point system similar to those used in other competitive dance styles.

This vibrant subculture of Japan is another one of many where athletes and sequin enthusiasts collide to celebrate their craft and get really really stretchy. Seriously though, sign me up!

Check out Polish’s Instagram account for more awesome photos and videos! Get ready to feel inadequate. We’re going to go do some push ups.

This article originally appeared on and is republished here with permission.