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Manipulative and body-based methods - edit
NCCAM classifications
  1. Alternative Medical Systems
  2. Biologically Based Therapy
  3. Manipulative Methods
  4. Energy Therapy
See also

Shiatsu (指圧 Japanese from shi, meaning finger, and atsu, meaning pressure) is a traditional Japanese hands-on therapy based on anatomical and physiological theory and is regulated as a licensed medical therapy with the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Japan. Shiatsu is an evolving form. Various styles (called Derivative Shiatsu) incorporate (to differing degrees) aspects of Japanese massage traditions, Chinese Medicine practice, and "Western" anatomy and physiology.


History of Shiatsu

Shiatsu, as well as Teate (手当て), originated in Japan. There were many hands-on therapies called Teate before traditional Chinese therapies such as Acupuncture and Tuina (called Anma in Japan) were introduced to Japan. The term Shiatsu might be first cited in a 1915 book, Tenpaku Tamai's Shiatsu Ryōhō.

Tokujiro Namikoshi founded the Japan Shiatsu College in 1940 and systematized a form of Shiatsu therapy based on Western anatomy and physiology. In Japan, Namikoshi's system enjoys special legal status, and its adherents often credit him with the development of Shiatsu; the story is told that at age seven, Tokujiro Namikoshi developed a technique of pressing with his thumbs and palms as he tried to nurse his mother who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.

Namikoshi treated many high profile persons such as former Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida and other successive prime ministers, the prosecutor for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, Prosecutor Keenan, as well as celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali. In this way, Shiatsu became known not only in Japan but also overseas.

Other styles of Shiatsu exist; adherents of the Namikoshi system generally contend that these are derived from the work of Namikoshi and refer to them as Derivative Shiatsu.

  • Tadashi Izawa established Meridian Shiatsu, incorporating Meridian Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into his Shiatsu therapy.
  • Shizuto Masunaga’s book, called Zen Shiatsu in English, popularized Zen (or Masunaga) Shiatsu in North America and Europe.
  • Ryukyu Endo, a Buddhist priest, introduced Tao Shiatsu, which involves concentrating the mind and making supplications to the Buddha.
  • Kiyoshi Ikenaga, in his book Tsubo Shiatsu, elucidates from an anatomical and physiological point of view, how meridian points (or tsubo) are useful in Shiatsu therapy.

Since 1980 the evolution and development of Shiatsu has largely taken place in Europe and North America:

  • Wataru Ohashi has developed a style called Ohashiatsu.
  • Pauline Sasaki and Cliff Andrews have developed a form, derived from Zen Shiatsu, called Quantum Shiatsu, which aims to work with different levels of a person's energy: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
  • Bill Palmer and David Ventura have developed Movement Shiatsu, which specialises in working with chronic conditions through specific experiments and exercises.

Time Line

  • 1912: Tokujiro Namikoshi found his own therapy by treating his mother with only his thumbs and palms. He first named this therapy Appaku then later changed it to Shiatsu.
  • 1919: Tenpeki Tamai published his book The Shiatsu Method (指圧法 Shiatsu-hō?). This is believed to be the first use of the term Shiatsu.
  • 1925: Namikoshi opened his first clinic for Shiatsu therapy.
  • 1940: Namikoshi opened the first school of Shiatsu therapy in Tokyo. (Now this school is known as Japan Shiatsu College.)
  • 1940: Namikoshi established first association for Shiatsu therapy. (Now this association is known as Japan Shiatsu Association.)
  • 1945: After World War II, traditional Japanese forms of medicine were outlawed by the MacArthur occupation government, after returning POWs told stories about being stuck with needles and burned with moxa when they fell ill. The ban caused much protest. Because there were still many blind Shiatsu/Anma practitioners, Helen Keller interceded with the American government. The ban was rescinded.
  • 1950: Toshiko Phipps becomes the first qualified Shiatsu therapist to teach in the U.S.
  • 1953: Namikoshi and his son Tōru invited to the Palmer College of Chiropractic to introduce Shiatsu to the U.S.
  • 1955: Shiatsu therapy first recognized by Japanese government but only in conjunction with Anma and massage.
  • 1956: In a famous incident that greatly increased the reputation of Shiatsu and of Namikoshi Tokujiro, Namikoshi treated Marilyn Monroe after she fell gravely ill while visiting Japan and failed to respond to conventional treatment.
  • 1957: Shiatsu officially recognized by Japan as a separate and distinct therapy.
  • 1964: Shiatsu officially defined by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Japan.
  • 1980: Shiazuto Masunaga's students teaching in the U.S. and Britain, most notably Pauline Sasaki and Wataru Ohashi.
  • 1981: Shiatsu Society in UK formed
  • 1989: AOBTA formed in United States
  • 1999: Canadian Shiatsu Society is established and 2200hour educational standard is set.
  • 2000: Shiatsu occupational title Shiatsupractor is registered.

Definition of Shiatsu

"Shiatsu technique refers to the use of fingers and palm of one's hand to apply pressure to particular sections on the surface of the body for the purpose of correcting the imbalances of the body, and for maintaining and promoting health. It is also a method contributing to the healing of specific illnesses."

—Japanese medical department of the Ministry of Welfare (current Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) in December 1957.

Essence of Shiatsu

The characteristic of Shiatsu is to practice using only the fingers, palms and especially the thumbs, but the essence of Shiatsu is “Diagnosis and Therapy combined.”

“Diagnosis and Therapy combined” is the ability of the practitioner to use his sensory organs (palms, fingers, and thumbs) to detect irregularities, such as stiffness of the surface of the body, and to promptly correct or heal these problems. To acquire this skill takes considerable experience. The defining difference between Shiatsu therapy and modern and Kampo medicine (also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), such as acupuncture and moxibustion) is this “Diagnosis and Therapy combined”; the fact that Shiatsu does not always require previous diagnosis before commencing treatment.

In modern medicine, the course of treatment can only be decided after a diagnosis has been made. In TCM, it is also necessary to diagnose before treating. In Shiatsu therapy, practitioners promote the prevention and recovery of illnesses by stimulating the immune system and natural healing power that people already possess. Therefore, even without a diagnosis or with a language barrier, practitioners can, to quote Tokujiro Namikoshi, treat patients with “thumbs and thin futon” at any time. Treating the body as a whole, so they say, helps to restore the physical functions of the nervous system, circulatory system, bone structure, muscles, and internal secretion and stimulates its alleged natural ability to heal illness. That being said, skilled practitioners can contribute considerably to regional health and medical treatment.

Shiatsu standardization

In Japan, anyone who practices Shiatsu therapy must be licensed with the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Shiatsupractors are required to study at least three years/2,200 hour educational program of Shiatsu therapy in the universities or colleges which are authorized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and pass the national exam to be licensed.

"Shiatsupractor" is the name given to a recently proposed international standardized Shiatsu license. The name Shiatsupractor was first used in British Columbia, Canada in the 1990s. Presently, at the end of 2003, in the regions of North America (United States, and Canada), Europe (member nations of the EU), and Japan, the use of Shiatsupractor is officially protected as a registered trademark. In Japan, the educational standard for Shiatsupractor approval corresponds to that of the licenses for Anma, Massage, and Shiatsu practitioners.

Shiatsu originated in Japan and has migrated to many corners of the Earth. As such, every nation and state has devised its own method of certification and licensure, often overlapping with the licenses for massage.

In the U.S., one professional organization for Asian Bodywork Therapy (including Shiatsu) is the AOBTA (American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia). This organization is seeking statewide standardization of Asian Bodywork licensure requirements. To date, the AOBTA has been named specifically in the licensure laws of Illinois and Washington, DC. The AOBTA is also working with the NCCAOM (National Certification Council for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) to introduce mandatory, standardized national board certification to the profession.

The AOBTA and NCCAOM require applicants to present a portfolio of training including anatomy and physiology, Chinese medicine, student clinic, primary discipline training, and elective coursework.

See also


1. Internal jugular vein thrombosis associated with shiatsu massage of the neck. Wada Y - J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry - 01-JAN-2005; 76(1): 142-3

External downloads

  • Download maps of the Shu points, Mu points, Circadian clock, every Meridian (PDF files, downloadable under Creative Commons Licence : Paternity-Non Commercial use only-No derivative works)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Shiatsu". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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