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History and Evolution of Shiatsu Massage

Priyanka Kosta Sonkushre
Shiatsu massage has been in use since ages for promoting good health and relieving stress. If you are interested in learning about it, go through this post and enrich yourself with the historical knowledge pertaining to it.
One of the oldest forms of therapy known to human beings is a body massage. It helps in relaxation and rejuvenation of the body. It imbibes energy in the body and enhances attentiveness of the mind. Several techniques of body massage are practiced and one of them is 'Shiatsu Massage'.
It is a Japanese form of therapy which does not include oils for treatment rather, makes use of fingers and palms to apply pressure on specific points of the body in order to relieve stress. Unlike shiatsu massage therapy, western massage techniques use oils and lotions that are applied on the body with rubbing motion.
Shiatsu massage is done on a futon mat and the person can keep his clothes on during the therapy.

The term "Shiatsu" has been derived from two Japanese words - shi (finger) and atsu (pressure). Shiatsu massage has its origin several years ago. The following paragraphs present to you a glimpse of its historical background and evolution.

History of Shiatsu Massage

Though shiatsu is a Japanese form of therapy, its origin is linked to ancient Chinese philosophy. It was developed during the early years of the twentieth century.
In the year 1919, Tamai Tempaku, the originator of shiatsu technique published his writing called Shiatsu Ho, which was a combination of Anma (a massage therapy carried out by the blind), Ampuku (abdominal massage used during childbirth), other therapeutic exercises, and western anatomy and physiology.
A few significant events occurred that led to the evolution of shiatsu therapy -

Between 1911 - 1925: The Shiatsu Law defined the term "Shiatsu" for the first time.
In 1955: Shiatsu got legal approval to be a part of Anma massage.
In 1957: Ministry of Health and Welfare officially licensed the Japan Shiatsu School.
In 1964: Shiatsu was recognized as a distinct therapy.

The evolution of Shiatsu massage as a recognizable therapy is due to the efforts of Takujiro Namikoshi. He was a small boy when his family shifted to Hokkaido in the year 1905.
He was the one who unknowingly practiced this technique on his mother who was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. His mother said that she was better relieved of the pain when he gave her a massage, as compared to his siblings. He realized that pressing provided more relief than rubbing, and eventually helped in healing his mother's body completely.
This experience made him realize that this technique could also prove beneficial in treating other ailments of the body.
Takujiro Namikoshi opened the Shiatsu Institute of Therapy in Hokkaido in 1925. In the year 1940, he opened the Japan Shiatsu Institute in Tokyo. The Ministry of Health and Welfare licensed the school in the name of Japan Shiatsu School after its legal acceptance as a part of Anma.

The Political Struggle

The U.S. Occupational forces had taken over Japan in the year 1945. They banned the practice of all kinds of traditional therapies. Due to this, acupuncture and other traditional therapists could not practice freely.
To be able to practice, the therapists incorporated Western medical terms in their work to gain a legal acceptance. The battle took place for a long time before the therapy was accepted as a legal therapeutic procedure.
After the recognition of Shiatsu as a separate therapy, many people opted to take it up as career. The educational program of this therapy requires the student to complete 2500 hours in 3 years from an affiliated college conducting the program and clear a national exam.
Once the exam is cleared, the person is licensed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to work as a shiatsu practitioner. The evolution of shiatsu therapy as a well-known therapeutic measure has made it quite popular all over the world.