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Not to be confused with Shih Tzu.
Shiatsu practitioners believe that an energy called ki flows through a network of meridians in the body.

Shiatsu (Kanji: 指圧; Hiragana: しあつ) is a form of Japanese bodywork based on the theoretical framework of traditional Chinese medicine.

In the Japanese language, shiatsu means "finger pressure". Shiatsu techniques include massages with fingers, thumbs, and palms; assisted stretching; and joint manipulation and mobilization.[1][2] To examine a patient, a shiatsu practitioner uses palpation and, sometimes, pulse diagnosis.

Shiatsu derives from a Japanese massage modality called anma. The Japanese may have adapted anma from tui na, a Chinese bodywork system that arrived in Japan during the Nara period (710–793 CE). Tokujiro Namikoshi (1905–2000) founded a shiatsu college in the 1940s, and is often credited with inventing modern shiatsu. Shiatsu in Japan is regulated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.[1]

There is no evidence that shiatsu is an effective medical treatment.[2][3]


Shiatsu evolved from anma, a Japanese massage modality developed in 1320 by Akashi Kan Ichi.[4][5] Anma was popularised in the seventeenth century by acupuncturist Sugiyama Waichi, and around the same time the first books on the subject, including Fujibayashi Ryohaku's Anma Tebiki ("Manual of Anma"), appeared.[6] The Fujibayashi school carried anma into the modern age.[7] Prior to the emergence of shiatsu in Japan, masseurs were often nomadic, earning their keep in mobile massage capacities, and paying commissions to their referrers.[citation needed]

Since Sugiyama's time, massage in Japan had been strongly associated with the blind.[8] Sugiyama, blind himself, established a number of medical schools for the blind which taught this practice. During the Tokugawa period, edicts were passed which made the practice of anma solely the preserve of the blind – sighted people were prohibited from practicing the art.[4] As a result, the "blind anma" has become a popular trope in Japanese culture.[9] This has continued into the modern era, with a large proportion of the Japanese blind community continuing to work in the profession.[10]

Abdominal palpation as a Japanese diagnostic technique was developed by Shinsai Ota in the 17th century.[11][12]

During the Occupation of Japan by the Allies after World War II, traditional medicine practices were banned (along with other aspects of traditional Japanese culture) by General MacArthur. The ban prevented a large proportion of Japan's blind community from earning a living.[citation needed] Many Japanese entreated for this ban to be rescinded. Additionally, writer and advocate for blind rights Helen Keller, on being made aware of the prohibition, interceded with the United States government; at her urging, the ban was rescinded.[13]

Tokujiro Namikoshi (1905-2000) founded his shiatsu college in the 1940s, and is often credited with inventing modern shiatsu. His legacy was the state recognition of Shiatsu as an independent method of treatment in Japan. However, the term shiatsu was already in use in 1919, when a book called "Shiatsu Ho" ("finger pressure method") was published, and in 1925 the Shiatsu Therapists Association began, with the purpose of distancing shiatsu from Anma massage.[14]

Namikoshi's school taught shiatsu within a framework of western medical science. A student and teacher of this school, Shizuto Masunaga, brough shiatsu back to traditional eastern medicine and philosophic framework. He founded Zen Shiatsu and the Iokai Shiatsu Center school.[15]

Scientific research[edit]

There is no evidence that shiatsu is an effective medical treatment.[2]

Contemporary research has not conclusively proven the existence of qi or meridians.[16][17] So far, studies researching shiatsu's effectiveness have been poorly executed.[2][3]

According to Cancer Research UK, "There is no scientific evidence to prove that shiatsu can cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer. Also, a lack of high quality research so far means there is currently no scientific evidence to support the use of shiatsu for controlling cancer symptoms. This doesn't mean that shiatsu doesn't work in controlling symptoms or side effects, simply that it has not yet been tested properly."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jarmey, Chris; Mojay, Gabriel (1991). Shiatsu: The Complete Guide. Thorsons. p. 8. ISBN 9780722522431. Shiatsu therapy is a form of manipulation administered by the thumbs, fingers and palms, without the use of any instrument, mechanical or otherwise, to apply pressure to the human skin, to correct internal malfunctioning, promote and maintain health and treat specific diseases" 
  2. ^ a b c d Robinson, Nicola; Lorenc, Ava; Liao, Xing (2011). "The evidence for Shiatsu: A systematic review of Shiatsu and acupressure". BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 11: 88. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-88. PMC 3200172. PMID 21982157. Shiatsu incorporates acupressure, which is similar but applies pressure for longer on specific pressure points on meridians, following Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) 
  3. ^ a b c "Shiatsu". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Jōya, Moku (1985). Mock Jōya's Things Japanese. The Japan Times. p. 55. 
  5. ^ Fu ren da xue (Beijing, China). Ren lei xue bo wu guan; S.V.D. Research Institute; Society of the Divine Word (1962). Folklore studies. p. 235. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  6. ^ Kaneko, Dr. DoAnn T (2006). Shiatsu Anma Therapy. ISBN 9780977212804. 
  7. ^ Louis Frédéric (2002). Japan Encyclopedia. Harvard University Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Young, Jacqueline (2007). Complementary Medicine For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. p. 99. ISBN 9780470519684. 
  9. ^ Beresford-Cooke, Carola (2010). Shiatsu Theory and Practice. Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 9780080982472. 
  10. ^ American Foundation for the Blind (1973). "The New outlook for the blind" 67. p. 178. 
  11. ^ Carl Dubitsky (1 May 1997). Bodywork Shiatsu: Bringing the Art of Finger Pressure to the Massage Table. Inner Traditions * Bear & Company. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-89281-526-5. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  12. ^ Kiiko Matsumoto; Stephen Birch (1988). Hara Diagnosis: Reflections on the Sea. Paradigm Publications. pp. 315–. ISBN 978-0-912111-13-1. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  13. ^ Beresford-Cooke, Carola (2003). Shiatsu Theory and Practice: A Comprehensive Text for the Student and Professional. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 2. ISBN 9780443070594. 
  14. ^ Stillerman, Elaine (2009). Modalities for Massage and Bodywork. Mosby. pp. 281–300. ISBN 032305255X. 
  15. ^ Jarmey, Chris and Mojay, Gabriel (1991). Shiatsu: The Complete Guide. Thorsons. p. 6. ISBN 9780722522431. 
  16. ^ Bauer, M (2006). "The Final Days of Traditional Beliefs? – Part One". Chinese Medicine Times 1 (4): 31. 
  17. ^ Ahn, Andrew C.; Colbert, Agatha P.; Anderson, Belinda J.; Martinsen, ØRjan G.; Hammerschlag, Richard; Cina, Steve; Wayne, Peter M.; Langevin, Helene M. (2008). "Electrical properties of acupuncture points and meridians: A systematic review". Bioelectromagnetics 29 (4): 245–56. doi:10.1002/bem.20403. PMID 18240287. 

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