Ancient healing art Shiatsu

Though shiatsu is a Japanese form of therapy, its origin is linked to ancient Chinese philosophy. One of the first written accounts describing meridians as channels of energy was discovered in a Han dynasty (206BC-220AD) tomb in Hunan, China. Some 8,000-year-old stone acupuncture needles have been found, also in China, and Neolithic ice mummies have been found to have acupuncture points tattooed on their skin. There is ample evidence therefore that people have been aware of Qi, and been treating it for many, many years. The oldest text available – The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Han Dynasty 206 BC–AD 25) gives us an inkling of how medicine and philosophy were tied together at that time.

Around the 6th Century AD, monks brought a combination of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism from China to Japan. Massage, along with acupuncture and herbalism, was for centuries an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine. The Japanese developed and refined many of its methods to suit their own physiology, temperament and climate.

The story of Shiatsu as we now know it, however, carries on in Japan which in the 6th . A form of massage called Anma evolved during the Edo Period (1602-1868) in Japan. This therapy was mainly performed by the blind. However, the practice of massage known by the old name of anma (anmo or tuina in China) became gradually divorced from medicine and more associated with relaxation and pleasure. Certain practitioners were concerned to preserve massage and related techniques as an accepted healing art.

It wasn’t until the early part of the twentieth century that Shiatsu itself was developed. The originator was Tamai Tempaku, who published a book called Shiatsu Ho (finger pressure method) in 1919. His book combined Anma, Ampuku (an ancient form of abdominal massage used in pregnancy and childbirth), and Do-In (therapeutic exercises), with Western anatomy and physiology. Originally he used the term shiatsu ryoho or finger pressure way of healing, then shiatsu ho or finger pressure method. Now known simply as Shiatsu, it was officially recognized as a therapy by the Japanese Government in 1964, so distinguishing it from anma and Western massage.