Shiatsu Massage

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Shiatsu Massage

History and Development of Shiatsu Massage / Shiatsu Treatment

Tokujiro Namikoshi Sensei, the Founder of Shiatsu Therapy, was born November 3rd, 1905 in Kagawa prefecture on Shikoku Island, Japan. When he was 7 years old, his family moved to Hokkaido where the weather was cold and harsh. His mother "Masa" developed rheumatoid arthritis as a result of hard physical labour and the change from a warm to a cold, damp climate. There was no doctor or medicine available due to the isolation. Tokujiro, only 7 years of age, tried to ease his mother's pain. He discovered that she felt better when he pressed on her body with his thumbs, rather than stroking or rubbing. He concentrated his pressure on points which he found on the cervical region of her spine as well as the middle and lower back. As he applied himself, he also learned the relationship between the Adrenal glands and rheumatism. Eventually Masa's rheumatoid arthritis was cured by Tokujiro's treatment. She lived in good health to be 88 years of age.

From his study and practice he subsequently developed a scientific anatomical and physiological theory which explained his treatment. This unique Japanese hands-on therapy, he called "SHIATSU" (meaning thumb and finger pressure in Japanese). He then opened his Shiatsu clinic in Sapporo in 1925 and in Tokyo in 1933. In 1953, he was invited to introduce his Shiatsu at the Palmer Chiropractic School in Iowa, U.S.A. There he developed a good relationship with Dr. B.J. Palmer who was a founder of Chiropractic.

Toru Namikoshi Sensei, who is a son of Tokujiro, stayed at the Palmer Chiropractic School for 7 years to study and compare Shiatsu and Chiropractic. After he returned to Japan from the U.S., he contributed to the development of Shiatsu Therapy based on modern Anatomy and Physiology.

In 1940, Tokujiro established his school, the Japan Shiatsu College in Tokyo, and began to train Shiatsupractors / Shiatsu Practitioners. This was the first Training school in the world for Shiatsupractors / Shiatsu Practitioners. In 1955, the Japan Shiatsu College was officially licensed by the Ministry of Health in Japan. At present, the 3 year Registered Shiatsu Therapist program requires students to be in full attendance for 2500 hours. Upon successful completion of the program the students are eligible to take a government examination.

In 1955, Shiatsu Therapy was first authorized by the Ministry of Health in Japan. At that time the Ministry mistakenly assumed that Shiatsu and Western massage were partially Anma, a type of Acupressure massage from ancient China. In 1964, The Ministry of Health in Japan realized that Japanese Shiatsu and Western massage didn't belong to Traditional Chinese Medicine and amended the law so that Anma from China, Shiatsu from Japan and Massage from the West were all realized as different and unique therapies. Finally, Shiatsu Therapy obtained legal acknowledgement as a unique therapy.

Today, the Ministry of Health in Japan authorizes Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Anma, Massage and Shiatsu as "Alternative Therapies" which it regulates under the license system. This licensing system has promoted a misunderstanding that Shiatsu belongs to traditional Chinese Medicine. This is because the Japanese Ministry of Health considers Japanese Shiatsu, Western Massage and Anma, (all hands on therapies) to be in one category, As such, they all come under one license.

Therapists are required to pass government exams. Every student in Japan who wants to become a Shiatsu Therapist or a Registered Massage Therapist must learn the Chinese Meridians to pass the examination. Students who pass are officially called an "Anma, Massage and Shiatsu Therapist".

It is important to recognize that Shiatsu and Western massage do not belong to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Shiatsu Therapy was first authorized by the Japanese Ministry of Health in 1955. At that time, the Ministry considered Anma (a type of acupressure massage from China), Western Massage and Shiatsu all as one inclusive therapy. It was not until 1964 that Shiatsu and Western Massage were recognized by the Ministry of Health in Japan as distinctly different therapies not belonging to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Although the word "Shiatsu" is originally Japanese, its meaning has come to be understood in English speaking counties and throughout the world.

Definition of Shiatsu

"Shiatsu" means shiatsu as originated by the founder of shiatsu, Tokujiro Namikoshi Sensei. It is the application of manual and digital pressure to the skin with the aim of preventing and curing illness by stimulating the body's natural powers of recuperation, eliminating fatigue-producing elements, and promoting general good health. 
- from " The Complete Book of Shiatsu Therapy" written by Toru Namikoshi

"Shiatsu technique refers to the use of fingers and the palm of one's hands 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."
- from " The Theory and Practice of shiatsu" published by the Ministry of Health in Japan, in 1957.



What is Shiatsu?

"Shiatsu" is a Japanese word meaning "finger pressure".  It is a "hands-on" therapy used both as a compliment to conventional medicine and as a preventative/alternative therapy.

Characteristics of Shiatsu

Shiatsupractors perform Shiatsu by pressing with their thumbs, fingers and palms on Shiatsu points throughout the body to enhance the body's natural healing ability and prevent the progression of disease.  Shiatsu points are called "Tsubo" in Japanese and their location and the effect of Shiatsu on them is based on an understanding of modern Anatomy and Physiology. These points are effective in treating all body systems including the Integumentary, Muscular, Nervous, Circulatory, Skeletal, Endocrine, and Digestive systems.  They are applicable only to Shiatsu Therapy and are not related to ancient "Chinese Meridians" for Acupuncture, Moxibustion or Anma therapy.

The Japanese expression "Shindan soku Chiryo", means "Diagnosis and Therapy Combined" and is the essence of Shiatsu.  The thumbs, fingers and palms of trained and experienced Shiatsupractors are sensitive enough to detect, on contact, irregularities in the skin, muscles or body temperature.  Relating to "the Cutaneovisceral Reflexes", in the course of practical experience, Shiatsupractors are able to locate abnormalities and ascertain their degree, as well as determining the condition of the organs.  When detecting abnormalities, Shiatsupractors apply Shiatsu as a treatment at the same time.  The amount of pressure and its tempo are gauged to apply the appropriate pressure for each patient - sometimes strong or soft - quick or slow.  Lacking the sensitivity of the hand, knuckles, elbows, knees and feet are not used for application of pressure during treatments by Shiatsupractors.  Mastering the essence of Shiatsu requires many years of practical experience and is the goal of a Shiatsupractor.


What Is a Shiatsu Massage?

Have you been suffering from depression, anxiety, nausea, stiffness, headaches, or pulled muscles lately? If so, Shiatsu massage is something you may be interested in. Now, you may ask what Shiatsu massage is. Shiatsu massage is the counterpart to the Chinese method of acupressure that deals with alleviating various physical ailments by working on pressure points. 

The word “Shiatsu” comes from the Japanese words “shi,” which means finger, and “atsu,” which means pressure. Shiatsu massage, also known as Zen Shiatsu, is a conventional applied physiotherapy derived from Japanese massage traditions. It deals with the pious, theoretical, and medical characteristics of the body. 

According to Shiatsu massage techniques, the energy Gi or Chi flows in the body along various channels called meridians. During Shiatsu massage, the chi-flow is diagnosed to check whether it is jammed or loosely flowing. You will then be asked about your specific ailments. This is followed by massaging the pressure points lightly to check whether they are rigid or gentle. 

If you are planning to visit a Shiatsu massage practitioner wear loose and thin clothes made of cotton or linen. You may have to lie down on a mat or on the ground; this is done to relax the muscles. Always let the masseuse know if you are taking any medications or if you have any persistent pains like headaches. 

There are various massage options like deep tissue massage, reflexology massage, Thai massage, or reiki massage that serve different purposes. Deep tissue massage is similar to the classic massage therapy usually given, and is focused on the areas of pain. Reiki massage is a form of holistic healing used for pain management and stress relief. Reflexology massage focuses on reaching any body part, organ, or gland by healing through the hands or legs.

Always opt for the type of massage that suits your needs. For instance, for anxiety and depression, Shiatsu massage is far better than Thai massage or reflexology massage. If you are looking to alleviate sinus issues, hand reflexology massage would be better than Thai massage. You will most likely enjoy the Shiatsu massage as much as you would enjoy the deep tissue massage, but be prepared for some differences.


So in short Shiatsu is a safe and effective form of energy medicine based on years of experience.

Originating in China and Japan, Shiatsu is a therapeutic form of treatment involving many bodywork techniques: stretching, holding, massage techniques, structural alignment corrections and joint mobilization. It is a complementary therapy and has been called "Oriental Physiotherapy" and may incorporate techniques used by Osteopaths and Cranio sacral alternative therapists.

Shiatsu has also been termed "Acupuncture without needles". Acupuncture and Shiatsu in common share a theoretical base of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The body not only has a circulatory system that carries blood around the body it also has pathways that carry energy to and from the organs. These pathways are called meridians.

Within a shiatsu massage/treatment, pressure is applied to the body, along with the other techniques with the aim of improving and balancing the flow of energy along the meridian pathways that cover the entire body. It is when the energy in these pathways is stuck and out of balance in relation to each other, that ill health occurs. Acupressure points along the meridians are stimulated with thumbs rather than needles for specific purposes.

Shiatsu is holistic. This means it takes into account the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of the person as well as the physical condition and needs. The integration and balancing of these four areas of ourselves within Shiatsu treatments enables wellbeing to be recovered.

This form of alternative therapy is beneficial for all individuals and can be adapted for specific clients such as pregnant women and the elderly. You do not need to be ill to benefit from a shiatsu treatment.

Many people have regular monthly treatments to reduce the impact of daily stress; enabling them to maintain better health and freedom from unwanted symptoms.

A shiatsu massage is excellent for support during the unavoidable changes and transitions that you will experience throughout your lifetime.

Shiatsu is compatible with other types of alternative or complementary therapy or conventional treatment. It does not interfere with any medication you may be currently taking...



Shiatsu is a Japanese form of bodywork. The word shiatsu means "finger pressure", and shiatsu is sometimes described as a finger pressure massage.

How Does Shiatsu Work?

Like acupuncture, shiatsu is based on the holistic system of traditional Chinese medicine, where illness is thought to result from imbalances in the natural flow of energy, or qi (pronounced "chee") through the body.

Shiatsu therapists use finger and palm pressure on energetic pathways, called meridians to improve the flow of qi.

A scientific explanation is that shiatsu calms an overactive sympathetic nervous system, which improves circulation, relieves stiff muscles, and alleviates stress.

What Does Shiatsu Feel Like?

The shiatsu therapist applies pressure using his or her fingers, thumbs, and/or palms in a continuous rhythmic sequence.

The pressure feels more localized, because unlike other types of massage, the finger pads are used to apply pressure for most of the treatment instead of the entire palm.

Certain pressure points may feel tender, which some people describe it as "good pain."

If you feel any discomfort or pain during the treatment, tell your therapist and he or she will adjust the pressure so that it is comfortable to you.

Most people say shiatsu is as relaxing as a classic form of massage therapy.

What to Expect During a Shiatsu Treatment?

The treatment is done on a low massage table or massage mat on the floor.



Unlike other forms of massage, with shiatsu no oil is applied, so you remain fully clothed during the treatment. You may be asked to wear comfortable loose clothing during the treatment.


Uses For Shiatsu

·         Relaxation

·         Back pain

·         Headache

·         Premenstrual syndrome

·         Anxiety

·         Insomnia

·         Neck and shoulder pain

·         Tiredness

·         Recovery from injuries

·         Stress

·         Arthritis pain

·         Poor digestion

·         Constipation

·         Depression



A seated head, neck and shoulder Shiatsu Massage costs R200 for 30min

A Full Body Shiatsu Massage costs R400 for  60min

A Full Body Shiatsu Massage costs R500 for  90min



Seated, Head, Neck and Shoulder Shiatsu and Acupressure Massage (30min)

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Full Body Shiatsu and Acupressure Massage (60min or 90min)

Shiatsu Massage Shiatsu Massage