Tsubo Shiatsu History

Shiatsu therapy is a development of Chinese acupuncture.  It’s origins stretch back into the very mists of Chinese antiquity.  During the unification of Northern and Southern China in the fifth century B.C. the science of Oriental Bodywork Therapy had evolved to such a level that mastery of oriental bodywork was required of every oriental medical physician, in order to help them develop the refined palpation skills necessary for the competent practice of acupuncture.

In the sixth century A.D. a Buddhist monk, Gan Jin Osho brought to Japan the medicine of Imperial China, which included Oriental Bodywork, Tao-yin and Anma.

These physical therapies reached a peak in Japan during the Edo periodShiatsu (1603-1867).  As in China hundreds of years before, a ruling was made that every physician was required to master oriental bodywork before being allowed to diagnose or use needles.

In the early 19th Century in Japan, European medical influences were being felt.  This was especially so for the ruling aristocratic class.  They became so impressed with European surgical methods and efficiency with infectious diseases that they discouraged and forbade the use of traditional oriental therapies.

In 1919, Tamai Tempaku, (later to be regarded as the founder of the Shiatsu School of Bodywork) published his second book, “Shiatsu Ho” (Finger Pressure Therapy).  Tempaku had thoroughly studied European anatomy, physiology, massage and the oriental bodywork therapies.

As well as practicing from this base he wrote several works related to Shiatsu and Ampuku (Hara) therapy and diagnoses.  This marrying of eastern and western traditional medical practice was revolutionary at the time.  Among his students were Katsusuke Serizawa, Tokujiro Namikoshi and the mother of Shizuto Masunaga.  These students developed a number of differing approaches.  They each founded schools, which still exert a major influence on the study and practice of Shiatsu today.

In 1925 “The Shiatsu Therapists Association” was formed in Japan. During the post World War II  reorganisation and allied occupation of Japan, Harikyu Shiatsu, as Japanese medicine is termed was outlawed by General McArthur.  It was reinstated however because of the enormous outcry from the Japanese people.  In the mid 1985o’s, Shiatsu was recognised as a legitimate form of therapy by the Japanese government.  Bodywork licence required two full years of schooling, oriental medical physicians needed three years of medical school and tw3o years of residency before being allowed to sit for Federal licensing. 

Today in Japan, Shiatsu/Anma is made available to the workforce free of charge by all major industries because of the enormous decrease in time lost from the job by workers who receive regular preventative Shiatsu Therapy.

In 1950, Toshiko Phipps was the first qualified Japanese Shiatsu therapist to being teaching in America.  But Shiatsu did not become widely known in the United Sates and Europe until the 1970’s.  In the West the influence of Namikoshi and Masunaga upon the practice of shiatsu is far reaching.  Different styles and methods of shiatsu have grown and are growing from these origins.

Shiatsu Practitioners Assocation of Aotearoa Inc.