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Alternative Healing From Japan

This article was written by Danica Davidson
posted under Health

People will never stop trying to find ways to heal themselves.  In the past few decades, the Western world has grown increasingly intrigued by Eastern forms of alternative healing, including those from Japan.   The island nation is rich in history and philosophy, and its people, like people the world over, have long looked for ways to heal.  Unlike traditional “Western” (or allopathic) medicine, many Japanese forms of alternative healing center around the concept of Chi.

Reiki is one Japanese healing form that has become a buzzword lately.  Depending on how the word is translated, it can mean such things as “God’s energy,” “divine air,” or “mysterious atmosphere,” to name only a few.  While Reiki is not a religion or part of any set spiritual doctrine, there is a spirituality to it. Reiki is supposed to heal both physical and emotional traumas, cleaning out diseases and helping people feel better about themselves and their world.  This is done through a laying-on of hands and a movement of energy (chi). Chi is the flow of energy, something very important in numerous forms of Asian healing, including Reiki.  In fact, the Japanese version of the word chi (“ki”) is part of the word Reiki.  Many forms of Asian healing that involve chi (including Reiki) revolve around “tsubos,” or points on the body where chi is stored. If a tsubos point feels empty, that is supposed to mean there is not enough chi. Likewise, if it feels much too hard, there is a dangerous overabundance of chi. People practicing various alternative healing forms work with these points to get the chi just right.

On a literal level, this is difficult to understand.  But for those who practice Reiki, the results speak for themselves.  I’ve had my own experiences with Reiki, beginning a few years ago when I first tried it out of curiosity.  After hearing so many people praise it, and others scoff it, I thought I had to investigate for myself.  I didn’t expect it to work or not to work; I expected to try something new and have a story to tell afterward.

And what a story it was!  I went in with a cold, and when everything was said and done, my cold was completely gone.  My throat, which had been raw, no longer hurt and my nose had stopped running.  I felt as if I were glowing.  While I can’t describe how it happened or whether it was a miraculous healing, an everyday great thing, or the placebo effect, I know that it worked for me that day.  From that day on, Reiki has held an interest for me and I’ve suggested other people try it for themselves and see what results they get.

However, Reiki is far from the only form of Japanese healing embraced by the West. Shiatsu, a form of massage, is a physical therapy brought to us in its modern form by Tokujiro Namikoshi that has some links to Chinese healing.  It also uses touch to heal and is about moving fingers and palms.  Shiatsu can be rough, but that’s part of how it works.   In 1957, the Japanese government officially recognized shiatsu as a form of therapy and healing.   Some think of it as Japanese acupressure. Another style of shiatsu, Zen shiatsu, couples the massage more closely with spirituality.   This version was brought to us by Shizuto Masunaga, who wanted to add a Taoist and spiritual flair.  Zen shiatsu has since become quite popular in the West, particularly in the United States and England.  Regardless of its Zen or Taoist themes, shiatsu has what some would consider an “otherworldly” aspect, like Reiki and other forms of healing, since it involves chi.

While some Asian forms of alternative healing are relatively new, like Reiki and shiatsu, there are many forms that have existed for thousands of years. If we go farther back in history, we discover Anma.  While shiatsu can be considered a form of Anma, the two are not mutually exclusive.  Anma dates back five thousand years in China and found its way to Japan around thirteen hundred years ago.  Because of Japanese writings, there has been conjecture that Anma originated in India prior to traveling to China, which would make the practice at least several thousand years older.  Similar to the Western massage, it includes kneading the muscles.  However, Western massages tend to be all about anatomy, while Anma, again, stresses the importance of chi. There are nine sections to an Anma massage: keisatsu ho (stroking), junen ho (kneading), shinsen ho (vibration), appaku ho (pressure), koda ho (percussion), kyokute ho (special percussion), undo ho (movement therapy with exercise), kyosatsu ho (rotation with stroking and strong pressure), and haaku ho (holding and squeezing).  This is meant to not only give the person a full-body massage, but to help the massage therapist become more deep and spiritual as well and aid in the transfer of chi.

Acupuncture, a well-known Chinese form of healing using needles, is yet another therapy in which chi is used.  And while we may think of acupuncture as being strictly Chinese, there is a Japanese version of it that differs in a few ways, including the size and placing of needles.  In Japanese acupuncture the needles are thinner and do not need to be placed far under the skin.  

As we can see, chi is very important to these healing forms, and the techniques tend to be aimed to healing not just the body, but the heart and soul as well.  It has even been said that the therapists are healed as well as their patients and clients while using these techniques.   

Whether through the spiritual movement of energy, physical touch, or the placement of needles, Japan provides us with many alternative therapies we can use to heal ourselves.  What may work for one person may not work for another.  That said, many people the world over believe these techniques to be beneficial. They are no longer solely therapies of Japan; these forms of healing now have a worldwide audience. As long as there are ailments, both of the body and the soul, people will search for cures. As long as there are benefits to be had from various alternative therapies, there will be people flocking to try them out.  Who knows? A person could walk into a room with a cold and leave feeling all better.  It’s happened before.


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