What Is the Shiatsu Style of Massage Therapy?

Learn more about this ancient Japanese massage therapy technique

If you’re enrolled in massage therapy school, or are considering becoming a massage therapist, you’ve probably heard of the style of massage called shiatsu. This is a unique kind of massage that started in Japan, and it has a range of health benefits for clients.

Shiatsu is a therapeutic practice, created to strengthen and support the body’s natural ability to heal itself. This technique relies on the body’s own internal sense of balance. Shiatsu integrates a holistic approach, which means it brings together the person’s physical being along with the mental, emotional, and spiritual senses.

Where shiatsu originated
Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, shiatsu was developed in Japan in combination with some of the Western massage therapy techniques. The Japanese word “shiatsu” translates to “finger pressure.” Practitioners of this technique strive to balance the flow of energy and correct the structure of the body through touch, light to moderate pressure, and gentle techniques of manipulation.

History of shiatsu
For centuries, the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine has integrated massage along with acupuncture and herbal remedies to restore and maintain health. In the 6th century a Buddhist monk introduced massage to Japan, where practitioners refined it in response to the needs of the climate and the physiology of the people they treated. The Japanese developed a system of using their hands to facilitate healing, and this continues to be central to the practice today. The government of Japan came to officially recognize shiatsu as a therapy in 1964.

Styles of shiatsu
Modern practice draws upon a range of styles and approaches, which are each based in their own theory and philosophy. Among the different aspects of shiatsu are:

  • general body work
  • acupressure points
  • energy pathways
  • diagnostic systems (such as the Five Element system of Traditional Chinese Medicine)

Tokojiro Namikoshi and Shizuto Masunaga were two early shiatsu practitioners who developed their own styles of this type of massage and founded schools for teaching these methodologies.

How clients experience shiatsu
People who receive shiatsu treatments describe it as profoundly relaxing. It can be extremely helpful in relieving stress and can help with overall health as well as the prevention of or recovery from illness.

There are of course an array of other modalities that therapists use this career. If you’re interested in learning more about massage therapy as a profession, reach out to the Branford Hall Career Institute to learn more about the training program we offer. Massage can be an exciting profession within the healthcare field, with a range of advantages for clients and practitioners alike.

This post is part of the Branford Hall weekly blog. We offer health and career advice to students and prospective students. Our professional training programs span a number of of fields, and we have campuses throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Contact us for more information or to schedule a tour!