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ISSN: 2327-5162
Alternative & Integrative Medicine
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Alternative and Integrative Medicine in Japan

Nozomi Donoyama*

Department of Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Tsukuba University of Technology 4-12-7 Kasuga, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan

*Corresponding Author:
Nozomi Donoyama
Department of Health, Faculty of Health Sciences
Tsukuba University of Technology 4-12-7 Kasuga
Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
Tel: 81-29-858-9631
E-mail: [email protected]

Received date: January 25, 2017; Accepted date: January 27, 2017; Published date: January 29, 2017

Citation: Donoyama N (2017) Alternative and Integrative Medicine in Japan. Altern Integr Med 6:e121. doi:10.4172/2327-5162.1000e121

Copyright: © 2017 Donoyama N. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Manual therapy (massage); Acupuncture; Moxibustion; Education; Integrative medicine; Japan


In a stress-filled, aging society, it is possible that many individuals may become more health conscious or change their view on health. Everyone wants to live a long, healthy life. Because of these reasons, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been receiving an increasing larger global spotlight, despite significant developments in conventional medicine.

We have a Japanese saying, "mubyo sokusai (no illness and good health)”; however, recently the saying "ichibyo sokusai (having one illness and excellent health-as this one illness leads the individual to pay greater attention to their overall condition than someone who is never ill)” has come into use. There is also another saying, "mibyo-chi (to treat before disease appears)”, which originated in eastern medicine. This means the primary care is important. It can easily be said that acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine (Kampo), and manual therapy, which are now called CAM, have been used to prevent disease, cure symptoms, and maintain and promote good health among Japanese.

However, in Japan, these therapies were not "complementary” or “alternative”; they were conventional and mainstream. Acupuncture, moxibustion, Chinese herbal medicine, manual therapy (Ankyo), and movement therapy such as qigong (Do-in ) were originally brought to Japan from China in the 6th century and now have distinctly Japanese styles. Although European medicine began to be introduced to Japan in the end of 15th century, these Japanese therapies were components of the mainstream medicine until 1868, when the new government overhauled many of its policies, including those related to medicine and education. Following this, universities were built following European education. There, western medicine, not Japan's specific traditional therapies, began to be taught, a pattern that extends to the present day. Currently in Japan, Kampo medicine is practiced by only medical doctors, as herbal medicine is after all a type of medication. Some medical doctors practice it actively, but this is not universal. To practice acupuncture, moxibustion, or manual therapy, respective national licenses are needed. Before taking these national examinations, a high school degree and about 2500 hours of studies in at least three years, including both western and eastern basic and clinical medicine and clinical practice are required. These educations draw from both scientific studies as well as ancient Chinese philosophy bases.

Modern manual therapy in Japan includes two main categories. The first is Japan's traditional massage, Anma therapy (“an” is the Japanese term for applying pressure, and "ma” the term for stroking), which originated from the practice of the above Ankyo. Massage is performed through the clothing. It is thought to have been originally designed to stimulate the flow of qi, or life energy, throughout the body to rebalance the flow through the meridians. Interpreting this traditional rationale in light of modern science, Anma improves blood flow and coordination by the autonomic nervous system. The second massage category originated from Europe. In 1885, an army physician brought a western medical massage book from Europe to Japan, which was translated as "Anma Techniques" in Japanese, and saw use mainly in hospitals. I think that thereafter, these two massage styles and principles might combine to become the current Japanese massage style. More recently, we have also begun to practice massage using oils or aromas, such as is done in Thailand, or in some western countries.

There is one last important point that is a source of great pride regarding these therapies: they have a long history of practice by therapists with visual impairment. One institute to teach acupuncture, moxibustion, and manual therapy to people with visual impairment, started in 1682 by a blind therapist, was converted into a vocational course of schools for the blind in the end of the 19th century, and their programs in acupuncture, moxibustion, and manual therapy were developed into a course in higher education. At the National University Corporation Tsukuba University of Technology, students with visual impairment study these therapies for four years and become eligible to receive a bachelor's degree in acupuncture and moxibustion.

The university has a Center for Integrative Medicine, containing a section for acupuncture, moxibustion and manual therapy, and a medical clinic which includes Kampo medicine, orthopedics, neurology, psychiatry, and other subjects. Due to the centralized administration of medicine such medical setting is rare in Japan. I wish to increase these settings, as the Center plays important roles in maintaining and managing good health in local residents and in creating highly educated therapists who possess strong skills and deep knowledge in western and eastern medicine.

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