Tokujiro Namikoshi, the originator of Namikoshi Shiatsu, was born on November 3, 1905, in Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Japan. Tokujiro developed the concept of Shiatsu at a very early age. After his family moved from the warm climate of the Seto Inland Sea to a colder climate of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Tokujiro’s mother developed rheumatoid arthritis. Since no doctor or medicine was available in the village where they lived, Tokujiro and his siblings took turns stroking and massaging their mother.
At seven-years-old, Tokujiro started his hands-on therapy and was praised by his mother as she confided that “his hands felt the best.” This gave him the confidence to work harder at helping his mother, and so he became even more sensitive to her condition. Though he had no knowledge of anatomy and physiology, he “listened” to his mother’s body with his hands, and as a result of this receptivity, he sensed differences in skin condition, heat, and stiffness. He experimented with changing the application of pressure according to these variations.
When he used pressing, he found that it was more effective than massage. He continued this procedure of pressing 80% and rubbing 20% of the time while focusing on the places which were stiffest and coldest. By pressing on both sides of the spine in the mid-back region where it was the stiffest, he was unknowingly stimulating the suprarenal body releasing cortisone which is the natural cure for rheumatism.
Eventually, his mother was totally cured of her rheumatoid arthritis which taught the young Tokujiro the power of healing in the human body. This was the birth of the systematic approach and application of Traditional Shiatsu. Eventually, Tokujiro opened the Shiatsu Institute of Therapy in Hokkaido after enduring various challenges in the study of Amma Massage and Western-style massage. His devotion to establishing shiatsu as a recognized form of therapy led him to open the Japan Shiatsu Institute on February 11, 1940. The school became a well-known institute for the lectures and teaching methods.
By 1955, Shiastu was legally approved but was still designated as part of Amma Massage. In 1957, the Japan Shiastu School was officially licensed by the Minister of Health and Welfare, and was the first school of its kind in Japan. Shiatsu was recognized as a distinct form of therapy in 1964. Tokujiro passed away at 95.