Japanese Traditional Medicine | Kampo

Published: Apr 13, 2020 | Updated: Jul 14, 2021

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Japanese Traditional Medicine | Kampo

Traditional Japanese Medicine can be divided into two groups: Japanese indigenous traditional medicine and Kampo. Kampo (also known as Kanpo) is the best known and most widely spread form of traditional medicine in Japan and borrows the majority of its concepts and treatments from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Kampo was introduced gradually in Japan between the 3rd and 8th century CE. It was adapted to local culture and needs, adding its own diagnosis methods, therapeutic approaches, and herbal formulas. Today, Kampo is widely practiced, regulated and integrated into Japan’s primary healthcare system.

The main focus of Kampo is on herbs, herbology and herbal medicine, but it also utilizes a broad range of other TCM and TCM-derived treatments including acupuncture, moxibustion, and Chinese massage therapies, to name some modalities.

Well-known Japanese treatment modalities

Kampo Herbal Medicine

Japanese Kampo generally uses fixed combinations of herbs in well-described standard proportions rather than modifying herbal formulas as often done in TCM. Moreover, Hara abdominal examination is very important for Kampo therapists to come to a diagnosis. Kampo herbal prescriptions are strictly standardized and regulated in Japan and around 150 Kampo formulas are officially approved in Japan’s national healthcare system.

Anma Massage

Anma Massage, also known as Amma, is a traditional Japanese massage technique. The name, which translates simply to “massage” comes from the combination of two words: “An,” meaning to press, and “Ma,” meaning to rub, which describes the basic technique of kneading the skin.

Anma Massage uses the theoretical and practical framework of TCM, being similar to Chinese Tui Na Massage. Anma techniques target both body and mind, treating the patient physically, mentally, and spiritually, thus promoting self-awareness and the ability to cope with future emotions.

Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu is a contemporary Japanese therapy that evolved from Anma (mentioned above). The term Shiatsu is in use since 1919. Shiatsu is sometimes described as Japanese physiotherapy.

It is also compared to acupuncture because of its usage of the theoretical framework of Chinese medicine like the meridians (energy channels) and tsubo (pressure points) as well as diagnostic methods, but without the use of needles.

Ashiatsu Massage

Ashiatsu , also known as Barefoot Shiatsu, Back Walking, or Gliding Feet Massage, is a type of barefoot massage where the therapist uses the heel, sesamoid, arch, or whole plantar surface of the feet to give the massage. The name comes from the combination of two Japanese words: ashi, meaning “foot” and atsu, meaning “pressure.”

Ashiatsu developed from the combination of Japanese Shiatsu massage and ancient barefoot massage. The specific origin or background of barefoot massage is difficult to pinpoint, but studies have traced it back to ancient India, China, Japan, and other Asian countries.

Judo Therapy

Judo therapy is called Sekkotsu in Japan and is the art of traditional bone-setting. A bone-setter therapist is called Hone-Tsugi. It has been used alongside the Japanese martial arts and is a mixture of chiropractics and bodywork that focuses primarily on injuries and musculoskeletal issues, including fractures, sprains and dislocations.

Ampuku Hara Abdominal Massage

Hara in the Japanese language stands for the abdominal region. It’s a word frequently used in both Japanese Traditional Medicine and in the Japanese Martial Arts, and the Hara is considered a very important physical, psychological and energetic area of the body.

Japanese Abdominal Massage, called Ampuku, is a therapeutic abdominal internal organs massage with the goal of promoting healthy internal organs, balancing and healing the digestive and gastrointestinal system, and healing or alleviating genital and reproductive disorders.

Nuru Massage

Nuru means slippery, smooth, glaze or glossy, among other synonymous denotations. Japanese Nuru Massage is a sensual body-to-body massage where both parties are covered with an odorless, colorless and tasteless massage lotion or gel called Nuru gel.


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