The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan

John Dixon acupuncture

Thousands of Blind People practice acupuncture in modern day Japan. It all started with Waichi Sugiyama – a blind acupuncturist in the 17th century.

The picture above portrays Waichi Sugiyama, who is also known as the ‘God of Acupuncture’. I talk about him in one of my chapters of my book ‘The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan’. Available on Amazon.

Waichi Sugiyama

Waichi Sugiyama was a 17th century blind acupuncturist who treated the Shogun of Japan and opened up a School for the Blind. It could arguably be said that his actions inadvertently enabled the survival of acupuncture in Japan hundreds of years later when it was threatened by Western Science not on one, but two occasions.

An Exploration into the Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan.

There is an old tradition in Japan for the blind being trained and qualified to practice the traditional medical art of acupuncture. It is a tradition that goes back to at least the 17th century. Today, thousands of blind people are practicing in this field, although these numbers have been decreasing in the last few decades. There is also a tradition of the blind practicing anma massage. Think of the fictional character Zatoichi, a swordsman who also made his daily living by being a travelling masseur and you may get an idea of how this tradition has seeped into popular culture.

The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation

In 2016 I applied and was awarded a grant from the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation to do research into the Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan. 

As part of this project, I travelled to Japan and interviewed four senior-level blind acupuncturists and visited the clinic of one of them. I also visited a school for the blind where students are trained in the skills of acupuncture, moxibustion and massage in Hachioji, Tokyo. I interviewed two of the teachers there. This book contains the results of my interviews. Finally, I carried out some general background research into the development of this tradition in Japan and talked about some key figures that made it all possible. It is a short book, but informative. I believe it is an easy read for people who don’t have any background knowledge in acupuncture or oriental medicine.

The book was recently published and is available on all Amazon sites – UK, USA, JP, Brazil, Australia and Europe in both print and e-book versions.

What did I learn from this?

It was hard work to write the book. But any kind of writing, editing and publishing a work this big requires developing certain skills. After accepting the grant, I had an obligation to complete the project and it was delayed due to various life things going on with me – the usual, family, work. So there was some pressure for me to get it done. Also the editing process took a lot of work and continued for some time even after I released the e-book version of the project. The project also cost me much more money than I received as a grant, which came out of my own pocket.

I relied heavily on the support of several bilingual members, who volunteered to help carry out the interviews as my Japanese is at a low-level and which made the project a team effort more than an individual one.

It is also rather an unusual thing to do – to visit a school for the blind in any country and interview the teachers there, and so that added to my life experience. This project also enabled me meet up with an old colleague from Japan who I had lost contact with, but who agreed to help me to carry out the interview at the blind school.

It is a self-published, self edited book, but I hope the information within provides enough value for people to overlook these shortcomings. For example, there is a detailed chapter on Waichi Sugiyama which contains a lot of information about him that previously was not available in English.

Some of the information about Sugiyama I discovered actually contradicts the current English Wikipedia entry about him.

Audio Version

I have worked on an audio version narration of the book, working with a professional actress. But that work has come to an end as it was too much work involved.

If you have an interest in Japanese acupuncture, I would recommend reading this book.

Available on Amazon in print or ebook: The Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan



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