Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Elusive Reflexology Paths of Japan

As a researcher it doesn’t get any better than the “wow” moment when the hunt for the elusive Japanese reflexology path finally came together: the thrill of the hunt, the pleasure of discovery, that moment of realization bringing together layers of research over twenty years—wow.

I knew it had to be there on Google translate somewhere—the Reflexology Paths of Japan. The topic is so popular and the paths in China so extensive, I knew Japan must have lots but my searches were fruitless. Then I combined my discoveries. I knew “foot reflex” was the term to use when searching instead of “reflexology” when searching for reflexology information in the Japanese language Google translate but “path” didn’t help—until I noticed the use of “promenade” on two sites I could find. Plugging in “foot reflex promenade,” I came across the Mother Lode. Web site after Web site of reflexology paths complete with extensive photos.

But the discoveries didn’t stop there. Now that I was in, seeing path after path, I suddenly noticed that many repeated the same elements: differing embedded stone sizes, a bridge, a by-pass (with one side for a more ouch-producing stone size and the other half a more gentle stone size). Yes, the configurations varied with the site available for placement of the reflexology path but I must admit I was truly moved when realized what I was looking at.

You see, the paths were replications of the original reflexology path at Shiseido designed by and built under the direction of Mr. Abe Shunichi around 1990. Mr. Shunichi was given the task of helping his company’s health by considering construction of a health facility. (“Our factory manager’s policy is that ‘good products cannot be produced by staff with health problems.’ A walking path and gym with equipment were both considered but then Mr. Shunichi drew on his personal experience with reflexology (see below) and decided to build a path to walk on and receive the benefits of reflexology. The true genius of Mr. Shunicihi’s work was to design individual segments in the sidewalk like structure. Each individual segment would include rocks specific to working each of reflexology’s reflex areas. Various materials were tested and a decision resulted that nine patterns “suitably press the Rwo-Shr points.”

What was truly moving was the realization that the efforts of one man would have such profound impact. Yes, Mr. Shunichi created an amazing blueprint for a generation of reflexology paths to come, impacting the health of his country by an unimaginable measure. (See below.) And, yes, research at Shiseido showed his efforts accomplished an improved productivity and a gradual decrease in health care costs.

I applaud Mr. Shunichi’s efforts but, you see, it was the realization, once again, that the work of Father Josef Eugster, had done so much to change our world yet again. You see, Mr. Shunichi became familiar with reflexology when he lived in Taiwan in 1983 and his wife was taken ill with gastritis that demanded continual medication. Mr. Shunichi and his wife were told about and started applying “the Rwo-Shr.” Rwo-Shr translates from Mandarin Chinese as “Josef.” It is the reflexology method named after Father Josef. In brief, however, let me say that Father Josef is quite literally a one-man army whose reflexology work, revived from ancient Chinese practices, created an enthusiasm for an idea that stormed the Asian continent.

Today Father Josef’s influence is all pervasive throughout Asia. Whole industries of reflexology products, practitioners, and, yes, reflexology paths started with one man working with ancient traditions. In Asian cultures where expectations of self-reliance in health is accepted and expected, reflexology was and is an idea whose time has come—thanks to Father Josef.

I really don’t know what to say at this point in my search for the Japanese reflexology path. I’ve come full circle through 20 years—Kevin and I met Mr. Shunichi and Father Josef at a Tokyo conference then and have studied their ideas since. I appreciate: the “wow” moment; the demonstration that an idea developed and expanded can have profound impact; the blueprint of what we in other countries can do to better our citizens’ health and, perhaps most of all, the clear message of the ability of one person to create a better world.

Barbara Kunz

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