Issue Index

  Mini Features
  Cultural Features
  Life in Japan
  Big in Japan
  Rant & Rave
  Cars & Bikes
  Health & Beauty
  Money Talks
  Tokyo Tech
  Web Watch
  Food & Drink
  Restaurant Reviews
  Bar Reviews
  Word of Mouth
  Travel Features
  Japan Travel
  International Travel
  Tokyo Talk
  In Store
  Japan Beat
  CD Reviews
  In Person


bar news and views

538: Pool party
Keep your cool this summer with a visit to one of Tokyo’s many pools. Metropolis shows you where to take the plunge.
536: Don't sweat it
With the hot and humid months upon us, Cristy Burne share some tips on staying cool.
534: Swept away
Put away your broomsticks—all you really need to soar through the clouds is an armful of nylon and a good gust. Cristy Burne checks out the air up there.
532: Tee time
Can’t keep it on the fairway? The ‘yips’ invaded your game? Rob Smaal finds a few experienced golf pros who can work out your kinks on the links.
530: Balancing act
An ancient science is helping modern men and women find peace, health and the always elusive “balance.” Tama M. Lung takes a closer look at ayurveda.
528: Kicking on
Former K-1 Japan champion Nicholas Pettas shares his love of martial arts at the new Spirit Gym in Nogizaka. Chris Betros goes along to watch.
526: On call
A revolutionary daily disease self-management system is making life easier for diabetics. Chris Betros finds out about Lifewatcher.
524: Team spirit
From rugby to roller hockey, Tokyo is teeming with sports clubs for the expat athlete. Rob Smaal shows you how to get in the game.
522: Type casting
Second-generation blood-type expert Toshitaka Nomi looks at the links between blood classifications and health. Mick Corliss reports.
520: Like a rock
Climbing instructor Luke Kearns gets a grip on Tokyo's best indoor climbing gyms.
516: The personal touch
Madonna and Matsui aren't the only ones who need help staying fit. Hanna Kite pumps it up with the top personal trainers in Tokyo.
514: From here to maternity
Kavitha Rao turns to a handful of Tokyo experts to track down baby basics for nervous expat mothers-to-be.
502: Tour de Morton, part deux
Don Morton gets back on two wheels for a leisurely ride out toward Haneda Airport.


Straight to the point

Lucia T. McCarthy investigates the ancient remedy of acupuncture.

Edward Obaidey, acupuncture therapist

Stress, overwork and city living are just some of the conditions that can throw bodies out of balance and upset their energy force, or what Chinese medical practitioners have long referred to as “qi.” They're also some of the reasons people continue to seek out acupuncture, a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that uses needles to stimulate specific parts of the body and thereby restore balance and treat all manner of physical and psychological illnesses.

Said to date as far back as 4,700 years—when the first known mention was included in the Chinese medical text “Huang Di Nei Jing” (the Yellow Emperor's classic tome on internal medicine)—acupuncture has been used to treat headaches, arthritis, back pain, chronic fatigue, depression, infertility, eczema and poor concentration, among many other diseases. Its Japanese roots are believed to stretch back to the 6th century and after surviving a brief ban during the post-WWII occupation by the Allied Forces—who mistook its medical uses as a form of torture—this “alternative therapy” is becoming more and more entrenched in the mainstream.


Doctor's orders
Joy Waitkus, an American living in Japan for the past five years, recently began a series of acupuncture treatments. “I was recommended by a highly-respected doctor I'm seeing in Tokyo because I was having bad side effects from a Western medicine,” she says. “My doctor suggested that …acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine might be a worthy alternative.”
In fact, acupuncture is increasingly seen as complementary to more modern medical practices. And although most health-benefit systems in Japan don't include the treatment in their cache of subsidized medical services, it's still a viable option with most sessions costing between ¥6,000-8,000.

According to the Japan Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion (JSAM), there are some 50,000 licensed acupuncturists here, 3,400 of whom are registered with JSAM. One of the most popular practitioners among expats is Edward Obaidey, graduate of a three-year acupuncture course in Japan and owner of Edward's Acupuncture Clinic in Sangenjaya for the past 10 years.

Moxibustion: acupuncture with heat application

With his sprightly manner, clear eyes and glowing skin, Obaidey is his own best advertisement. Inspired by acupuncture's ability to cure a bout of malaria in his 20s, the UK native felt compelled to pursue the practice for himself. He now helps a wide range of Japanese and foreigners restore their qi, which is comprised of two opposing forces known as yin and yang.

“It's out of the space between yin and yang that something can be created and that's what acupuncture is essentially about,” he explains. “Acupuncture reminds the body of its own harmonic state where yin and yang are in perfect balance.”


Going with the flow
Acupuncture is said to work by pinpointing 14 meridians running the length of the body and controlling the flow of qi. Just how the placement of needles and choice of methods stimulates the body to ease pain or cure illness is still a matter of speculation, but there's a lot more to it than simply arranging a few needles.

Obidey assesses a patient's health

“Acupuncture asks more from the client than many other forms of treatment because through it we potentially get in deeper touch with our bodies and this can be both confronting and liberating,” says Obaidey. This depth arises from the thoroughness sought in diagnosis, with the first visit to an acupuncturist usually involving an in-depth question/answer session, covering diet, allergies, past illnesses and sleeping habits.
The acupuncturist will then check not one, but seven pulses, as identified by TCM to gauge the health of major organs and functions. Whether they use Chinese or Japanese techniques—the difference being that the Japanese style includes finer needles—the acupuncturist will consider the eyes, skin, tongue and demeanor of the client to help determine which of the “Five Elements” require balancing.

Next, the client will lie on a massage-therapy table and have the acupuncturist stimulate relevant points with gentle insertion of sterile needles, acupressure, and/or moxibustion (which includes heat application). The client is then usually left to relax, perhaps with needles lightly inserted, for about 10-20 minutes to allow the sensation of healing as the energy shifts around the meridians, reminding the body of its natural state of harmony.

Moxibustion using tinders

While newcomers often fear that the treatment will hurt, those concerns are usually quickly allayed. “Basically I started feeling better right away and my conditions are improving a lot,” says Waitkus, who visits Obaidey once a week. “After the first few sessions I was quite wiped out but that has gone away and now I feel just relaxed afterwards. In fact I'm so relaxed during the sessions themselves that I usually fall I guess that can tell you it's completely painless. One of the nice side effects has been it seems to make me less stressed out, and I have been sleeping a lot better.”

Indeed, the effects can be almost immediate, but Obaidey advises his clients that acupuncture is not a cure-all but simply one aspect of a healthy lifestyle.

“Overall, acupuncture can show us our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities with the concept that each part of the body can be used to represent the health of the body as a whole,” he says. “The principles of acupuncture remind us good health is often close by, just waiting for us to claim it with a little effort.”


Edward's Acupuncture Clinic
3F Co-op Sangenjaya Bldg, 2-17-12 Setagaya-ku. Tel: 03-3418-8989. Japanese and English spoken. Consultation: ¥3,000. Treatment: ¥6,000 per session.

Acura Acupuncture Clinic
Villa Moderna C-203, 1-3-18 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5469-0810. Japanese and English spoken. Consultation: ¥2,000. Treatment: ¥6,500.

Acupuncture Clinic Roppongi
4-4-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3401-8514. Japanese, English and Spanish spoken. Consultation: ¥2,000. Treatment: ¥6,500.

The Chinese Acupuncture Studio
Dogenzaka Building #613, 2-15-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3464-5819. Japanese and English spoken. Treatment: ¥2,000-5,400.

Photo credit: Matthew Cheetham