Toyohari Origins

Toyohari Origins

This interview and treatment was first first published in International Toyohari News (ITN) in 2009 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the association.


Translations by Junko Ida and Sachiko Nakano

The Association was founded by Kodo Fukushima in 1959 as a Meridian Therapy association for blind people. Mr. Fukushima led the association for 36 years till his death in 1995. Under his leadership, and with the help of his close friend and colleague Katsuyuki Kozato, the association developed the unique techniques that we recognise and use today.

ITN interviewed a panel of four senior instructors: former President Takai sensei, Murakami sensei, Tsuboi sensei and Fukushima junior sensei. This article draws on this interview, as well as answers to informal questions during Kozato practice and previous articles in the newsletter to piece together a picture of the early years of the association and the origins of some of its methods.


Since 1852 Japan had had a roller coaster ride. Japan’s closed doors had been humiliatingly forced open by American military intervention. A 200 year-old policy of traditionalism and isolation was shattered. In its place, particularly during the Meiji restoration, came a hunger for things modern. Modernity would bring wealth and the power to avoid future humiliation by outside powers. In an extraordinarily short time, Japan transformed itself from a feudal society to an industrial one, arriving with a huge bang on the modern international stage with a “dream war” at sea with Russia in 1905 and the stunning naval victory at Tsushima.

“Everything modern” during the Meiji restoration meant that traditional skills like acupuncture suffered. The baby was being thrown out with the newly plumbed bathwater. The keiraku chiryo movement, beginning in the early 20th century, was a backlash against this indiscriminate modernisation. The aims of its leaders were to re-examine the classics in a pragmatic way and develop a contemporary style of acupuncture that preserved traditional concepts. The pioneers of this movement were principally Keiri Inoue, Sodo Okabe and Shinichiro Takeyama.


Born in 1910 into these tumultuous and fast moving times, Kodo Fukushima was from his early years highly individualistic. With extraordinary courage (and foresight) he swam against the tides of this increasingly nationalistic culture. By the age of 21 he had become an anti-war activist, objecting to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and refusing to serve in the army. Japan in the 1930’s was not a safe place to object to militarism. Reviled and subsequently forcibly conscripted into the army and sent to the front, he was shot and as a result of his injuries lost his sight.

By 1940 Fukushima had come to terms with his disability. Newly married and living in Tokyo he had developed a passionate interest in acupuncture and was keen to study with the leaders of the keiraku chiryo movement. His attempts to join their study group were rebuffed, however. Inoue, in particular, objected to him joining because, being blind, he would be unable to do “looking” diagnosis.


TAKAI: Keiri Inoue, Okabe Sodo and Takayama Shin Ichiro were the only three people focusing on study of the classics. Around 1939 “Return to the Classics” began with these three. Fukushima and Kozato sensei wanted to study with them but they were excluded from that study group due to their sight impairment.

MURAKAMI: Those three teachers, they had a study group, the Yayo I Association, but it was only for sighted members.

ITN: I’ve always been taught that acupuncture was a profession that blind people could join from Sugiyama in the 17th century onwards. So why was there such resistance to them joining the original keiraku chiryo study group?

TAKAI: It’s true that blind people had been studying acupuncture since Sugiyama, but that type of curriculum did not include studying the classics..

MURAKAMI: Braille had been invented in France before, but the translation of the classics into Braille had not yet happened.

Murakami Sensei

Despite Inoue’s objections, a compromise was reached. Blind practitioners were not allowed to attend the keiraku chiryo study group, but instead, these lecturers agreed to visit them and give them instruction.

MURAKAMI: Fukushima Kodo sensei and Kozato sensei were friends. They always talked about a desire to contribute, to bring Meridian Therapy to blind people. They started writing letters to their friends to see who might be interested in starting such an association. Takahashi Senryu, Takahashi Shuko and Satomi Toyoya were the only three who responded, so it began with these five. Much like the five elements! The first official meeting was with these five blind acupuncturists in Fukushima’s house on May 17 1959. That’s how it all started fifty years ago, and now we have over 1,000 members which is a remarkable result.

TSUBOI: Actually the name keiraku chiryo was developed by the Toyohari Association. The other group had used words such as “acupuncture technique based on pulse diagnosis”.

MURAKAMI: No, that’s incorrect! They (Inoue, etc.) used to say “meridian therapy-like treatment”.

TAKAI & MURAKAMI: The keiraku chiryo kowa (lecture) was created by Honma during World War II. Fukushima translated that book into Braille just as the war was finishing, when everybody had to leave Tokyo and go to the countryside. That became the text for the Toyohari Association.

ITN: So the Association started with these five people. How did new people find out about it?

TAKAI: They were writing letters in Braille to everyone they knew, going to local acupuncture schools, and spreading invitations.

MURAKAMI: A year (after that first meeting) Fukushima, Kozato, Takeyama, Inoue, Okabe, Kawamitzu and Honma sensei organised the first Association training in 1960. Over 100 people showed up to study with these teachers. Kozato spoke about the importance of honchiho, etc. Inoue lectured on diagnosis and treatment based on Meridian Therapy. Okabe presented a case study on the treatment of TB.

Akihiro Takai

ITN: What year did you all join the association?

TAKAI: I joined in 1964. Mr. Murakami and Mr. Tsuboi joined in 1965. Mr. Fukushima junior joined in 1976.

ITN: What was it like to join as a junior member in those days?

TAKAI: I only half believed in it! I was a bit doubting, as at that time their practices were still very quiet. So I wondered how effective it really was.

MURAKAMI: The keiraku chiryo textbook in Braille came out in July 1961. I read it and thought it was very interesting. It said it was highly effective, but at that time I had no personal experience of that. So in 1965 I came to Tokyo. I had a very strong desire to study keiraku chiryo and make it my vocation.

TSUBOI: (Back in my home town) I was treated by the famous Satumi sensei (this name may not be spelled correctly: Ed). That inspired me: I wanted to be an acupuncturist like that…someone who could help a lot of people. After I finished blind acupuncture school, I opened my own clinic. But two stops beyond my tram stop, was where Toyoya was practising (one of the original five: Ed). He was from Okinawa and it was he who introduced me to keiraku chiryo.

ITN: How did the original group study together?

TAKAI: At the beginning, they met only once a month. But in addition to that, friends took opportunities to get together.

MURAKAMI: When I first joined, the first Sunday of the month we had a study group and the second Sunday we had teachers giving lectures. So we had something twice a month. The shape of the basic training course was really there from the beginnings in 1959.


ITN: One of the intriguing things about Mr. Yanagishita’s biography of Kozato sensei,  published in the last newsletter,  is that it seemed to imply that Kozato was responsible for discovering sayuatsu. (the increasing pressure between the index finger and thumb holding the needle, used in Toyohari touch needling: ed)

“During World War II... Kozato was evacuated to Yamagata Prefecture in the north-western part of his spare time he regularly observed the patient’s pulse with his right hand while holding a needle with his left hand. He eventually discovered that “when sayuatsu (left-right pressure) is applied the pulse becomes firmer.””

MURAKAMI: The oshide was always used. Kozato sensei started saying that sayuatsu on certain points, for example LIV 8 could change the pulse and he started exploring this.

ITN: Can anyone shed any light on how hoho (supplementing touch needling) developed? When did they start to develop touch needling?

MURAKAMI: The technique was not like it is now; I heard from Okabe sensei that they were using a #3 silver needle at LU 9, SP 6 and ST 36, in and out with strong manipulation. Kozato eventually started using smaller gauge needles but he was always a shallow needler, right from the very beginning. Touch needling developed from that.

ITN: What are the origins of naso (specialiased needling on the neck around ST 12)?

MURAKAMI: It was Fukushima who first started to look at the ST 12 area, and he developed it from there. Muno (specialised needling around hip near ST 30) came afterwards and it grew and developed in the same way.


Akira Fukushima (Fukushima Junior)

ITN: How do you feel about the way the techniques have changed over the years? In what direction is the association going?

TAKAI & MURAKAMI: The goal is always to improve. In the beginning our sayuatsu was so crazily tight (laughing)! We may change more in the future. We are heading in the right direction. Getting lighter & softer.

ITN: If Fukushima sensei senior had been here at the celebrations today, what do you think he would feel about what he saw?

MURAKAMI: Fukushima sensei was a man with a very big dream. He was very farsighted. He wanted this to be something all blind people could study. But then he opened it up to sighted people. And then later again he opened it up to foreigners. So he would see that everything he envisioned has been accomplished.

FUKUSHIMA JUNIOR: I think he would be pleased with the direction of the association. I think he would be very happy.


This was the origins story for Toyohari. How did your style of acupuncture and moxibustion evolve? Submit an article from your account page and let the community know!

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