Kyoto Butsugen College of Massage
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Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
On Pins and Needles
ankle acupuncture at the Kyoto Butugen medical school

Not far from the temple where the Japanese archery event I've been posting about was held, there's a college of massage called Kyoto Butugen (京都仏眼鍼灸理療専門学校). It's closer to the American idea of physical therapy than “massage”.... words like “relaxation” and “aromatherapy” have no place here. The doctors (which in this case are students in a three-year curriculum) have a deep understanding of the physical mechanics of muscle, bones, etc., and use that to attack with vigor whatever aches and pains you come in with. The massage itself can be extremely painful (exactly as described here), but the results are impressive and readily apparent.

They also do “eastern medicine” things like acupuncture, and something called “moxibustion” that involves burning little blobs of herbs at various points on your skin. As far as I can tell, the moxibustion thing is just ridiculous, but I have been surprised to find that the acupuncture (or its placebo effect) has been helpful.

Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Tummy Acupuncture
it was a fairly awkward photo to try to take while face-up on the table

Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 cropped — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Business End

Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/80 sec, f/11, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Tray of Used Needles

This is, of course, the answer to the “What am I ?” quiz that I posted the other day.

Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Pack of Unused Needles

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 14mm — 1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Writing Post-Treatment Reports

I first had acupuncture about nine years ago when I threw out my back, and after not really being able to walk for a couple of weeks I was ready to try anything. It was a complete waste of time. My savior then was in finding the “bone-setting” clinic I wrote about here, where the doctor did deep massage well into the area Americans would deem “physical therapy”.

I eventually found this school, which is conveniently close to home, and also inexpensive. In exchange for letting yourself be used for practice by the students, you get an hour's massage for 1,800 yen (about US$20) from someone earnest enough about it to commit to an expensive three-year college. For the most part, the quality is very good.

As I said, they also do acupuncture, and over the years I've tried it a few times, and found it to be a complete waste of time. I'd given it a try back in 2010 when I had some debilitating arm pain, to no avail.

Last year when California friend Paul Barr was in town, I took him for a massage to introduce him to the school (it's close to the hotel he stays at when in Kyoto), and on a whim asked whether he'd like to try acupuncture, just for the experience. He did, so I extended my massage as well to include it, and wow, what a difference from every other time.

Normally you don't feel the needles when they go in, when they are in, or when they're taken out... you have no idea that they exist unless you look. But this time, I got zings that ran up and down my spine as if zapped by electricity. It was definitely different and powerful, but for the life of me I couldn't decide whether it was a pleasurable or painful.

And the next day I felt fantastic. I was shocked, because I generally don't believe fuu-fuu crap like acupuncture.

Since then, I've been back for many massages, and acupuncture maybe 10 times. About half the time the acupuncture is a total waste, and the other half it's amazing. There seems to be no middle ground.

A week ago Monday was the last day for the third-year students to see patients before graduation, so I brought my camera along. By this time they had already taken and passed their final school exam, and had already taken (and presumably passed) the national license test, so there was a festive feeling. Here I am with the half of the class that showed up on that last day:

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 4500 — map & image datanearby photos
Graduating Class of 2012
and me
photo by Dr. Ohama

Their graduation was on Sunday; congratulations to them all.

The guy at far left, Ueda-sensei, was the one whose amazing acupuncture opened my eyes to its possibilities last year. The girl at right giving the peace sign was my masseuse/acupuncturist the day these photos were taken. I've had massage by all of these students, and they were all very good.

Even though they all have the same curriculum, they each apply it with their own style, sometimes differing wildly from each other. The guy at far right with the red sleeves brings almost a Buddhist monk's zen to the table, while the tall guy at left next to Ueda-sensei brings a ferocious pinpoint attack like his fingertips are tactical weapons trying to massage the muscle from the inside out. Both are very, very good.

I'm sad that I'll not see them for massage again, but another school year starts in April.

First-year students don't actually get to treat patients. Second- and third-year students see patients at regular hours, though what's “regular” changes with the season. The morning sessions are generally held by the more advanced third-year students on Monday, Thursday and Friday; second-year students take the mornings on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you're in Kyoto, I recommend giving them a try.

All 3 comments so far, oldest first...

This place sounds great! I want to go there. I saw where it is on the map. Can I park my car there and do I need to make an appointment?

Car parking is these eight spots. The entrance is on the the south side of the building. No appointment necessary or allowed, but you’ve got to pay attention to the schedule. They’re closed for spring break until April 9th. —Jeffrey

— comment by Arthur on March 15th, 2012 at 9:21am JST (12 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Nice place. Adding to my to-be-visited list…

— comment by Boris on March 16th, 2012 at 5:59am JST (12 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey, Katalin here (from Budapest, but in Kyoto now). Nice entry with useful info, thank you for posting. I was wondering if you have been to this College recently and it is still working the way you wrote a year ago? I just pop in in the morning and if there are not too many people waiting I can get a massage? I am not fluent in Japanese, I hope that is not an issue…

It’s getting toward the end of their school year, so they’re not open for their regular schedule. Be sure to see the current schedule. This week you can sign in for a massage Mon/Tue 9:00-10:35, Mon/Wed 17:30-18:10, and Friday 17:30-17:50. Same for next week (Feb 25-28) Mon-Wed. (I tried to go last week, but I had neglected to check the schedule and found them closed.) Tell them I said “hi”. —Jeffrey

— comment by Katalin on February 18th, 2013 at 4:09pm JST (11 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink
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