RealVoice#2 A Female Acupuncturist Who Treats Women Exclusively. And her business experience.
Sawa Acupuncture and Moxibustion Clinic provides acupuncture and moxibustion treatments for women from a woman acupuncturist. It is located in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture and has been open for seven years. I interviewed Ms. Sawako Ikeda about the history of acupuncture and moxibustion in traditional Japanese medicine and about the challenges she is currently facing as a female entrepreneur.
The acupuncture job I found in Finland.
- What made you want to become an acupuncturist?
In my 20’s I had longed to go to different countries. I saved up my money and finally went to Finland when I was 29 years old. At the time I thought it would be great to go to a different country and live there for a year. However, when I turned 30 I felt like I was at a crossroads in my life and that I couldn't continue living the way I had been.
The time when I reflected on myself and the familiar experiences that opened a new path for me.
The local kids thought I was Chinese and would ridicule me saying things like “chin chong.” The people in Finland couldn’t really tell the difference between Japanese and Chinese people, just like how Japanese people can’t tell the difference between Norwegian, Swedish, or Finnish people. I lived in Northern Europe and while there I felt that, even if I didn't like it, I was an Asian person and others could see that just by my looks.
During my time living in Europe, I met a Japanese acupuncturist in Finland and thought it seemed like a good job. Since I was a child, my body has been weak and I used to receive moxibustion and acupuncture treatments. I thought “Ah I could make a living doing this” and returned to Japan where I searched for a moxibustion and acupuncture school.
- I’m unfamiliar with acupuncture and it seems scary to me. What would you think?
Many would feel that way; acupuncture does seem mysterious to many. There was a survey that reported that only 5 to 7 percent of people in Japan had received acupuncture or moxibustion treatments before; haha. Over half of the people answering said that they had little to no idea what acupuncture and moxibustion is.
- Wow, I wonder what kind of person would benefit from acupuncture and moxibustion?
The phrase “from before you’re born until the grave” is often used. It is possible for a patient to be treated by an acupuncturist starting from when they are still in their mother’s womb all the way until their death. Needle makers often say that a variety of diseases located all over from head to toe, can be treated by acupuncture and moxibustion. Many patients believe that acupuncture is an effective treatment for things like back pain and stiff shoulders, but acupuncture actually is a way to circulate or fix the ki/qi in one’s entire body.
- What is “Ki/Qi” (気)?
Ki/Qi is the energy that moves a person’s body. Traditional Eastern medicine believes that one’s energy moves and that the water, blood, and nutrients that one needs to live circulates within the body. When ki/qi is properly flowing in one’s body, every part of the body is balanced and in a healthy condition. If ki/qi is not flowing properly it means that there is a deficiency or an excess of something resulting in some illness or malady.
For example, just like how if having an excess of water in one place will result in another place will be dehydrated, if there’s a deviation in your body then it’s not just your blood circulation that suffers. The water and nutrients your body needs will also not be able to get to the places your body needs them; even if there are enough nutrients in your body, if it is stuck somewhere then your body will become unbalanced. Acupuncture and moxibustion works to help fix these unbalances and problems.
However, if there is already just a general lack of nutrients in the body then acupuncture can’t do anything to fix it. Acupuncture and moxibustion can’t create energy, blood, or water. What it can do is direct or fix the flow of those things in the body.
At Sawa Acupuncture and Moxibustion Clinic there are two beds but only one patient is usually treated at a time. This is so the patient can feel at ease that their treatment time is there’s alone and don't have to feel rushed or worried. I have some female patients who are able to feel more refreshed when they are able to talk about their feelings so seeing patients one at a time makes it easier to talk with them and helps the patient to feel relaxed.
- Is acupuncture effective for treating conditions women often get doing desk work such as stiff shoulders or swelling?
Yes, it is. Acupuncture is well suited for treating illnesses that women often have trouble with, it is especially good at dealing with sensitivity to cold. It is also effective for dealing with problems with fertility, overheating, and reproductive organs. Acupuncture works to balance the body by providing stimulus through the skin.
- How long is the treatment period for women usually?
It usually depends on the condition of the patient so it is more of a tailor made course of treatment. In the case of menstrual pains, there are a lot of people who have suffered from menstrual pains for a long time so it is necessary for the treatment to also last a long time.
For fertility treatments it will take at least three months and is covered by health insurance, each visit will cost about 4,000 yen. In addition to treatments a patient will also need to change their lifestyle.
Ms. Ikeda has treated a lot of women over the years. Then, she says "When it comes to acupuncture, the patient is the main character."
Acupuncturists can help patients who want to recover but sometimes there are patients who just do not want to get better. A patient’s lifestyle can play a large role in an illness so if they are not in the mindset of wanting to get better, their treatment will not make any progress. Acupuncture and moxibustion also cannot help people who are dying.
At that point, treatment at a hospital is required. Western medicine has many incredible medical treatments like intravenous drips. If you know the cause of an illness then you can treat it with antibiotics and antivirals, so for situations like that Western medicine is really good.
Then let's listen to her actual business story.
The concept of an acupuncture clinic for women by a woman has actually been a selling point for my clinic.
How is running a business as a woman?
I was scared whenever I had a male patient come here. There was a person before who made an appointment because they knew it was only one woman working here. I’ve also had a phone call before where I was asked if I did a sexual kind of massage. Because of these kinds of experiences, I decided to only treat women.
Women should be careful when opening a business, shouldn't they?
Yes, they should. Some other businesses I know of have also had problems. It’s tough for a woman to open a business by herself. When a male customer comes there’s no guarantee of safety. You need to make sure to have many security measures like having cameras running.
Do you have any advice for people who’d like to start a business in Japan?
If it’s in the medical field, then I think Japanese is especially required when opening a business. The process to open a business still requires a lot of physical documents and you will also need to get a personal seal. Getting the paperwork in order and sorting out the bank and tax details is all very difficult. Although due to the widespread influence of the Coronavirus, digitization of the process has finally started being done.
I think it’d be good to come to Japan with a mindset to hire well qualified women who can speak English well. There are a lot of talented women in Japan who can’t work or are stuck at home. Wouldn't it be great to create a work environment that allows for those kinds of people so that you’d be able to work together with an amazing staff?
Let's read it together : about the history of profession as well as its feature.
The acupuncturist and owner of Sawa Acupuncture and Moxibustion Clinic (Sawa Shinkyuin) for seven years.
She became an acupuncturist after meeting a Japanese acupuncturist in Finland and returning to Japan.
She provides acupuncture treatments for conditions that affect women such as infertility. She operates her acupuncture and moxibustion clinic and also teaches at a trade school.
Clinic Address :
Yu-zu building 42, Chu-o machi 38-23, Kurume city, Fukuoka Prefecture.
https://bit.ly/2HxUILR Please make a book before going to receive her acupuncture treatments.
Next, Ms, Ikeda will introduce the history of profession as well as its feature in Japan.