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Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 450–474 | Cite as

Straighten the Back to Sit: Belly-Cultivation Techniques as “Modern Health Methods” in Japan, 1900–1945

  • Yu-chuan WuEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

In Japan, the first half of the twentieth century saw a remarkable revival of concern with the cultivation of the belly, with a variety of belly-cultivation techniques, particularly breathing exercise and meditative sitting, widely practiced for improving health and treating diseases. This article carefully examines some practitioners’ experiences of belly-cultivation practice in attempting to understand its healing effects for them within their life histories and contemporary intellectual, social and cultural contexts. It shows that belly-cultivation practice served as a medium for some practitioners to reflect on and retell their life stories, and that the personal charisma of certain masters and the communities developing around them provided practitioners with a valuable sense of belonging in an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society. Moreover, these belly-cultivation techniques provided an embodied way for some to explore and affirm their sense of self and develop individual identity. While they were increasingly promoted as cultural traditions capable of cultivating national character, they also served as healing practices by inspiring practitioners with a sense of collective identity and purpose. With these analyses, this article sheds light on the complicated meanings of belly-cultivation for practitioners, and provides illustrative examples of the multitude of meanings of the body, bodily cultivation and healing.

Keywords

Neurasthenia Hara Breathing techniques Quiet-sitting Okada Torajirō 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of History and PhilologyAcademia SinicaTaipeiTaiwan

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