Touch for Peace: Studying With World-Renowned Shiatsu Master Ohashi
We learn the most from studying with the best: whether studying cooking with Madeleine Kamman, or wine with Doug Frost, Keith Goldston, Greg Harrington, and Darrin Siegfried; or hospitality with Danny Meyer, or screenwriting with Robert McKee. Studying shiatsu with Ohashi was no exception.
You’re looking at two of the least likely earners of certificates in shiatsu massage you’ve ever met.
Last Wednesday, our friend Cynthia sent Karen an email following up on a conversation we’d had over dinner a few nights before on the Indian system of ayurveda. Cynthia referenced a class she’d discovered on the subject that was being offered at the Integral Yoga Institute in Manhattan. When Karen visited the IYI’s website, something completely different caught her eye, however: a four-day intensive course being offered with world-renowed shiatsu master Ohashi.
We’d been hearing about Ohashi for nearly a quarter of a century, including through Andrew’s restaurant-world colleague Joey Hoeber, who studied Ohashiatsu® — a special method of touch derived from traditional shiatsu, exercise, and Zen philosophy — with the master himself. When Karen first experienced lower-back pain in the early 1990s, she finally tried her first shiatsu massage, having the massage therapist come to our home as the pain was so bad she could barely move. Ninety minutes later, she could walk again.
Over the years, we remained huge fans of shiatsu massage, both for its healing properties as well as for its contributions to our general well-being. We patronized two different locations of the Ohashi Institute in Manhattan (where all the massage practitioners were so gifted we happily took our appointments with whomever was available at the time) as well as when we visited various spas (including the Lodge at Woodloch in Pennsylvania and the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Connecticut) across America. Invariably, the best shiatsu therapists had studied with Ohashi, and over the years they’d cumulatively brought us both so much extra qi (energy) and healing that we’d blessed Ohashi dozens of times for obviously being such a great teacher. But we’d never met him.
Getting to study with Ohashi ourselves was a pleasure of a different order — one we refused to miss, despite the fact that the class started less than 24 hours after we’d first heard about it. As our schedule had just opened up after a chef had to postpone our long-scheduled out-of-town visit (due to a request from a king!), we registered immediately.
Studying with a master of his caliber was as educational for being able to observe his teaching style as for receiving the instruction itself, and a great privilege. We learned in class that we were far from Ohashi’s only avid fans — and that his clients have included the likes of Muhammad Ali, George Balanchine, Ani DiFranco, Stan Getz, Martha Graham, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Ralph Lauren, Liza Minelli, Dr. Robert Thurman, and Michael York. Indeed, our fellow classmates last weekend hailed from as far as away as Bermuda, California, Chile, Pennsylvania, Spain, Vermont, and Washington, DC.
Receiving our own private sessions with Ohashi himself thereafter was also an experience neither of us will ever forget. This 73-year-old is both powerfully fit and miraculously tireless: After four days of teaching, plus small-group tutorials, plus private sessions, it’s a mystery where he found the energy to give us such extraordinary shiatsu massages, let alone to keep going afterward to continue to provide even more treatments to others. Seeing his unstoppable dedication to his eponymous art of healing was so profound it brought tears to Karen’s eyes.
As our 50-something-year-old knees were no match for the hardwood floors, we’re afraid we were no match for the impressive array of professional massage therapists and other healers who gathered to study with him, and with whom we had the educational pleasure of trading massages and feedback over the course of four days.
But we wouldn’t have traded the experience of learning directly from Ohashi for anything. Arigatou gozaimashita, Sensei.