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Kaoru Hara and Natsume Masaki of Hermitage Acupuncture
2011 Graduates of the Acupuncture and Moxibustion Night Course
After graduating Toyoshinkyu, classmates Hara and Masaki spent some time working at acupuncture and moxibustion clinics before opening their own practice together. In the beginning it was a struggle to attract customers. This led to a determination to study business and marketing, which resulted in a successful increase in the number of customers. Heritage Acupuncture is now a clinic specialized in infertility treatments, providing tender treatments to women and men suffering from infertility.
About Hermitage Acupuncture
What was the process from graduation until the preparation to open your own practice?
HARA: The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake happened just before our graduation ceremony. Masaki and I went to Onagawa Town in Miyagi Prefecture, a place hard hit by the earthquake. This was our debut as practitioners of acupuncture and moxibustion. We were doing acupuncture inside cardboard partitions in the school gymnasiums that were serving as refuge shelters. That was our first work as practitioners of acupuncture and moxibustion.
MASAKI: I think we opened our practice in July, but weren’t even thinking of this when we graduated.
HARA: We liked this location so we had no choice but to start. There was no money so we couldn’t even buy a treatment bed. We gradually added things one piece at a time. There was a certain point when we decided to start providing treatments for infertility. Masaki was interested in infertility treatments from the start and worked in a place providing these treatments, but I didn’t feel it was connected to me personally. Ultimately, Masaki said she wanted to provide infertility treatments. Then, she treated an acquaintance who gave birth to a child I thought: “Hey! Masaki can do this” (laughs).
What kind of means do you use to attract customers?
MASAKI: Almost all of it is through our homepage.
HARA: Word of mouth advertising has some difficulties with regards to infertility treatments. You can’t just ask something like “are you having fertility issues?”
MASAKI: People will not even say that they are receiving treatments. However, there are some cases where people sharing their worries with each other will talk and one of them will give us a referral. This is the case for about two or three new clients each month. Sometimes one person in a married couple will refer their partner to us.
What kind of clients do you treat?
MASAKI: There there are some people getting treatments for a second child, but our clients are not just people dealing with infertility. We also see pregnant women and children.
HARA: It seems that pregnant women are not one of the strong points for practitioners of acupuncture and moxibustion. The same is true for practitioners of massage. It seems there are a lot of places that will not treat pregnant women. We also get a lot of calls once people find out about us and see they can bring their children with them to treatments.
MASAKI: However, this field is an area we didn’t learn much about at school. Pregnancy was just an extension of conditions affecting women, with a female teacher touching on it very briefly. In reality, from “I’m pregnant” to “I’ve given birth” is a fairly long process.
HARA: Women will get pregnant but not be able to carry the child to term. There are many women in this situation, suffering.
What aspects of treatment do you focus on?
MASAKI: We perform interviews (history taking) and treatments together.
HARA: We are divided into upper body and lower body. I’d really like to do it by myself but we’ve only got one bed (laughs), so we decided to do treatments together. Once we started, our clients really liked it. They’d gone to a specialized hospital for IVF and spent money just to repeat a cycle of “it didn’t work, it didn’t work, it didn’t work!!” Then they finally are able to give birth. In terms of their mental state, it is easier for them to open up to two people.
MASAKI: And, when two people provide the treatment it is possible to tenderly pamper the client. They enjoy feeling like queens. (laughs)
Life at Toyoshinkyu
Why did you decide to become a practitioner of acupuncture and moxibustion?
HARA: I worked for a long time in places like relaxation salons and osteopathic clinics, but from the beginning I really wanted to become a practitioner of acupuncture and moxibustion. Because of where I was working, I started by getting licensed as a judo therapist but I couldn’t give up on my dream to become licensed in acupuncture and moxibustion. So I decided to start over.
MASAKI: In the past I learned some different things like oil massage and Thai massage, but someone told me that those qualifications couldn’t be used therapeutically because those were private-sector qualifications and not national qualifications. I wanted to go deeper. When I did, then someone said acupuncture and moxibustion was good and someone else said they were going to become a practitioner of acupuncture and moxibustion. Then I thought: “acupuncture and moxibustion!” I started a school search and took the entrance exams a few months before the start of the school year
Please share some of your memories from your time at Toyoshinkyu
HARA: I was able to study on the train, so that worked out well. However, my ultimate goal was to get to a level of skill where I could open my own practice as soon as I graduated. So the issue was working on my technique. I think the most important thing in acupuncture and moxibustion is whether you believe or not. I was really grateful to have teachers that fostered this belief. I think this is the greatest appeal of Toyoshinkyu.
MASAKI: School was a struggle to keep up with physically… It didn’t help that I was working a job where I had to stand all day. But I enjoyed school, even though I frequently nodded off… (laughs)
I couldn’t study on the train. I was sleeping (laughs). I used the Chuo Line to get to school and there were times I would sleep past my stop…
How was studying for the national exam?
HARA: Passing the exam itself was something I thought was a matter of course. Not passing meant not working. What is important is what comes after the national exams.
MASAKI: I was very nervous for the exam itself, but I had the week before the exams off from work so it was good time, too. One more thing, that year my pollen allergies were really bad. It was a battle with my allergies.
HARA: There was the disaster of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake too… It was a tumultuous time.
Message for people wanting to become practitioners of acupuncture and moxibustion
Is it necessary to study marketing?
HARA: I had a terrible experience after we opened (laughs). I thought it would be acceptable to save money on the homepage and do it myself. I struggled with it but nobody visited the homepage. You know, the only thing you study until you open your own practice is acupuncture and moxibustion. Then, when you start your own clinic you are shocked when no one comes. I thought that was not good so I started studying marketing and business from scratch. Now, I balance my studies between marketing and acupuncture and moxibustion.
Do you have any message for people who want to become practitioners of acupuncture and moxibustion?
HARA: Experience and a person’s individuality are assets. I want people to value these assets, but at the same time if you are entering a world you know nothing about you won’t make it without the right attitude. An attitude like the kind that allows you to humble yourself before a young student who is good at their studies and ask them to teach you something. For someone like me, with no money and more than a few years, it is out of the question to not have humility when you enter this world. I hope people starting out study with a pure intent.
MASAKI: It might be true for any job, but working as a practitioner of acupuncture and moxibustion is working a job dealing with people. It is part of the service industry. I believe that people who don’t have experience absolutely must receive training on how to interact with people. While you are a student, I think it would be very good for you to experience some hardships in this area, even just for a short time.
It is interesting being a practitioner of acupuncture and moxibustion. Even though it seems like each needle is inserted the same, it is different. If want to pursue development, there is no end to what you can do. You can also perform acupuncture in any way you desire. I think as a profession, this work is great in the sense of allowing a person to grow.
Located a 3-minute walk from Yoyogi Uehara Station.
Reception Hours: 10:00-21:00 (no scheduled holidays)
Address: Room 104, Highness Yoyogi Uehara, 3-1-12 Uehara, Shibuya-ku- Tokyo
Two practitioners providing gentle acupuncture and moxibustion to women and men suffering from infertility.