Comfort for Japanese Children after the Tsunami

The Story Massage Programme was first pioneered by Cocoro, a Japanese charity providing long-term aromatherapy and positive touch activities for the adults and children affected by the Japanese tsunami.   Here we write about the benefits of the Story Massage Programme for the Japanese children suffering from the aftermath of the tsunami.

Positive Touch Activities for Children, Staff and Parents

Cocoro charity was founded by Japanese aromatherapist, Takiko Ando with support from local social worker, Keiko Sugawara. The charity was set up to offer emotional support for the victims. Mary Atkinson, co-founder of the Story Massage Programme, is their UK representative.

Mary first introduced the Story Massage Programme for Japanese children in nurseries and kindergartens back in 2012, and it was so uplifting to see the smiles on the faces of the children during a period a trauma and loss. The children were eager to share this simple positive touch activity with their families. The children visited shelters and shared massage stories with others, making a real difference to the community.

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Long-Term Effects of Trauma

Tomoyo Nozaki, a Story Massage Instructor and Overseas ambassador, was one of the team working with the children. She writes: “I had personal experience of the Hansin big earthquake 20 years ago, and whenever I feel any big shake, my body still becomes very stiff and my heartbeat rate increases. I am aware that I have trauma in my body cells’ level. It is very likely that the primary school children who were at nursery when the tsunami hit will have a trauma deep inside. So we are very pleased to be invited to offer positive touch activities for the primary school children at an after-school club. This is a big step forward in the local people acknowledging that positive touch is important for the emotional well-being of the children.”


Benefits of Story Massage for Japanese Children

Tomoyo writes: “The Story Massage Programme was used as peer massage with children sharing massage one on one or in a line. Words of a story are combined with the benefit of simple massage strokes. At the start of the session, the children ask each other for permission to give massage, and at the end, children say ‘thank you.’ There are many benefits for positive touch for children including showing respect, promoting calming time, increasing concentration and reducing aggressive and challenging behaviour.

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“We did a quiz on the benefits of aromatherapy and the relaxing effects of different aromatherapy oils. Then we did some Story Massage with the children and they loved the warm feeling of combining the words of a story with massage strokes. Everyone was so pleased to see us, and said that it made a real difference to know that we cared about them so much, and to learn new ways of relaxation.”


“We used the The Smiling Flowers and also Gull Meets his Friends, which were written especially for the children by Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper, co-founders of the Story Massage project. We also encouraged them to write their own stories and we hope this will be a way of helping them to express their feelings. We also had fun sharing Story Massage with each other, and with the parents and staff. Everyone could see the potential benefits.”




The Smiling Flowers Story Massage

You’ll find a copy of the Smiling Flowers Story Massage on this blog post: The Smiling Flowers.