Invention and Early History of Massage Chairs

November 10, 2020
 By Dr. Alan Weidner
November 10, 2020
 By Dr. Alan Weidner

Invention and Early History of Massage Chairs

At Massage Chair Relief, we’re dedicated to bringing our clients the widest variety of high-quality massage chairs on the market. From our Inada massage chairs to Ocho, Ogawa and numerous other top brands in the industry, we provide hundreds of different chair options to clients with a huge range of needs.

And while much of this effort involves a constant eye to the market and its latest products, we’re also highly cognizant of the long history of both massage and massage chairs. Massage therapy itself dates back thousands of years, and while modern massage chairs are a much more recent invention based on available technology, many of the same themes exist. This two-part blog will go over the important history we keep in mind here, including how it has evolved into the modern massage chairs we happily provide to clients.

Early Massage History

As we noted above, massage therapy itself is a practice that dates back thousands upon thousands of years. Some of the earliest evidence traces back to India around the 3,000 BCE era, though it may have been even earlier. These societies believed in holistic medicine formats that involved restoring mental and physical balance, areas where massage was just one major piece.

Between 3,000 and 2,500 BCE, Egyptian and Chinese societies also discovered and began implementing forms of massage. Egyptians are generally given credit for creating reflexology around 2,500 BCE, using pressure wit the hands to bring benefits to various areas of the body. Over the next several thousand years, numerous other societies, from Japan to Greece, Rome and more, adopted their own forms of massage while improving on it.

Massage Chair Invention and Early Purposes

It wasn’t until the World War II era, however, that massage chairs were invented. In 1950, a Japanese factory owner named Niichi Kawahara began attempting to create a device that could provide massage assistance to his daughter, who had bad knots in her shoulders, even when he wasn’t home – his own massage efforts were not enough.

Over five years leading up to 1950, he toiled with what would become the first massage chair. Built completely by hand, this chair was made of wooden boards with sewing technology on the inside.

Continued Development

Over the next period, Kawahara continued to refine his new invention. He realized that many Japanese bathhouses, extremely popular at the time, also offered massage therapy services – and began targeting them for the use of his chairs. By 1953, he and a local bathhouse owner had created an improved model that was lighter and easier to move, plus had a coin slot so bathhouse patrons could pay to use it. Before long, bathhouses all over Japan were adopting the theme and developing their own massage chairs, and this was the beginning of the massage chair industry.

In part two of our series, we’ll go over the invention of the electric massage chair, plus modern developments leading up to today. For more on this or any of our massage chair services, speak to the staff at Massage Chair Relief today.

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