In our blog post on Asian male massage, we listed Japanese Nuru massage as one variety of Asian massage. But are there any other types of of Japanese massage? And what are the differences between them? In this blog post, we will try to answer these questions so you would know what therapist to look for when you feel like trying something new.


Anma means simply, “massage”. It’s a traditional Japanese massage practice, which relies on pressure (“An”) and rubbing (“Ma”), in addition to tapping and shaking. It is quite an energetic form of massage, and relies of seven core techniques. The Japanese may have adapted Anma massage either from the Indian ayurvedic tradition or from ancient Chinese massage. Anma practitioners work on arms, legs, back and neck. It is a spiritual as well as a physical therapy.

Shiatsu massage

You may have seen the word ‘Shiatsu’ before. The literal translation of this word is “finger pressure”. It’s a contemporary form of Japanese massage, which evolved from Anma. The main difference between the two is that Shiatsu masseurs apply pressure in a less sudden way, slowly working up the amount of pressure. They use their fingers, thumbs and palms. The masseur might also use his elbows to massage. In Japan, Shiatsu is considered a form of medical treatment, and is used to treat a variety of illnesses.


Ashi means “foot” and atsu means “pressure”. A Japanese male massage practitioner, delivering Ashiatsu, would knead you using his feet! The idea is that the pressure should be less intense than the sharp elbow knead of Shiatsu. This kind of massage is usually performed on a massage table rather than a more traditional massage mat. It is so because although Ashiatsu originates from Shiatsu, it is a western form of Japanese massage. Variants can also be called “barefoot massage” or “gravity assisted massage”.

Traditional Japanese massage

Traditional Japanese massage. A Japanese woman being massaged by a blind Japanese man. Photograph. Wellcome Library, London.

Nuru massage

And, last but not least, Nuru massage. If you have booked this type of massage with one of our masseurs before, you will know that the masseur performs Nuru using a slippery seaweed-based Nuru lotion, sometimes also called Nuru gel. In fact, the word Nuru means “slippery”. You would be lying down on a waterproof Nuru mat or mattress, and your masseur would be using his whole body to glide over you and massage you. The idea is to envelop you with the masseur’s body, covering as much surface area as possible. Partly it’s to keep you warm, but it also results in an incredibly intimate experience.

Choose the right massage for you

Now that you are aware of the types of Japanese male massage available to you, you just need to consider your own needs and preferences. Do you care for a sense of history and tradition? You should try Anma. Does a more contemporary version interest you? Shiatsu is for you. Would prefer a slightly gentler option? Find a Shiatsu practitioner. And finally, perhaps you would love a dose of sensual pleasure with your massage? Why, Nuru is just what you need.

And if I just ask for ‘Japanese male massage’?

If you ask us, we will offer you Nuru massage, of course. We adore Nuru. Elsewhere you are most likely to be massaged by a practitioner who combines Anma and Shiatsu techniques. It is still an excellent massage, but if you happen to be a purist or just know what you want, make sure to enquire thoroughly!