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Music Therapy in Japan: Kagayashiki Therapy

    Music therapy is often divided into two broad categories - active and receptive therapy. Active therapy involves the patient “actively” playing an instrument, composing music, or otherwise directly creating music. Receptive therapy, on the other hand, involves the patient listening to, describing, or otherwise passively interacting with music. This article will explore the benefits of active music therapy, specifically the Kagayashiki framework, and elaborate on several scientific studies that have revealed them. 

    There are several usages and variations of active music therapy. It can involve the patient playing an instrument to help with coordination and/or fine motor skills, composing music to reveal their psyche and emotions, and even embracing social interaction between participants through musical interventions.

    One of these forms of active music therapy is called “Kagayashiki” therapy, named after Tetsuro Kagaya, a Japanese musical therapist who first introduced it in 1967. Kagayashiki music therapy proposes a framework of activity and musical interventions which has been shown to improve interpersonal relationships, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase motivation in physical and social activity, particularly in the elderly. 

    The Kagayashiki system is unique in several ways, the first of which is its use of a group-guided intervention where a social environment is fostered. Usually, one practitioner guides the group of patients by showing them the movements and conducting the music by showing the poses actions in order to achieve coordination between the mind and the body. Often, this helps a group of patients by making them pay close attention to the actions, like pauses and movements, which match the music in order to achieve communication and coordination between the members. Musical tracks have a wide variety and are capable of causing an array of stimulatory effects within the body and the mind, and thus practitioners often have a wide range of tracks from pop music to classical music to traditional Japanese music.

    Some scientists theorize that this form of active music therapy promotes functional physical well-being by balancing the hormones associated with activity and passive music listening, which balances the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system, allowing the patient to experience the benefits of stress and anxiety relief that music provides in addition to the benefits of physical activity. 

    One study conducted in Taiwan showed that Kagayashiki music therapy can be a highly effective alternative for traditional physical activity. 71 participants in the experimental group were involved in a music therapy program that was divided into 8 steps, with slower, classical “warm-up” songs at the beginning, faster, upbeat in the middle, and ending finally with relaxing tunes and silence. Each participant was instructed to follow the music therapy regimen. The research found that by one month of this program, those in the experimental group had significantly higher fitness levels in categories like flexibility and endurance than those in the control group, and these advantages continued for the entire duration of the study. 

    Kagayashiki, although having been around for a long time, is a largely uninvestigated form of active music therapy that combines the benefits of passive music listening with moderate intensity physical activity. In the future, we hope to explore the benefits of several different types of active and passive music therapy, and possibly bring the Kagayashiki system to the forefront of medical attention. 

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