Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medicine and healing in the world. It has been around for thousands of years and originated in China. It made its way to Japan through Korea in the 6th century and has been practiced there since.
During the 10th century political tension between China and Japan meant contact between the two countries became increasingly less and this allowed the Japanese Acupuncturist to make their own unique innovations to the medicine, developing differences in practices and techniques
At the end of the 17th century Waichi Sugiyama who was a blind acupuncturist, became famous after inventing a guide tube that allowed needle insertion to be less painful. He opened the first acupuncture school for the blind in Japan. It was the beginning of what has become one of the most interesting and unique characteristics of Japanese acupuncture: a strong influence by blind practitioners.
Because Japanese acupuncture is based on the Chinese classics, Japanese and Chinese acupuncture share the same meridians and points and many of the same underlying philosophical principles.
The main differences between the two styles are: needle size, needle stimulation and palpation.
Needle size: All acupuncture needles are very small. Around 20 acupuncture needles will fit into a hypodermic needle. However, when comparing the two, Chinese acupuncture uses thicker needles and Japanese needles are thinner and much smaller. If you have a fear of needles you may be better off with Japanese acupuncture
Needle stimulation: With Chinese acupuncture there is intent to get a certain sensation to gather the “Qi”. This sensation is obtained by rotating, lifting and thrusting the needle. The depth of needle is inserted much deeper in Chinese acupuncture.
In comparison, the Japanese acupuncturist places the small needle barely below the surface of the skin, there is no manipulation of the needle and the intention is no sensation. Instead of using the sensation of qi to signify the correct point the location, the Japanese acupuncturist uses palpation of reflex points,
Palpation: The Japanese approach uses a more intimate diagnosis one that involves a lot of touch and palpating to feel for tender points- especially on the abdomen.
The practitioner may also do some preliminary testing before commencing treatment by checking how the affected organs respond to touch of certain acupuncture points. Interacting with the patient and gathering feedback is key to getting the correct diagnosis in Japanese Style.