While many people associate acupuncture with a Chinese tradition, its popularity and efficacy has seen it used widely across Asia. As such, acupuncture has seen a unique development in Japan, with foundations in traditional theories and practices inspired by China but following an evolution all its own. Japanese acupuncture is not a single, unified approach, but rather a generalised term for a variety of styles, methods and techniques which reflect certain common elements amongst Japanese practitioners.
One of the most noticeable differences between TCM/ Chinese acupuncture and Japanese acupuncture is a “less is more” approach to needling. For those worried about needles or pain, the good news is that Japanese acupuncture is more gentle – it places an emphasis on finer needles, with shallower insertion and more delicate stimulation to provide smaller but more targeted doses of treatment.
However, it’s not just about the needles – Japanese acupuncture also uses a wide range of other treatment options during a session, including moxa techniques, cupping, tuina massage, auricular acupuncture, structural adjustment and channel stretching exercises. The use of moxibustion in particular is very common in Japanese-style treatments, and uses very small doses of moxa (sometimes known as rice grain moxa) burned on acupuncture points. In fact, there are even moxa specialists in Japan who use nothing else in treatment.
Japanese acupuncture is very hands-on, with palpation being a key factor in both diagnosis and treatment. A diagnosis is made by feeling for changes in the pulse, the abdomen and the acupuncture channels. Even during treatment, more time is spent looking for that goldilocks point that is “just right”! This makes Japanese acupuncture a particularly dynamic approach, as it is always looking for changes and feedback over the course of a session.
The Japanese approach also places a particular emphasis on “root treatment”, which is defined as treating the most significant underlying or constitutional imbalance which is causing the problem. Ultimately, treating the root enables the body to restore itself and heal more efficiently and bringing it back into balance more quickly.
Although my initial training was based very much on a Chinese/ TCM tradition, since my final year of training in 2010 I have developed a keen interest in Japanese-style acupuncture and since then have been on a never-ending journey learning from experts in the field such as Stephen Birch and Kiiko Matsumoto.
If you’re wondering whether a Japanese acupuncture approach might be more suitable for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch using our contact page.