Acupuncture first developed in China and then, around the 6th century CE, it got exported to Japan. Since then, over a fifteen hundred year period, it has evolved in a very Japanese way, becoming something quite different from its Chinese ancestor.
Interestingly, it became a profession that blind people were called to, so for obvious reasons, there has been a big emphasis on touching and diagnosing through touch. Japanese acupuncturists are always touching, stroking and pressing the skin to figure out what to do, especially around the tummy area, called the hara.
Another distinguishing feature is the common use of guide tubes to insert needles and the use of finer, smaller needles with shallow insertion depths. Guide tubes make needle insertion less painful than manual insertion. Some styles have developed ‘’touch needling’’ techniques, where the needle is not inserted at all. Other styles use a teishin, a blunt probe, to lightly stimulate the acupuncture points.
In addition to acupuncture, the Japanese developed many specialised moxibustion techniques, which are also generally quite minimal, using very small cones of a herb to heat the acupuncture points.
WHAT IS JAPANESE ACUPUNCTURE GOOD FOR?
Japanese acupuncture is good for all the conditions that acupuncture is generally renowned for, such as pain relief, fertility issues, migraines etc. etc. It’s also really good for people who have already tried acupuncture before and found it too painful or too strong. Most Japanese acupuncture styles are quite gentle. That means they're great for children and nervous adults.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK ANYWAY?
Cultures tend to try to explain the body in terms of their level of technology. Scientists today often talk about the hardware and software of the brain. The Victorians talked about the body as a locomotive, with the heart as its central engine. Ancient China was an agricultural society, dependent on rainfall and rivers for irrigation. Their explanation of acupuncture was based on the idea that Ki or energy flows around in channels (also called meridians) throughout the body. Just like actual rivers, which can flood, run dry or become obstructed by blockages, the flow of energy in these channels can change and as a result pain and disease can develop.
An easy way to think of this is to imagine a woman wearing a scarf too tightly. She will get red in the face and feel constricted. Loosening her scarf will help. Now imagine a man whose belt is too loose: it won’t hold his trousers up and he’s going to find walking quite difficult. Tightening his belt will help. Treating specific points on the channels with needles or other methods can increase or decrease this flow of Ki, and help a person to recover. Acupuncture has a very strong effect on musculature and structure, and one of the key aims of treatment is to enable tight points and areas of the body to become softer, balancing the structure of the body.
WHAT ARE ALL THESE DIFFERENT STYLES OF JAPANESE ACUPUNCTURE?
In Chinese acupuncture there is one dominant style of treatment, which is taught all over China and in the majority of Western acupuncture schools: this is called TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine. In Japan, however, there are many competing and diverse styles, often based on the treatment approach of one teacher.
You can think of this as different ways of playing the piano. You can play classical, jazz, blues or rock and roll on the piano but whatever you play, you’re still hitting the keys and making music (though some lovers of one style might not agree!). Acupuncture is the same. There are many ways to use the meridian system to treat the body. All of them use the acupuncture points and regulate the flow of Qi or energy in the meridians.
Here at Sayoshi we've been hard at work on our new project, a worldwide online directory for practitioners of Japanese acupuncture and moxibustion. SayoshI.com will help patients all over the world to find out more about these amazing and different styles of Japanese acupuncture and will help you to locate a practitioner near you. We know that Japanese style acupuncture treatments have proven health benefits and we are very excited at the chance to offer access to a community of highly trained and dedicated practitioners.
Watch this space!