Japanese Acupuncture Japanese Medicine

Various styles of Japanese acupuncture have evolved since the theories of Chinese medicine and acupuncture were introduced to Japan in the 6th century.

Japanese Acupuncture vs. Chinese Acupuncture

The general differences between Japanese and Chinese acupuncture include:

  • Japanese acupuncture needles are thinner than Chinese needles.
  • Japanese practitioners do not insert the needles as deeply and tend to use more gentle stimulation techniques, believing that subtle energy is easier to access on the surface level. Practitioners also use insertion tubes for inserting needles, resulting in less painful needle insertion.
  • Japanese practitioners rely more on touch (palpation) to locate points to stimulate with acupuncture needles than on acupoints shown on a meridian chart. This approach also leads to more variation in how individuals are treated.

Japanese Styles of Acupuncture

Western medicine began to strongly influence Japanese medicine in the 18th century. As a result, the most common type of acupuncture in Japan today is based more on the scientific model than on traditional Chinese concepts.

However, the style of Japanese acupuncture based most on traditional Chinese theories–called “meridian therapy”–is the most common Japanese acupuncture available in the U.S. During meridian therapy, diagnosis of disease is made based on an excess or deficiency of Qi or blood in the meridians.

In addition to meridian therapy, other styles of Japanese acupuncture include:

  • Kiiko Matsumoto style, which uses a specific palpation sequence to locate active reflexes that suggest the underlying diagnosis. Changes in the reflexes indicate the efficacy of the treatment.
  • Manaka’s Yin Yang balancing system, a specific four-step treatment protocol.
  • Sawada-style treatment (Taikyoku therapy), which emphasizes strengthening the spleen and kidneys using direct moxibustion (burning of tiny bits of an herb–typically mugwort–on the tips of the needles).
  • Trigger point and tender point treatment aims to treat restrictions in the muscles and fascia.
  • Ryodoraku acupuncture includes electrical stimulation of acupuncture points.

Before you begin treatment, ask about your acupuncturist’s specific methods and training.


Ying Yang House. (n.d.). Japanese acupuncture – Treatments, protocols, theory and resources. Retrieved March 7, 2011, from http://www.yinyanghouse.com/theory/japanese/acupuncture_information

Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine. (n.d.). Features of Japanese acupuncture. Retrieved March 7, 2011, from http://www.siom.edu/articles-by-faculty/187-features-of-japanese-acupuncture-

Tri-State College of Acupuncture. (n.d.). Traditional Japanese acupuncture. Retrieved March 7, 2011, from http://www.tsca.edu/site/prospective/c/programs/japanese-acupuncture/