Japanese Acupuncture Vs. Chinese Acupuncture

One of my Japanese teachers, Atsuki Maeda, compares acupuncture to cars. Remember where the first car was invented, he says. Now think of what countries make the best cars in the world. You may find yourself naming 2 different countries. The same is true for acupuncture. Just because it was invented in China doesn’t mean that that’s where the best acupuncture is being done.

I’m not proclaiming Japanese acupuncture is superior to Chinese acupuncture, but they are different. They fill different needs, just like a 2-seater and an SUV fill different needs. And I should probably mention that there are many other types of acupuncture besides Chinese and Japanese. Korean, 5 Element, and Vietnamese are just a few. On top of that, there are varying schools within all of these broad categories. But that’s a topic for another day!

Since much of my training is in Japanese styles, I’ll stick to what I know here. And there a few things that drew me to studying these styles that I’d like to tell you about.

 What’s So Special About Japanese Acupuncture?

To me, what’s unique about Japanese acupuncture is the quality of touch. Everything is more subtle and refined. A Chinese style practitioner might find the general location of a point, use a thick, heavy pin to elicit a deep, strong sensation. On the other hand, a Japanese style practitioner is likely to take more time to find the exact location of a point on the particular body they are working with. Because the point location is more exact, we don’t need to strongly stimulate the point. My goal when treating a patient is to down regulate his or her nervous system, to get their body to a place of calm and healing. So the more comfortable I can make my patient, the better the treatment will work.

Another key difference between these two styles is in the diagnosis. Most Chinese style acupuncturists will feel your pulse, look at your tongue, and talk to you about your symptoms. A Japanese acupuncturist may also do all of those things, but they are also feeling your arms, legs, back and/or abdomen for diagnostic clues. They might notice if your skin is hot or cold, if it’s rough or smooth. They’ll find places that feel soft, sunken or deficient, and other spots that hard, knotted or excess. All of these sensations help guide the practitioner to a more complete diagnosis and treatment.

 One Of The Great Masters, Kiiko Sensei

In one of the styles I use regularly, taught by Kiiko Matsumoto, there are very specific places on the abdomen, neck and extremities that give detailed information about what’s going on in your body. If I press around the navel, and the patient gets an uncomfortable sensation, then I know that there’s an adrenal imbalance. There’s a spot on the neck that indicates a thyroid issue, and another that will tell me if the nervous system is having a hard time shutting down. These are just a few of the indications that I can pick up on just by palpating someone.

In a nutshell, Japanese acupuncture is more gentle, and uses more palpation, or diagnostic touching of the body, than Chinese styles do. They both do a great job at treating pain, headaches, women’s health issues, anxiety, stress, digestive disturbances and more. If you’d like to experience Japanese acupuncture for yourself, and you’re in the Greenville area, just click the schedule tab on our website and book an appointment. We’d love to see you!

Elizabeth Williams, LAc is an acupuncturist and herbalist in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in pain management, women’s health, and psycho-emotional issues. She’s passionate about helping people feel their best and sharing her wealth of knowledge with the community. Elizabeth is the owner of Dragonfly Acupuncture & Massage on Wade Hampton Boulevard. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313 or scheduled online.