Unlike Chinese-style acupuncture, where a strong needle sensation is considered therapeutic, Japanese-style can be so gentle it is said you should be able to needle a sleeping cat. Needles are smaller and insertions are more shallow, sometimes only the surface of the skin is stimulated. Fewer points may also be selected, as elegant simplicity is highly valued. And much more emphasis is placed on palpation—repeatedly taking the pulse, examining the abdomen, and checking acupuncture points and channels for subtle changes over the course of a treatment.
At many points in Japanese history acupuncture was a profession for the blind, hence the emphasis on palpation. The guide tube that surrounds most acupuncture needles was also invented in Japan, making many different kinds of subtle and precise needling possible, another hallmark of Japanese-style acupuncture.
Along with gentle needling, practitioners in Japan have revived the use of the teishin (pictured above) and other traditional tools (pictured on our homepage) that are only used on the surface of the skin, in lieu of or in addition to the standard filiform acupuncture needle. Other unique aspects of traditional Japanese acupuncture include the intrinsic use of moxibustion (burning mugwort over acupuncture points) and sotai (a movement therapy system that emphasizes awareness and breathing, going toward ease and away from pain).