“Japanese, Korean and Chinese acupuncture all have their foundations in traditional Chinese medicine, and all are very effective,” says Dr. Yihyun Kwon, assistant dean for acupuncture and oriental medicine at National University of Health Sciences. “How acupuncture evolved in different regions of Asia reflects the culture and history of each region.” 

“The Japanese use thinner needles, and a gentler technique with shallow insertion. Their diagnostic assessment relies heavily on palpation of the abdomen, back and various pulses along the meridian system. In fact, Japanese style acupuncture is often called ‘meridian acupuncture’ for this reason,” says Dr. Hyundo Kim, chief clinician for the acupuncture program at NUHS.

Western medicine moved into Japan much earlier than it did in other Asian countries through Dutch influence in the 1600s. Because of this, Japan has always had more of an interest in western medicine than oriental medicine. Japan even prohibited oriental medicine under Emperor Meiji in the late 1800s.  Later on, acupuncture was finally allowed once again, but only as an occupation for the blind. 

“This is why their style developed diagnostic methods that relied on palpation rather than sight – feeling the abdomen, back and meridian pulses rather than looking at visual characteristics of the tongue, eyes or fingernails,” says Dr. Kim.  “This is also why they use a lot of acupressure as well, as this technique was very adaptable to blind practitioners.”