Yasuyori Tamba,  an acupuncture doctor, who served at a court ,presented Ishinpo,, the oldest medical book existing in Japan, to the Emperor in 984. This book contains a systematic compilation of information on various medical practices: acupuncture, moxabustion, herbs, diet, pediatric treatment, etc.

It was not until the Nara Period (700-788 C.E.) that the first medical system was established in Japan. Acupuncture and moxabustion therapy became the national medicine. During the Kamakura and Muromachi Periods (1189-1572 C.E.), many monks learned acumoxa therapy. These methods spread along with the acculturation of Buddhism.

In the Azuchi (1568-1600 C.E.) and Edo (1600-1868 C.E.) Periods, acupuncture and moxibustion became distinctly Japanese, developing characteristic Japanese features. Isai Misono (1557-1616) realized that thin needles made of gold and silver were better suited for Japanese people than regular steel needles. He advocated the use of gold and silver needles and the use of a wooden hammer to tap the needle for gradual entry into the skin.

Waichi Sugiyama (1610-1694) devised the guide tube method (the method of placing a needle inside a tube and then tapping it into the skin). The needle tube makes it possible to insert a thinner needle.  Sugiyama also revitalized the concept of root treatment (honchiho) and branch treatment (hyochiho).

During this era, Western medicine introduced by Dutch seafarers was also used. Meanwhile in China, the government rejected European entry. As a result, Japanese-style acupuncture and moxibustion became more familiar in Europe. A priest who came to Japan to introduce Christianity reported, “The Japanese people, due to the weather and food of the land, are generally healthy. When they become sick, they stick silver needles into their arms, stomach, and back for any kind of pain.” However, acupuncture therapy was available only to the Emperor and other wealthy people. The common people sought relief with herbal medicine, amma massage, and moxibustion, techniques handed down through family traditions.

In the Meiji Period (1868-1912) the government backed Western biomedicine as it proved to be valuable for the military. The government established a law stating, “Only those who studied Western medicine are recognized as doctors.” At this point traditional medicine went into decline. It might have vanished completely had not a doctor by the name of Keijyuryo Wada wrote Caution in the Medical World in Meiji 43 (1910), wherein he explained the superiority of Chinese traditional medicine and warned the medical world about the danger of resorting to only Western biomedicine.

Many doctors were influenced by this article and consequently studied traditional medicine, since most of them were clinicians who dealt with patients on a daily basis. They recognized the excellence of traditional medicine as a therapeutic tool.

During the Showa Era (1927-1989) a therapeutic system gradually developed, and with skill refinement and in-depth study, acumoxa therapy held its ground as a traditional medicine in Japan, even though Western medicine still had a strong influence.

In the same way that the Shang Han Lùn (On Cold Damage) assigns a “sho” (pattern) to a person’s condition and prescribes medicine accordingly, the concept of “sho” was introduced to acumoxa therapy. Thus a systematic approach to diagnosis and treatment was devised. It came to be known as Keiraku Chiryo (Channel Therapy). It mainly expressed sho in terms of the repletion and vacuity of the twelve meridians as determined by six-position pulse diagnosis. The five phase points of the limbs were used to restore balance.

History from Acupuncture Core Therapy, Shakujyu Chiryo Shoji Kobayashi, Paradigm Publication 2008 used with permission.


Japanese Style Acupuncture Therapy

Japanese Acupuncture is a system of health care that has developed over the past 1800 years. The foundation on which it is set is based on the concept of Qi (pronounced chee). Qi is the life force that circulates though all parts of the body via energy channels, called meridians. These meridians may be thought of as similar to the lymphatic or vascular system in the body. Each meridian is responsible for the physical and emotional balance in the body.

The condition of health in the meridians is reflected in the radial wrist pulse (myaku) and the abdomen (hara).

The abdomen is palpated with light pressure, checking for temperature and texture differences. Different areas of the abdomen correspond to specific meridians and organs. The pulse is palpated at the wrist, checking for speed, depth and quality. Careful examination includes medical history, medications, lifestyle choices, diet and exercise. The information gathered from questioning, observing and palpating will factor into the overall diagnosis and state of health of the meridians and organs.

There are points located along the meridians that have specific actions and effects. These points are where the acupuncturist will gather the Qi. Hair-fine, sterile, acupuncture needles are inserted into points along the meridians. Other techniques involve holding, stroking or tapping of a needle or an acupuncture tool at a point. This helps smooth the flow of Qi and restore balance, allowing the body to work at an optimal level of health.

Both the left and right hand are used during a Japanese style acupuncture treatment. The  oshide, the technique of holding the acupuncture needle with the left hand is coupled with the right hand or sashide that inserts the needle. The oshide is important in receiving the information felt beneath the needle or on the skin (temperature, texture, etc.). The sashide is important for executing the approach of the needle to the oshide and in manipulating the needle or acupuncture tool for different techniques.