The story of Japanese acupuncture starts in the 6th century when communication, travel, and the exchange of culture and ideas between China and Japan was experiencing a peak. This culture of exchange and openness encouraged travel between the two countries and that is how a physician monk named Zhichang wound up in Japan and shared acupuncture and moxibustion with its people for the first time. Though the points and meridians have remained the same, acupuncture took on some interesting and important stylistic differences throughout the following centuries in Japan.
One of the practitioners most credited with the stylistic departure of Japanese acupuncture in the 17th century is Waichi Sugiyama. Blind from infancy, Waichi gradually developed a style that utilized his enhanced tactile sensitivity by favouring diagnostic methods such as thorough palpation, and extensive pulse taking over methods that rely on sight. Eventually Sugiyama would open schools to teach his techniques to the blind, further developing this style of gentle acupuncture, and popularizing it throughout Japan.
In Japan the needling of the points became shallower, and tiny cones of moxa the size of a grain of rice were routinely burned over the points to enhance the effect of the gentle needling.
Japanese acupuncture as we know it today and contemporary masters of Japanese acupuncture such as Master Kyoshi Nagano continue to develop and contribute to the evolution of this style.
Master Nagano (- 2003) developed a unique approach to the medicine that incorporated classical theoretical concepts with insights from western medicine. He selectively passed his knowledge down to Kiiko Matsumoto, who in turn passed this knowledge on to Takamasa Tsurusaki, one of the few practitioners to be officially recognized as a practitioner of Nagano Style acupuncture.
We are very excited to have Takamasa Tsurusaki teaching Introduction to Japanese Acupuncture this January at Eight Branches Academy, and look forward to applying what we learn from him in our Japanese Acupuncture teaching clinic in our spring 2016 term.
For more information on the history and evolution of Japanese acupucnture visit this pubmed article
and for a really interesting interview with Lorraine Wilcox on the history and science of Moxa listen to