My first introduction to Japanese Acupuncture was my first semester of my first year of acupuncture school where I was observing a Japanese clinic. The instructor would emphasis over and over find the most deficient organ system treat that organ system and its mother organ system. This concept was etched in my head and I was drawn to Japanese Acupuncture.
The school I went to was a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) School where all of the instructors were TCM practioners with the exception of this one instructor who taught palpation. I was taught TCM theory, diagnosis, and treatment. How to apply the eight principles of deficiency, excess, internal, external, heat, cold, yin, and yang to the organ systems through questioning the patient. Observing the color of the tongue body, the color of certain areas of the tongue, the coating of the tongue, and if there are any crakes. And determining the quality of the pulse. Is it fast/slow? Is the pulse deep or at the surface? Does it feel tight or like a rolling hill? Appling this information to the symptoms that the patient is experiencing to come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan.
The theory behind TCM is that diseases and pain are caused when there is stagnation in the body. Similar to water behind a dam when pressure is built up. When the pressure is released the water flows smoothly restoring balance to relieve pain and remove disease. In TCM we are taught to go fishing for the Qi, so the needles are inserted and stimulated to achieve this.
Japanese theory is all disease start from a deficiency, so treat the deficiency to eliminate the disease. You let the body tell you where these deficiencies are by determining which meridian is the most deficient by taking the pulse. The pulse in Japanese style is based on a six finger position where the pulse beneath each finger is representative of a different meridian. Middle pulse is found where the quality of the pulse is the same for each organ system, then pressure is applied and the first pulse to disappear is the most deficient meridian. Observing and questioning the patient along with abdominal palpation are also used to solidify the diagnosis. Balance to the meridians is the goal. When the pulses are balanced the body can heal itself. This is called the root treatment. Japanese acupuncture uses very fine needles with shallow insertion or touch needle technique are often used. They believe that the Qi will come to the needles. The exact location of the point is often felt or sensed based on the underline skin. The gentleness of Japanese acupuncture is more comfortable to the patient.
The differences from Japanese to TCM is the treatment of deficiency rather than symptoms and stagnation. The use of palpation is used rather than differential diagnosis. Even finer needles with shallow insertion and touch needle technique are used. Location of point is sensed rather than fixed location. The use of abdominal palpation. The treatment is more comfortable for the patient.
I believe that Japanese root treatment is more affective for balancing the deficiencies or the underline condition. However, at times I still use TCM to treat some of the symptoms.