The idea of blind practitioners using needles may initially seem somewhat strange to us in the west. However, it is commonly known that with the loss of sight comes an enhancement of the other senses. The ability of blind practitioners to sense the movement of subtle energies within and around the body is said to be quite extraordinary. This ability allows for highly refined pulse diagnosis and treatment techniques and this gift is used to help restore health to those seeking treatment. From the Japanese point of view, the practice of acupuncture utilizes the enhanced tactile skill of the blind and provides a profession where they may naturally excel. To this day a large group of blind practitioners continues to influence both the practice and theory of acupuncture and shiatsu massage in Japan. The style of acupuncture that is most strongly associated with the blind is known as the Toyo Hari (Eastern Needle) style.
Some Differences between Toyo Hari and Chinese acupuncture.
Because Japanese acupuncture is based on the Chinese classics, both Japanese and Chinese acupuncture share the same meridians and points and many of the same underlying philosophical principles. However, from a clinical perspective the Toyo Hari style differs from the more common Chinese styles in many interesting and important ways. Generally speaking Toyo Hari practitioners use far thinner needles than their Chinese counterparts. For instance, most commonly used Chinese needles are about 0.30 mm in diameter, while a typical Japanese needle used in Toyo Hari will be between 0.12 mm-16mm.
The needles are usually not inserted as deeply as they are in Chinese acupuncture and very often they are not inserted through the skin at all. Rather, the needles are used to either nourish or to move qi(vital energy) in a very gentle but powerful technique known in Japanese as Ho technique or in English as touch needling. Because of the difference in approach to needling technique, Toyo Hari acupuncture is often experienced as more gentle and less painful than most of the Chinese styles. Many westerners find this approach more appealing.