Reiki History

Mikao Usui Sensei

Mikao Usui's Portrait1865 – On August 15, Mikao Usui (his pen name was Gyoho) was born in Taniai-mura (now Miyama-cho) Yamagata-gun Gifu-ken. His father was Uzaemon Tsunetane, a military commander and his mother was from the Kawai family. His ancestor’s name was Tsunetane Chiba, a very famous Samurai from the 8th century.

1868 – 1912 Meiji period dominated by the Meiji Emperor.

During the Meiji Restoration period Japan, governed by the Emperor Mutsuhito, opened it’s doors to the outside world after many years of being a closed country. Many reforms were introduced including compulsory education, the revival of conservatism and nationalism – principles adopted from Confucianism and Shintoism – and worship of the emperor. The society went from an agrarian economy to industrial one. To support this change, many Japanese scholars were sent abroad to study Western science and languages. The government also directly supported the prospering of businesses and industries, especially the large and powerful family businesses. These huge expenditures led to a government financial crisis in the middle of the 1880’s.

1869 – At the age of 4, it is believed that Usui was sent to a Tendai monastery, where he remained for a period of years. During this time he studied Ki-Ko (Japanese version of Qi Gong) to a high level and was able to do projection healing. He meditated regularly at Kurama Yama. Some of his original healing methods have their origin in Ki-Ko.

Temple schools were quite common in that period of time, but disappeared rapidly as the country was modernized.

1873 – The ban on Christianity was officially lifted.

Usui was extraordinarily gifted in academics, studying under adversity. His memorial states that “he traveled abroad to China, US and Europe, was a talented, hard working student who liked to read, and his knowledge of medicine, history, psychology, Shinsen Jutsu, and the religions of the world including the Kyoten (Buddhist Bible) were vast”. Usui probably received much of his education from Kyoto’s extensive libraries and other higher-learning establishments.

Before settling down, Usui-San worked as a missionary, government officer, a businessman who eventually went bankrupt, a journalist, and Secretary to the Mayor of Tokyo and was part of the entourage of Goto Shinpei who was acting governor for Kodama Gentaro, the Governor of Taiwan (1898-1906). He lived a free man, a monk who lived outside of the temple. Periodically, he would visit the prisons, perhaps as part of his missionary work.

He married Sadako Suzuki and they had two children, a son Fuji (1908 – 1946), and a daughter (1913 – 1935). At some point in time there was a split in his family, possibly because of his interest in the Christian texts, differing sects of Buddhism and/or esoteric matters.

Through his life experiences Usui-Sensei discovered the purpose of life was Anshin Ritsumei or ‘The state of your mind being totally in peace, knowing what to do with your life, bothered by nothing’. He desired to attain this state of mind, so he began his search.

1912 – 1926 Taisho period dominated by the Taisho Emperor.

1914 – Usui Sensei began teaching what his students referred to as Teate or hand healing. They called it this because it is what they saw him do, not what he was teaching. These teachings were spiritually based and the beginnings of Usui Reiki Ryoho.

1918 – 1919 Usui began training as a Zen Buddhist (within Tendai), studying for 3 years.

1922 – He worked toward achieving Satori, the state of Spiritual Enlightenment, but wasn’t succeeding, so he asked his Zen Master what to do. The answer he received was “Die one time”. This motivated him to fast until he either died or became enlightened.

In March, distraught with his life, desperately seeking answers, he followed his Zen Masters advice, deciding to fast on Mt. Kurama until he became enlightened. It was not uncommon for Usui to fast as he made regular trips to the mountain to seek answers. This is a common practice called shyu gyo a spiritual discipline, including fasts and meditation for 21 days, a strict spiritual training. On his memorial it says that the last morning of his fast ‘he felt one great Reiki over his head’, Reiki being the wisdom and knowledge of all the Universe. The word Reiki during Usui sensei’s time and before meant ‘atmosphere of the Divine’. Usui Sensei achieved Satori and acquired a healing ability, which he called Reiki Ryoho – ‘spiritual energy healing method’. It was also often referred to as Usui Teate or ‘Usui hands-on healing’. He took this gift home and worked on himself and his family. It is said that his wife was ill and Reiki cured her. Usui decided not to just keep Reiki for his family but to make Shoden level “freely available to all of the people” a direct quote from one of his teaching manuals, Usui Reiki Hikkei.

It states quite clearly on Usui’s memorial that Kurama Yama was where the meditation took place. In two Japanese books about Reiki, 1914 is the date given for Usui’s 21 day fast, but this does not correspond with the dates of his Zen training.

About the sacred mountain – Kurama Yama: Yama means mountain and Kurama means horse saddle. Mt. Kurama, 570 Meters above sea level, is 12 kilometers due north of Kyoto Imperial Palace. The Kurama Temple, founded in 770 as ‘the guardian of the northern quarter of the capital city’ Heiankyo, is located halfway up the mountain. The original buildings have been repeatedly destroyed by fire and subsequently rebuilt. The Main Hall was last rebuilt in 1971. The temple formerly belonged to the Tendai sect of Buddhism, but since 1949, it has been included in the newly founded Kurama-Kokyo sect as its headquarters. At the time of Usui’s fast, Kurama Yama was also the location of a spiritualist group called Rei Jyutsu Ka, which he may have also attended.

In April, Usui-San founded Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai or ‘Usui Reiki Healing Method Learning Society’ and opened his first clinic in Aoyama, Tokyo where he practiced Reiki and gave workshops on the technique publicly.

During his study of Shinto and Mahayana (Mikkyo) Buddhism he discovered the empowerment method Reiju. The first record of Usui giving Reiju was in Harajuku, Tokyo in 1922.

Usui Sensei made the first level teaching Shoden available to anyone who desired it. Initially it seems that he had no set hand positions, all of his work was done intuitively and over areas of imbalance or painful areas. But as he began teaching others to do Reiho, he created a set of instructions, which he called the Usui Reiki Hikkei.

1923 – During the emergency created by an earthquake, Usui Sensei’s way of giving relief was to “reach out his hands of love to suffering people” and he helped many of the victims. Soon he became quite famous and his success and reputation with Reiki were known all over Japan.

On September 1st, shortly before noon, a great earthquake hit Tokyo and Yokohama, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale. Over 100,000 deaths were reported. The epicenter was about 50 miles from Tokyo. That is reported to be the greatest natural disaster in Japanese history.

1925 – He outgrew his center and moved it to larger quarters in Nakano, outside of Tokyo in February (today Nakano is part of Tokyo). His travels with Reiki had taken him all over Japan and many of the places he visited were naval bases.

1922 – 1926 He was very well known and taught Reiki to more than 2,000 students, 17 of those students were Shinpiden or Teacher level (4 navel officers, 5 Buddhist nuns, and 8 other associates). Following are the names of some of the students thought to be Shinpiden: Juzaburo Ushida (Gyuda) (did the calligraphy for the memorial), Kan’ichi Taketomi, Chujiro Hayashi (Naval Officers), Yoshiharu Watanabe, Toshihiro Eguchi, Masayuki Okada (author of the inscription on the memorial), Tetsutaro Imaizumi, Sono’o Tsuboi and Haru Nagao. All students of Usui, and Hayashi, were recorded with the Educational Departments in Japan and can be traced.

1926 – On March 9, Usui-Sensei experienced his transition because of a stroke (one of several), in a town called Fukuyama in Hiroshima-Ken. He had been on a tour bringing Reiki to the people of Kure, Hiroshima and Saga. He was 62. The night before he died it is said that he practiced Reiki.

1927 – In February, Usui Sensei’s students erected a memorial to his memory it is located in a graveyard of the Seihoji temple in Tokyo. Much of the information on this history was taken from it.

Reiki did not disappear from Japan at any time, not even during the war. No one person was ever appointed to continue the Reiki lineage and there is no record of a Grand Master level in Japan.

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Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai

Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai or ‘Usui Reiki Healing Method Learning Society’ is the society Usui san formed in April 1922. It is still in existence today. Chairpersons include:

  • First – Mikao Usui (b. 1865 – d. 1926),
  • Second – Jusaburo Ushida (Gyuda) (b. 1865 – d. 1935, author of the memorial),
  • Third – Kan’ichi Taketomi (b. 1878 – d. 1960),
  • Fourth – Yoshiharu Watanabe,
  • Fifth – Hoichi Wanami (b. 1883 – d. 1975),
  • Sixth – Ms. Kimiko Koyama (b. 1906 – d. 12/1999, first woman),
  • Seventh – Masayoshi Kondo – Current Chairperson since 1998.

The Society holds weekly Shuyo kai at Tokyo headquarters and twice a year at the branches. During these meetings the students, sing Waka poetry, chant the Reiki Principles and practice self-purifying exercises. While doing Hatsurei-ho, a Shinpiden gives each student Reiju to purify, cleanse and further open the student’s Reiki channels. It is believed also that members of the Gakkai still meet on Mt. Kurama to regularly receive Reiju and honor Usui Sensei.

Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai is a closed society, following closely the original teaching of Usui Sensi. They have their own manual on Reiki called. Reiki Ryoho No Shion means ‘Reiki Healing Method from the Kindness of a Teacher’ which is given only to members of the society. The society also has 2 manuals produced by Usui San; one explains Reiki Ryoho and the other shows various Reiho techniques.

Anyone may take Shoden or First Level, but higher levels of Reiho are only given when the student is able to exhibit proficiency in various techniques and can demonstrate their healing ability. In Japan, once a student reaches a level, they are able to display the healing power corresponding to that level and get the expected results. Another way of looking at this, in Usui Reiho taught in Japan, being at a level means that you have mastered it thoroughly. Some students in Japan practice for 10 years before they move to the Okuden or Second Level. Shinpiden or Teacher Level is rarely given. There are only 6 Shinpiden currently in the society, which has 500 members.

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Chujiro Hayashi

Chujiro Hayashi's Portrait1879 – Chujiro Hayashi was born.

1925 – June, received his Shinpiden training with Usui Sensei. He was 47 years old at the time and an ex-naval commander in the Imperial Japanese Navy. He also had medical training, which included Chinese Medicine.

It is believed that 2 other navel officers Jusaburo Ushida (Gyuda), and Kanichi Taketomi were the last Shinpiden students that Usui trained. They receiving their training in September.

1926 – In April, after Usui Sensei made his transition, he and the other two naval officers he taught, took over his clinic at Nakano, near Tokyo. For about 8 years, they operated. a hospice for the terminally ill, giving treatments and continuing to teach the original Usui methods.

1928 – March, a Japanese Magazine “Sunday Mainichi” published an article on Reiki. It stated that Hayashi Sensei had trained Mr. Matsui in Reiki. Mr. Matsui stated that the Reiki Clinic was open every morning for client treatments, and that Mr. Hayashi only taught classes several days a month, the rest of his time was spent doing healing work. He also said that “Mr. Hayashi did not advertise and was a very strict man who was dedicated to Reiki. “At that time in Japan, a lot of people were doing different forms of healing and most of them not affiliated to Reiki, claimed Matsui.

1931 – Hayashi Sensei left the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai over a disagreement with the chairperson of the society, Taketomi Sensei. Ushida and Taketomi Sensei continued Usui’s Teaching Society, while Hayashi Sensei kept Usui Sensei’s clinic originally called Usui Memorial Clinic. He renamed it Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai or ‘Hayashi Reiki Research Society’.

Hayashi Sensei’s school offered a 5-day Shoden workshop available for a very high price or the students could work with him in his clinic in exchange for the fee: 8 hours per week for 3 months for Shoden and 8 hours per week for 9 months for Okuden.

Hayashi had his own manual, about 40 pages long, called Ryoho Shishin or ‘Healing Method Guideline’ which was the same name Usui Sensei used for the guideline section of his Hikkei and similar to it.

At some point, Hayashi Sensei may have added or experimented with material based on Chinese Medicine. This is based on the knowledge that Tatsumi-San received information from Hayashi Sensei referencing Chinese Medicine, including a series of 7 hand positions that worked with the meridians. This information is different from what is contained in Hayashi’s Ryoho Shishin and it appears that Takata Sensei did not receive this information.

1935 – Jusaburo Ushida made his transition.
December 10, Hawayo Takata attended Hayashi’s Shoden Reiki class. Mrs. Takata and her 2 daughters stayed with the Hayashi family in Japan a little over 1 year.

1936 – May: an excerpt from Takata’s diary: “Mr. Hayashi has granted to bestow upon me the secret of ShinpidenKokiyou-ho and Leiji-ho (Reiji-ho) – the utmost secret in the energy science.

1937 – Before Takata left for Hawaii, she attended Hayashi’s Okuden level class.
There is a poor copy of a photo of a class or a meeting with the title Reiki Ryho ho Kai 1937. At the bottom of the photo in Japanese Kanji are the words Reiki Ryoho Koushu Kai, which translates ‘Reiki Ryoho Training Meeting’. Hayashi might have casually referred to the method he taught as Usui Shiki Ryoho or ‘Usui Style Healing Method’. However he called the system Usui Reiki Ryoho as Usui Sensei did.

1937 – Dr. Hayashi and his daughter traveled to Hawaii and stayed until February 1938. A few weeks after Takata went back to Hawaii, Dr. Hayashi and his daughter arrived and stayed until February 1938.

1938 – February 21st, Hayashi officially conferred the title of Reiki Master to Takata. She became a Reiki Teacher or Shinpiden. On the certificate the name of the system is stated several times including: Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho – ‘Usui Reiki system of drugless healing’ and Usui Reiki Ryoho – ‘Usui system of Reiki healing’.

1926-1940 – He initiated 13 Reiki Masters. At least three of them were women. Mrs. Hayashi continued to teach Reiki in Japan following the passing of her husband. Mrs. Takata (13th Shinpiden student) spread Reiki in the West and Mrs. Yamaguchi continues to teach Reiki Ryoho in Japan to this day. Tatsumi-San, one of Hayashi’s last Shinpiden students, never taught Reiki publicly.

After being asked to do so by Usui sensei, Dr. Hayashi went on to develop the Usui system of healing. He created the standard hand positions, the system of three degrees and the initiation procedures. It is also thought that he added the master symbol.

1940 – On May 10th, in front of a small gathering of his Shinpiden students and family, Chujiro Hayashi took his own life. He said that he was a man of peace and could not go to war (WWII), which he knew was about to begin.

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Hawayo Takata

Hawayo Takata's Portrait1900 – December 25: Hawayo Kawamuru was born in Hanamaulu, Kauai, Hawaii. Mr. and Mrs. Otogoro Kawamuru, her parents, were Japanese immigrants and sugar cane workers. She was named after the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawayo worked as a sugar cane worker, soda fountain clerk, waitress/pantry girl and head of housekeeping for a wealthy family.

1917 – March, Hawayo Kawamuru and Saichi Takata were married. Saichi and Hawayo were very happy together and had 2 daughters. One of them named Alice Takata-Furumoto, had a daughter named Phyllis Lei Furumoto.

1930 – Saichi Takata became very ill and went to Japan for treatment. While in Japan he made his transition at age 34, leaving Mrs. Takata to raise their two children.

The next several years were very hard for Hawayo; she really pushed herself to cover her grief and worked many long hours to provide for her family. This took its toll on her health and she began experiencing abdominal pain. Her parents went to Japan for a yearlong visit.

1935 – Hawayo’s sister made her transition and Hawayo went to Japan to tell her parents and receive treatment for her asthma and abdominal pain. For the first 3 weeks at the hospital in Japan, she rested, relaxed and ate lots of food to regain her strength, before the operation. Just before her operation, she heard a voice say to her that the operation was not necessary; so she asked her doctor about alternatives to surgery. He told her about Hayashi’s Reiki Clinic where she went to received a treatment that very day. The daily treatments continued for the next 4 months, until she was completely cured. Takata wanted to learn Reiki to preserve her health.

On December 10, Takata attended a Shoden Reiki class.

1937 – Mrs. Takata attended Hayashi’s Okuden level class. A few weeks after that, she left for Hawaii.

A few weeks after Mrs. Takata went back to Hawaii; Dr. Hayashi and his daughter arrived and stayed until February 1938.

1938 – February 21st, Hayashi Sensei officially conferred the title of Reiki Master to Takata Sensei. She became a Reiki Teacher or Shinpiden and she was the thirteenth and last Reiki Master Dr. Hayashi initiated.

This moment is considered the beginning of the Reiki history in the Western world, because Hawaii had been an American territory since 1900, and became the 50th state of the USA in 1959.

When asked about Mrs. Takata’s fee for mastership training, Helen Haberly, one of her students and author of ‘Reiki, Hawayo Takata’s Story’ responded, “Mrs. Takata had to put her house up for sale to pay for her Shinpiden training.”

1940 – Takata Sensei received a telegraph from Hayashi Sensei requesting her to come to his estate immediately. On May 10th, she assisted at the moment Chujiro Hayashi took his own life in front of a small gathering of his Shinpiden students and family, because his pacifist convictions conflicted with the imminent war.

1940-1970 – Takata Sensei lived on Kauai, the big island of Hawaii and Oahu. In 1955 she owned a health spa in La Jocinta, California which she sold and moved back to Hawaii. She also had a Reiki clinic on the big island, which she closed and it is believed that she opened another one later on Oahu.

1970(s) -Takata Sensei traveled throughout the US spreading Reiki teachings, which she referred to as Usui Reiki Ryoho. She used Usui Shiki Ryoho or ‘The Usui System of Natural Healing’ on her certificates.

On a tape recording made during a class in 1979 Takata Sensei told the history of Reiki and said that she learned Usui Reiki Ryoho from Dr. Hayashi, which is the same name that Usui Sensei called it. She also said that Hayashi Sensei taught her exactly what he learned from Usui Sensei and that was what she taught, with no changes.

1976 – 1980 – Takata Sensei trained 22 Reiki Masters. Here is the list of Reiki Masters she initiated. She had given it to her sister before she passed away : George Araki, Barbara McCullough, Beth Grey, Ursula Baylow, Paul Mitchell, Iris Ishikuro, Fran Brown, Barbara Weber Ray, Ethel Lombardi, Wanja Twan, Virginia Samdahl, Phyllis Lei Furumoto, Dorothy Baba, Mary McFaden (Fadyen), John Harvey Gray, Rick Bockner, Bethel Phaigh, Harry Kuboi, Patricia (Bowling) Ewing, Shinobu Saito, Kay Yamashita (Takata’s Sister), Barbara Brown.

In 1976 she charged $125 US for the First Degree (Shoden), $400 US for Second Degree (Okuden) and $10,000 US for teaching the Master Degree (Shinpiden). Not all of her Master students paid the full amount. Some of them sponsored a number of Mrs. Takata’s classes in exchange for some or all the Mastership fee.

1980 – On December 11, Takata Sensei experienced her transition.

The title of Grand Master did not appear until after Takata Sensei made her transition. Phyllis Lei Furumoto (Takata-San’s granddaughter) was conferred the title ‘Grand Master’ by the Reiki Alliance. The words Shinpiden or Sensei are how a teacher of Reiki is referred to in Japan. The Japanese word Sensei means, ‘teacher, master, doctor’ and is a word usually used by students out of respect for their teachers.

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