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The Origins of Reiki & Jikiden Reiki®

There are a lot of history and origin stories regarding Reiki published in books or on the internet. I will cover the history of Reiki as it pertains to Jikiden Reiki specifically. There are many well-known figures in general Reiki history that will not be covered here. Not because they are not important, but because they did not have an influence on our practice. The buttons below can take you directly to sections regarding the key figures in the history of Jikiden Reiki. 
Mikao Usui

The Origins of Reiki

What we know as Reiki today started in Japan, with a man named Mikao Usui. Born on the 15th of August, 1865 in Taniai-mura (known as Miyamacho today), Gifu Prefecture in Western Japan. Usui could trace family lineage to the famous samurai Tsunetane Chiba.

His father was named Uzaemon, a sake brewer and one of the wealthiest citizens on Taniai. His mother was named Sadako and was from the Kawai family. Usui was the second oldest child, having an older sister and two younger brothers. Not wanting to take over the family business, Usui left home in his early twenties to seek his own way in life.

As a young adult, Usui had many occupations. He was a journalist, a civil servant, a religious missionary, a company worker and also the secretary of a political figure. Never a wealthy man, he had to work hard in order to just live. In his early fifties, a business failure that resulted in bankruptcy had a profound effect on him and his life. He began to wonder as to what the purpose of life actually was. Spending the next several years in deep thought and study, Usui decided that the true purpose of life was to attain 'Anjin Ryumei' a state of complete peace of mind.

With realizing this, Usui decided to study at a Zen temple in Kyoto and commit himself to his goal. After three years of intense study, he did not feel as if he had found what he was seeking. One day he approached the master at the temple and asked for advice. After listening to Usui explain all that he had done, the master told him 'perhaps you need to die'.

The Discovery of Usui Reiki Ryoho


Feeling a little defeated, Usui wondered 'Could he be right? Could my goal be impossible in this life?'. Undeterred, he decided that he was going to find what he was looking for - or die trying. We are told that in early March of 1922 Usui left the temple and climbed Mt. Kurama outside of Kyoto. On this holy mountain, he would fast, meditate and await his enlightenment...or die trying.

For several days, Usui stuck to his plan. He fasted. He read holy text. He meditated. The one evening while meditating Usui said that he felt a 'large Reiki' over his head. He felt this energy strike him in the center of his forehead and lost consciousness. He awoke several hours later not knowing how long he was asleep. He felt completely refreshed and full of vitality. As he sat there examining his condition, he realized that he now had this energy within him. This energy - Reiki - was resonating in sync with the Universe. It was then that dawned on  Usui that he had found what he sought for so long.

Overjoyed he ran down the mountain. Along the way he stubbed his toe upon a rock and injured himself. Usui reacted by grabbing his foot and holding it in an effort to sooth the pain he was feeling. The pain quickly went away and Usui thought to himself that something very unique had happened to him. Over the next few days Usui had the oppotunity to experiment with his newly discovered abilities meeting with amazing results. He then returned to the temple master to recount for him all that had happened. The master confirmed that Usui had indeed found what he was looking for and encouraged him to pass on his knowledge. The master also suggested that Usui teach and practice the healing aspects as well because it was felt to be an important part of his journey.

The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai

Usui decided to call his art 心身改善臼井靈氣療法 Shinshin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryoho - The Usui Reiki Treatment Method For Improvement Of The Body And Mind. One month later, he established the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Learning Society) to begin spreading his teachings. Usui gathered a few students, but then on September 1st 1923 a major earthquake occurred and devastated Tokyo and much of the surrounding area. Today, called the Great Kanto Earthquake this event would bring Usui to the attention of the community and make his Reiki very well known. As people learned about Usui and what his art could do, more and more students enrolled in the Gakkai looking to learn Reiki from Usui. Due to the increase in demand Usui had to move into a larger dojo and start to travel to teach Reiki all over Japan.

The Death of Usui Sensei

Usui shared Reiki with the people of Japan for four years. It is said that he personally taught Reiki to over 2000 people. On March 9th of 1926, Usui sensei suffered a major stroke and passed away while teaching Reiki in Shizuoka. We are told that he had two previous strokes that he used Reiki to recover from. 

After his death, Juzaburo Ushida (a senior student) took over as head of the Gakkai. One year later in 1927, his students erected a memorial stone at Saihoji temple in Tokyo to share the story of Usui sensei with the World. The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai still operates today, although not openly. Currently headed by Ichita Takahashi - the 8th President, the Gakkai membership is by invitation only and practices exclusively amongst it's members, never offering Reiki to the public. Since the late 1990s, some information from the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai has become available, but very little. It seems that they are aware of the global spread of Reiki, yet still do not wish to interact or share information with the Worldwide Reiki community.

"Any living thing with a soul can use Reiki." - Usui Sensei

Chujiro Hayashi - the Public Face of Reiki


Chujiro Hayashi was born on the 15th of September 1880, and he is probably the single most important figure in Reiki history.

Hayashi sensei was an extremely private person so there is not much known regarding his personal life. We know of his wife, Chie and that he had two children - a son and a daughter. Hayashi served in the Japanese Imperial Navy and reached the rank of capitain. In the Navy Hayashi served in more logistical positions and was stationed at Ominato Port Defence Staion. It is believed that it was here that he met another military man named Kanichi Taketomi (the eventual 3rd President of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai) and through him was introduced to Reiki. 

Hayashi met Usui in 1925 and was granted the level of Dai-Shihan in 1926 by Usui himself. Many Reiki researchers believe that Hayashi was the last of Usui's students to be made a Shihan before his death.


One of the primary elements of Hayashi's Reiki practice was the establishment of a Reiki clinic at the direction of Usui sensei. Usui wanted Hayashi to use his medical knowledge to study Reiki and to catalog the effectiveness of reiki treatments. As a medical practitioner, Hayashi could operate a clinic in a more public way, bypassing the laws that restricted the practice of traditional therapies.

Chujiro Hayashi

It should be noted here that the idea that Hayashi was a medical practitioner is seen by some as controversial. Those in support of it say that he had medical training during his time in the Navy, those opposed say there is no evidence of a medical practice. Researchers have uncovered travel records from Hayashi's trip to Hawaii in 1937 which list his occupation as a Naval surgeon. Tadao Yamaguchi, Representative of the Jikiden Reiki Kenkyuai (Institute) has uncovered tax records for the Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai which list Hayashi sensei as a 'Medical Doctor'. These tax records honestly should settle the debate over this matter. 

This would also make sense in that Hayashi being medically trained would allow for him to operate his Reiki clinic openly. This was not something that Usui sensei himself could do since the laws of the day placed restrictions on what could be seen as traditional therapies or folk medicine. After Usui's death, Hayashi was asked to close his clinic and return to the Gakkai. Hayashi decided to continue the work he was directed to do by Usui and formally left the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai. 


The Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai - Access to the Future

As time passed, Hayashi started to gain a reputation from his work with Reiki. He would offer reiki treatments and conduct training seminars eventually teaching over 1000 people Usui sensei's Reiki Ryoho. Within the Institute, Hayashi stayed loyal to Usui, and he passed on Shinshin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryoho as he had learned it.

In January of 1935, a Japanese American woman named Hawayo Takata came to his clinic to receive treatment for severe illness. Hayashi and his students gave reiki treatments to her for four months, completely curing her illness. So impressed by Reiki, Takata begged Hayashi to teach her. At first Hayashi hesitated. He feared that she would not respect the teachings and modify or change them. Takata's continued persistence finally convinced him to teach her. Takata stayed with Hayashi and learned from him for one year. In July of 1936 she returned to her home in Hawaii as a Shihan-kaku (assistant teacher). In Hawaii Takata taught the Reiki she had learned from Hayashi sensei. In July of 1937 she went back to Japan to ask Hayashi to come to Hawaii to teach Reiki there. Hayashi agreed and in October 1937 he traveled to Hawaii. At first his seminars were not well attended so it was decided to post advertisements in a Japanese language newspaper called The Hawaii Hochi. Once word of his seminars was out many people wanted to learn Reiki from him. Originally, he was supposed to teach two seminars in Hawaii and then go to San Francisco, California and teach two seminars there as well. The demand for Reiki training in Hawaii was so great that Hayashi decided to cancel the mainland portion of the trip and teach more seminars in Hawaii. In total, Hayashi taught fourteen seminars to over 350 people. Hayashi sensei left Hawaii in February of 1938. His return to Japan was important since he had a seminar already scheduled to teach in Daishoji Ishikawa. 

The Death of Chujiro Hayashi


A couple of years later, Hayashi sensei's trip to Hawaii caused some problems for him. As a former military man, his superiors in the Navy were very interested in learning about his trip and finding out if there was any information that might be useful to military operations. Hayashi was hesitant to tell them much about his trip. He knew Japan was looking to go to war with the United States and did not approve of the conflict. Even though Hayashi was retired from the Navy, he could be called back to duty if they demanded it. He tried to delay giving them any useful information. Eventually the pressure from the military became so great that Hayashi knew he had few choices left. 

On the 11th of May 1940 Chujiro Hayashi took his own life. He did this by using a surgeon's scapel to cut his own wrist. This seems extreme to many, but he was in a tough position. If he refused to provide information, he would be imprisioned and his family would lose much. If he talked, the information he provided would be used in the war effort putting his Hawaiian students in danger. Hayashi viewed his suicide as the only option left to him. After his death, his wife Chie Hayashi would head the Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai and continue her husband's work for as long as she could.

"Reiki is compassion in action." - Chiyoko Sensei

Chiyoko Sensei

The Beginnings of Jikiden Reiki

Jikiden Reiki was founded by Chiyoko Yamaguchi and her son Tadao after Chiyoko sensei was discovered to be a still practicing student of Chujiro Hayashi (a prominent student of Mikao Usui) who she learned Reiki from in 1938 at the age of seventeen.

Born in Kyoto Japan on the 18th of December, 1921. When she was around the age of seven, she went to live in a suburb of Osaka Japan with her uncle, Wasaburo Sugano. This kind of situation was common in Japan in those days. A family with many children would often send them to live with relatives who did not have children of their own so that they could be better cared for. Mr. Sugano's own children had died from tuberculosis. Originally, it was Mr. Sugano's intention to formally adopt Chiyoko, but that was never to happen. At age ten, Chiyoko, along with her brother moved to Ishikawa prefecture to live with another family of relatives, the Usuios. It was here that Chiyoko first heard of Reiki. 

Wasaburo Sugano - Brining Reiki to the Family

As mentioned above, In Sugano had lost two children to tuberculosis. This tragedy made Sugano interested in finding ways to live healthy and to hopefully never be in such a situation again. In 1928 he heard of Chujiro Hayashi and decided to study Reiki with him. So impressed with Hayshi sensei and Reiki, Sugano brought several family members to Osaka so that they too could learn Reiki. One day his wife Chiyo caught tuberculosis. Sugano brought his wife to Osaka where she received reiki treatments from many practitioners including Hayashi sensei himself. Chiyo fully recovered and became a huge supporter of Reiki.

The Suganos returned to their home village of Daishoji and established a branch of the Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai. Both Wasaburo and Chiyo would teach Reiki there. After a time, they invited Hayashi sensei to come and teach as well. The first Daishoji seminar with Hayashi sensei took place in the spring of  1935.

The Reiki Training of Chiyoko Yamaguchi


In March of 1938, Chiyoko was seventeen years old, and her uncle Sugano decided that Reiki would make a wonderful gift to her future family once she got married so he paid for her to attend the seminar with Hayashi sensei. Since many of her family had already learned Reiki, Chiyoko was well aware of it and extremely excited to finally be getting the opportunity to meet Hayashi sensei and learn from him. Chiyoko took naturally to Reiki practice learning quickly and becoming a skilled practitioner. In 1939, Chiyoko became a Shihan-kaku (assistant teacher) under Hayashi. In early 1940 she became a Shihan (full teacher) under Hayashi sensei's wife, Chie. In 1942, Chie Hayashi granted Chiyoko the title of Dai-Shihan (senior teacher).


Chiyoko Sensei During the War


In February of 1942, Chiyoko sensei married. A year later she joined her husband in Manchuria. They started a family and Chiyoko would often find opportunity to use Reiki as she raised her children. In her house, Reiki was constantly being used. She frequently treated her friends and neighbors whenever there was a need. At the end of the war, Japan's defeat plunged Manchuria into chaos. Chiyoko was forced to leave very quickly without the chance to even gather her personal belongings. She and her children returned to Japan. Her husband, who was off to war had been captured and was being held in a prison camp in Siberia. Chiyoko would use the distant treatment techniques of Reiki to send Reiki to her husband. This connection with him confirmed to her that he was alive and she hoped to be reunited with him someday. With the war over, her husband was released and was allowed to come home to Japan in 1948. He was severely injured from his time as a prisoner of war. As he recovered in the hospital, Chiyoko and other family members would give him Reiki to assist in his recovery. 

Chiyoko's Life of Reiki Practice

Prior to the Worldwide Reiki community learning about Chiyoko sensei, she led a regular, quiet life. She would tend her stationary store and often would give Reiki treatments to people in her spare time. She practiced Reiki for over sixty-five years on an almost daily basis. Chiyoko was able to see many amazing results from Reiki treatments that she gave over the years. Everything changed in 1996 with the publication of the book which introduced her to the World. Chiyoko received regular visitors from many foreign countries hoping to learn about the ways that Hayashi taught Reiki. As she talked with her guest, she found many things odd. Many of them did not give reiki treatments or would talk about things that Chiyoko had never heard of before. Some of her visitors came to her door with dollar signs in their eyes looking to write books or use her name to benefit themselves.


Chiyoko was frequently asked to share what she had learned from Hayashi all those years ago. At first, she hesitated, but as she was able to meet Reiki practitioners from all around the World, she began to realize how much Reiki practice had changed from when she learned it. This was the reason that she decided to teach Reiki. She was encouraged to 'name' her style of practice. After much thought, she chose Jikiden Reiki. The word - Jikiden translates to mean 'directly taught' which emphasized the mission of Chiyoko sensei. That mission, to pass on 心身改善臼井靈氣療法 Shinshin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryoho as it was originally taught to her by Hayashi sensei. 

Before beginning to teach, Chiyoko and Tadao wanted to be sure that they were presenting teachings correctly. It had been a long time since Chiyoko learned Reiki from Hayashi sensei, so they decided to contact family members who had also learned Reiki to compare their memories and assure that everything was correct. Tadao interviewed Chiyoko's sister and brother who both had also learned from Hayashi and found that their memories were consistent with how his mother practiced and taught him Reiki. They were also able to retrieve many Reiki related documents and photographs from the family homestead that was once used to host Hayashi sensei's seminars when he visited their hometown of Daishoji in Ishikawa. In 1999, Chiyoko and Tadao established the Jikiden Reiki Kenkyukai (Institute) to formally teach Reiki to anyone who wanted to learn. 

A Fateful Meeting - Frank Arjava Petter

In late 1999, well known Reiki teacher, researcher and author Frank Arjava Petter heard about Chiyoko Yamaguchi and reached out to her. When he called and spoke with Tadao Yamaguchi he asked about learning from Chiyoko. Since neither Tadao or Chiyoko could speak English, Tadao asked him if he spoke Japanese, to which Arjava responded 'yes'. Tadao then welcomed him to attend a seminar. Arjava attended his first seminar with Chiyoko in 2000, learning the shoden and okuden levels of Jikiden Reiki. He learned the Shihankaku level with Chiyoko in 2002, and the Shihan level with Tadao in 2004. Arjava wrote about Jikiden Reiki and Chiyoko sensei in his books, which introduced both to the outside world in a major way. It was Frank Arjava Petter who along with Tadao Yamaguchi taught the first Jikiden Reiki seminar outside of Japan in 2004. Arjava received the rank of DaiShihan in 2007. 

The Lagacy of Chiyoko Yamaguchi

Chiyoko sensei passed away on August 19th, 2003, at the age of 82. After her death, her son Tadao continued to share what he had learned from his mother. He took the position of Daihyo (Representative) of the Jikiden Reiki Kenkyukai. In 2009, Tadao sensei appointed Frank Arjava Petter to the position of Daihyo Daiko (Vice-Representative) of the Institute. Today, both Tadao sensei and Arjava sensei travel the World to teach seminars and pass on the teachings of Jikiden Reiki. Since the founding of the Jikiden Reiki Kenkyukai in 1999, Jikiden Reiki has spread around the globe. At the time of this writing, there are over 40,000 Jikiden Reiki practitioners Worldwide. Because of Chiyoko Yamaguchi and the Jikiden Reiki Kenkyukai, the original teachings of 心身改善臼井靈氣療法 Shinshin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryoho have survived to this day. Thanks to Tadao Yamaguchi and Frank Arjava Petter, Jikiden Reiki continues to be passed down ensuring that it will survive well into the future as well.

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