THE VERIFIED HISTORY OF REIKI
This page was put together using information from a variety of sources. The primary source was that of the Usui sensei's memorial stone. Since the memorial was erected by people who knew Usui sensei personally, it is our belief that this is one of the best sources for accurate information about Usui sensei and the development of his Reiki Ryoho. The details of Usui sensei's life that are not on the memorial come from information shared with us by Reiki researchers and teachers from around the world.
Much of this information has been provided by Frank Arjava Petter, Tadao Yamaguchi and Hiroshi Doi and can be found in the many books and articles that have been published by each of them. We have also used information that was shared with us by many of the teachers we have had the pleasure to study with over the years. The remaining information was researched by myself (Jotaro Kashihara) and we are fully convinced that we are presenting here a true and accurate history as possible for the life of Usui sensei and the development of his Reiki Ryoho.
I continue to engage in regular Reiki training with my teachers as a way to gain more knowledge into the history and practice of Usui Reiki Ryoho. I also continues to regularly examine the research provided by other Reiki practitioners and researchers. All of this, along with doing research into the cultural and historical information that is available helps us to gain even further insights into how Usui Reiki Ryoho was practiced by the Founder and his early students.
While a deep knowledge of the history of Reiki does not necessarily make a person any better of a practitioner than someone who does not have the information, it is my firm position that by understanding the historical and cultural context of the society and culture from which Usui Reiki Ryoho originates we as practitioners can have a better understanding of Reiki practice as a whole. I also feel very strongly that by presenting a clear and factual historical account of Usui sensei and his Reiki Ryoho, we can dispel the many false claims and beliefs that surround the practice of Reiki and help to correct the many misunderstandings that exist.
The early life of Usui Mikao
Usui Mikao was born on the 15th of August, 1865 in Taniaimura (now days know as Miyamacho), Yamagata-gun, Gifu; Usui Mikao could trace his ancestry back to a very famous samurai warrior named Tsunetane Chiba. His father was named Uzaemon, he was a sake brewer and one of the wealthiest citizens in Taniai. His mother was named Sadako and was from the Kawai family. He was the second of four children, he had an older sister and two younger brothers. Not wanting to participate in his family's business, it is believed that he left his family home in his early twenties to seek his own way in life.
The trials of life & the discovery of Usui Reiki Ryoho
Throughout his early adult years, Usui held many jobs which offered him the opportunity to travel and gain unique life experiences. He worked as a civil servant, a journalist, a company employee, a religious missionary and also as a secretary to a political figure. He was never a very wealthy person and he had to scrimp and save just to live. In his early fifties, the failure of his business resulted in bankruptcy and this event had a significant effect on him. He began to wonder about what the true purpose of life was. After a long period of deep thought, study and reflection, he decided that the true purpose of life was to attain "An-Jin-Ryu-Mei", a state of complete peace of mind.
This realization made him decide to study Zen Buddhism in order to reach this ultimate state of mind. In 1919 he went to a Zen temple in Kyoto where he engaged in deep practice and study for three years. After training himself for those three years and still not realizing his goal, he became disappointed and asked his Zen master for advice. His master said to him, "Well, Maybe you should experience death". This response shocked Usui. He thought, "Could it be true? Could dying be the only way I can achieve enlightenment?". Accepting this he prepared himself. In March of 1922 he set off for Mt. Kurama. There he would fast, sit in meditation and accept his enlightenment, or his death, whichever came first.
When he arrived at the mountain, he found a quiet place near a natural spring. He collected some small stones which he would use to count the days as they passed and then sat to await his fate. Each day he would toss away one of his stones and after twenty-one days he suddenly felt what he called "a large Reiki" over his head. This energy then struck him in the forehead and he lost consciousness.
He awoke several hours later and incredibly, he felt completely refreshed and full of vitality. As he examined his condition, he began to realize that the energy within him was resonating in sync with the energy of the Universe. As he became aware of this he realized, "The Universe is me and I am the Universe". He had achieved the enlightenment he was searching for.
Overjoyed, he began to run home, down the mountain. He wanted to tell his Zen master of this experience. Along the way he stubbed his toe on the root of a tree, tearing off his toenail. Reflexively, he grabbed his injured toe and held it. Almost immediately, he realized that the pain and the bleeding had stopped. So he continued on his journey. At the bottom of the mountain he encountered a young woman with a toothache and asked if she would allow him to help her. She did and after he placed his hands on her cheeks, the pain disappeared. This is how he discovered that he had gained the ability to heal, even though he did not search for it.
Upon reaching the temple, he sought out the Zen master who was able to confirm Usui's enlightenment. He urged Usui to share what he had learned and teach what he had experienced. He also told him that the healing ability was a side effect of his enlightenment and it should also be included in what he taught.
The founding of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai
One month later in April of 1922, Usui sensei started to teach what he had experienced. He called it - Shin Shin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryoho (Usui Reiki treatment method of improving the mind and body), and opened his first dojo, which he called the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Usui Reiki Healing Method Learning Society) in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. Within a short time he had many students. On September 1st, 1923 Tokyo and much of the surrounding area was struck by the largest earthquake recorded in Japanese history. The earthquake devastated much of eastern Japan leaving over 140,000 dead and over one million people homeless. Since most of the medical facilities were destroyed in the earthquake, many had to seek alternative means of medical treatment. Oddly, it was this tragic event that made Usui sensei and his Reiki Ryoho known almost overnight.
Usui sensei and many of his students provided Reiki treatments to many of those in need during this difficult time in Japanese history. This event was also responsible for a few changes within the organization of the Gakkai. Up until then, only Usui sensei could initiate others into his teachings. After the earthquake, he taught eight of his most senior students how to pass on his art of Reiki Ryoho. This was a major advancement in his art, allowing for his teachings to be accessed more easily and by more people.
With his increased popularity and many new students seeking to learn Reiki Ryoho, the old dojo became too small. In 1925 larger space was found and Usui sensei relocated his dojo to Nakano. Soon the demand for Usui sensei's teachings became very great and he started to travel throughout Japan in order to teach his art.
The death of Usui sensei
On March 9th of 1926 while teaching in Fukuyama, Usui sensei had a cerebral hemorrhage after a stroke and died. According to Koyama sensei (the 6th President of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai), this happened during a training class while he was instructing a group of students. It is said that he had two previous strokes, both of which he was able to heal himself almost completely afterwards by using Reiki.
Usui sensei was buried at Saihoji Temple in Tokyo. At the time of his death it was recorded that he had over 2000 students, along with over 40 branches of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai throughout Japan. Of those 2000 students, only twenty of them were of teacher status. One year after his death, students of his placed a memorial at his grave to share the story of Usui sensei with the world. At the time of his death, Usui sensei was 61 years old.
Usui Reiki Ryoho, after Usui sensei
After Usui sensei's death, a senior student named Ushida Juzaburo became the 2nd President of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai. While a few did go their own way, starting healing styles of their own, most of Usui Sense's students stayed with the Gakkai, continuing to practice the teachings of the Founder.
At this time the Gakkai became less public. Political situations and laws prohibiting the practice of traditional folk healing made it difficult for the practice of arts like Reiki Ryoho to be done openly. A few such arts chose to register and practice as religions to get around the law. The Gakkai responded by holding their meetings in near secrecy behind closed doors, practicing only on members of the Gakkai and their families. Many of the Gakkai branches throughout Japan halted their activities completely. Eventually, the Gakkai became an almost completely closed society. It still operates today. Membership is restricted to a 'by invitation only' enrollment policy. Over the years many have sat in leadership of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai. A listing of Presidents from the founding until today is:
USUI Mikao (1st President/Founder)
USHIDA Juzaburo (2nd President)
TAKETOMI Kanichi (3rd President)
WANATABE Yoshiharu (4th President)
WANAMI Hoichi (5th President)
KOYAMA Kimiko (6th President)
KONDO Masaki (7th President)
TAKAHASHI Ichita (8th & Current President)
Hayashi Chujiro - the public face of Usui Reiki Ryoho
The public interaction with Usui Reiki Ryoho might have ended at the almost completely closed doors of the Gakkai if not for Hayashi Chujiro, one of the twenty Shihan level students of Usui sensei. Having received the shinpiden level from Usui sensei in 1925, Hayashi sensei was the final and youngest of the students that Usui sensei granted Shihan status to. At the advice of Usui sensei, Hayashi sensei started a formal Reiki clinic, outside of the Gakkai to study the effects of Reiki treatment from a medical point of view. Since Hayashi sensei served as a doctor in the Japanese Navy, he could freely practice Reiki Ryoho without fear of violating the medical laws that existed at the time. Shortly after the death of Usui sensei, Hayashi sensei became independent of the Gakkai and established the the Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai (Hayashi Reiki Institute). Hayashi sensei was very dedicated to both teaching Reiki Ryoho and the operation of his Reiki clinic. He would often travel to teach Reiki Ryoho all across Japan holding regular training courses in Tokyo, Osaka and Daishoji. It is through Hayashi sensei and two of his students that Reiki spread around the world. Those students were Hawayo Takata of Hawaii and Chiyoko Yamaguchi of Japan.
Takata Hawayo - bringing Reiki Ryoho into the future
Hawayo Takata is a very important figure in the history of Reiki as we know it. Because of this, she is mentioned in this article even though she our style of practice does not come from her. It is well known that Hayashi sensei taught Reiki Ryoho to over a thousand people throughout Japan. During the time in which Hayashi was teaching, he trained thirteen people to the Shihan level. One of Hayashi sensei's Shihan students was Takata Hawayo, a Hawaiian born Japanese woman who received Reiki treatment sessions for her very severe illness. Ms. Takata received daily Reiki treatments for four months and she recovered completely. She was so impressed with the results of the treatments she received that she begged Hayashi sensei to teach her. Hayashi accepted her as a student and from 1936 until 1937 she studied Reiki Ryoho under the guidance of Hayashi sensei in his Tokyo clinic for a year. In 1938, Ms. Takata brought Hayashi sensei to Hawaii to teach Reiki seminars, which were attended by 300 people. Before leaving Hawaii, Hayashi sensei granted Ms. Takata the title of Shihan. Ms. Takata taught and practiced Reiki until her death in 1980. She initiated twenty-two of what she called, "Masters" that took the art of Reiki Ryoho into the future. Takata Hawayo could easily be called the "Mother of Western Reiki". It is thanks to her and her students that the art of Reiki Ryoho became well known around the world surviving into the present day.
At some point in her teaching career, Ms. Takata felt a need to modify what she taught. It is reported by one of her Master level students, John Harvey Gray, that Ms. Takata often stated that she had 'simplified' the system. Some researchers believe that this was as a result of her starting to teach Reiki Ryoho to more non-asian people, some researchers say it was due to the harsh feelings many had towards things and people of Japanese origin in Hawaii following World War II. Ms. Takata referred to her 'style' of Reiki as Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho. The word shiki is a Japanese word and translates to 'style' or 'in the style of'.
After Ms. Takata's death in 1980, many of her twenty-two 'Masters' made even further changes and additions to their way of practice. They added teachings and concepts from other healing and spiritual systems into what they taught. This moved Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho even further away from Usui sensei's original system. A very few kept what they taught the same as it was learned by them when Ms. Takata taught them. Today the styles of Reiki that come down through Ms. Takata are usually called 'Western Reiki' in an attempt to differentiate them from the more traditional ways of practice.
Yamaguchi Chiyoko - a life dedicated to preserving the practice
At Reiki with Jotaro, our style of practice is called Jikiden Reiki. It was founded by a student of Chujio Hayashi named Chiyoko Yamaguchi, Information about her and the founding of Jikiden Reiki can be found on this website on a page titled 'ABOUT JIKIDEN REIKI' under the 'ABOUT' menu.