Mikao Usui rediscovered the system of Reiki in Japan at the end of the 19th Century following a lifetime of study, effort and dedication.

His life-changing experience came through a meditation retreat on Mount Kurama near Kyoto in 1922. From this he developed the simple system of Reiki that we know today.

You can read the story of how this happened on his memorial stone which has been translated in a number of books.

Following the huge 1923 earthquake which ripped through Tokyo causing firestorms and destruction on an almost unknown scale, Usui and his students gave Reiki to countless suffering people. Their dedication and compassion meant that his Reiki system became known to many people who studied.

The original society founded at this time in Tokyo – the Usui Reiki Gakkai still exists.

Through Mikao Usui’s teaching career, he taught many people Reiki. They in turn, passed this system to their own students.

For people particularly outside of Japan, Reiki was spread through a retired naval officier – Chujiro Hayashi who was a prolific teacher. One of his students, a Hawaiian Japanese lady called Hawayo Takata who was a widow and single mother, was singlehandedly responsible for the spread of Reiki from Hawaii to the US and from there around the world.
     
With the enormous popularity of Reiki today, this life-enhancing system has been taught to millions of people worldwide in various forms. This is partly due to the huge popularity and hunger for Reiki that spread across the Western world and led to many variations in the way Reiki was taught. 

In the early 1990s there were discoveries of Usui’s original Reiki teachings. The memorial of Usui was found by western teachers and many of Reiki’s missing links were uncovered. Revelations included the discovery of a living Reiki tradition in Japan, with additional methods as taught by the Reiki Gakkai (Reiki Learning Society). A number of Usui’s notes and manuals were also shared and this led to greater discoveries which were later made more generally available. Western Reiki teachers gained new information regarding the system as it had been taught in Japan and this was pieced together with established systems of Reiki in the West.

Mikao Usui's life

Mikao Usui was born in the village of Taniai, which is now called Miyama-cho in the Gifu Prefecture on 15th August 1885, where his ancestors had lived for eleven generations. His ancestors were part of the Chiba clan, once an influential samuari family in Japan.Mikao Usui had three brothers, two of whose names are known: Sanya and Kuniji. He also had an older sister called Tsuru. His father’s name was Uzaemon and his mother came from the Kawai family.  As a descendent of a Samurai family, Mikao Usui received a privileged education. His family followed the Tendai Buddhist teachings and so Usui was educated at a Tendai Monastery. At 12 years of age, he began martial arts training. He achieved high levels of proficiency in two martial arts called “Aiki Jutsu” and “Yagyu Ryu”.Usui spoke many languages and was knowledgeable in the fields of medicine, theology and philosophy. Usui’s memorial states that from his youth he had surpassed his fellow students and that he was well versed in history, medicine, Buddhist and Christian scriptures and Waka poetry. Usui lived during a time of great change in Japan. The older order had changed. The incoming Meiji Emperor had began a new regime. “Old ideas” were discarded in favour of modernisation. The country, which had kept itself to itself,  was opened to Westerners for the first time.Suddenly it became the fashion to wear Western style clothes as a mark of being modern. To achieve high positions in the social and political hierarchy, young men needed to study modern Western science and were revered for it. 

Usui’s father, Uzaemon, was a supporter of this Westernising spirit and influenced his son, also to support the developments. Usui married Sadako Suzuki with whom he had two children: his son, Fuji and his daughter, Toshiko. They lived in Kyoto where Usui continued his spiritual studies. As the old capital of Japan and a religious centre, Kurama has been a centre of spiritual pilgrimage for many centuries.Usui’s interests led him to become involved with a group named “Rei Jyutsu Ka”. The group had a centre at the base of the holy mountain, Kurama Yama, which is just north of Kyoto where there is an ancient Buddhist temple there dating back to 770AD, called Kurama-dera. The temple and its surrounding areas are kept in their natural state and there are places of meditation on the mountain, including one with a waterfall where Usui reportedly went frequently to meditate. His interest in meditation deepened. He spent time and money pursuing his studies and collecting Buddhist scriptures and old medical texts using his political and academic connections in various countries. Based in Kyoto meant he could access, study and practise using the texts in the ancient collections held in its libraries and monasteries.Usui became a respected and learned Buddhist teacher with a following of devoted students. The forcus of his teachings was on healing and benefiting humankind by healing practices. They practised elaborate rituals for averting newly created diseases that were ravaging Japan, as well as esoteric practices for healing every type of illness.

While the Usui memorial states that he did not begin teaching his system until 1922, other sources suggest he was teaching before this. Mariko Suzuki, the cousin of Usui’s wife was said to have begun spiritual training with Usui in 1915.  However, it was in the early 1920s that the simplified system he devised began to be taught following his experience on Mount Kurama.

Usui’a memorial also tells how he undertook an intensive meditation retreat which includes fasting called “shyu gyo” on Mount Kurama. At the end of this discipline, he had a huge realisation into the nature of healing. According to several sources, including his memorial stone, a great energy appeared over his head and he received an empowerment of Universal healing energy. .Usui first practised on his family and friends. Then he began to offer the healing method to the lower class district of Kyoto. Usui opened his home to many and with boundless compassion brought Reiki to them. This gave him the opportunity to perfect and refine the healing method. Meanwhile, he continued to hold regular classes for his growing circle of followers and further developed and refined the system..  In April of the 11th year of Taisho (1922), Usui moved to Tokyo where he worked as the secretary to Pei Gotoushin, the Prime Minster of Tokyo. He opened a Reiki clinic in Harajuki, Aoyama, outside Tokyo and began to set up classes and teach his system of Reiki.

Mikao Usui’s system proved to be very successful and demonstrated tremendous results for healing illness and enhancing spiritual awareness. 

Usui's Students

On 1st September 1923, the devasting Kanto earthquake stuck Tokyo and surrounding areas. Most of the central part of Tokyo was levelled and totally destroyed by fire. Over 140,000 people were killed. In one instance, 40,000 people were incinerated when a fire tornado swept across the open area where they had sought safety. It was unfortunate that the earthquake struck at midday, just when people’s charcoal grills were set to cook lunch. Three million homes were destroyed, leaving countless homeless. Over 50,000 people suffered serious injuries. The public water and sewage systems were destroyed and it took years for re-building to take place.

In response to this catastrophe, Usui and his students offered Reiki to countless victims. His clinic became too small to handle the throngs of patients, so in February 1924, he built a new clinic in Nakano, outside Tokyo. His fame spread quickly throughout Japan and he began receiving invitations from all over the country to come and teach his healing methods. Usui was awarded a Kun San To from the Emperor, which is a very high award (much like an honorary doctorate), given to those who had done honourable work. His fame soon spread throughout the region
and many prominent healers and physicians began requesting teachings from him.

Usui quickly became very busy as requests for teaching Reiki continued to grow. He travelled extensively throughout Japan which was not an easy undertaking in those days, to teach and give Reiki attunements. This started to take its toll on his health and he began experiencing mini-strokes from stress. On 9th March, 1926, while in Fukuyama, Usui died of a fatal stroke. He was 62 years old.

It is said that Usui taught Reiki to just over 2000 people and out of these students some sources say he trained 22 to teacher level(Shinpiden). Many of these students began their own clinics and founded Reiki schools and societies. Not all of these teacher level students are known outside of Japan.

By the 1940s there were about 40 Reiki schools spread all over Japan. Most of these schools taught the method of Reiki that Usui had developed.

Dr Chujiro Hayashi

The lineage of the majority of Western Reiki practitioners springs from Chuijro Hayashi. Hayashi studied with Mikao Usui for some ten months prior to Usui’s death. He is believed to have changed some of the methodologies of Usui.

Chuijro Hayashi was born in 1879. Sometime in 1925 Chuijro Hayashi met Usui. Chuijro had risen to be a commander in the Imperial Navy and had trained in Western and Chinese Medicine. In June of 1925, Hayashi received his teacher’s training in Usui’s system. Some sources say that Chuijro Hayashi was a Methodist Christian, a fact confirmed one of his Shoden/Okudent students, Mrs.Yamaguchi. Other sources say that he was a Soto Zen practitioner who utilised the practices of Shinto. For all we know, he may have been both as this would be perfectly in accordance with Japanese approaches to religion. As a Christian, Hayashi would have learnt the simplified form of Reiki.

Before his death on 10th May 1940 Hayashi attuned 13 students to the teacher level, including Hawayo Takata in 1938.

 

Mrs Takata - Usui Shiki Ryoh

Hawayo Kawamura (her maiden name), was born 25th December 1900 in Hanamaula, Kauai, Hawaii. On the 10th March 1917 she married her husband, Saichi Takata. They had two daughters, one named Alice Takata-Furumoto, who later had a daughter named Phyllis Furumoto.

It is due to Mrs Takata that Reiki is well-known and wide-spread throughout the world. Mrs. Takata formally brought Reiki to mainland America in the beginning of the 1970s and during a 10 year period, taught 22 Western students to the teacher level. Her style of Reiki developed from what she was taught by Dr Hayashi. 
      
It was following the death of her husband in 1930 and then her sister in 1935 that Hawayo Takata decided to go to Japan to visit her parents. As a result of hard work to support her family and grief, Takata’s health had begun to suffer. She was scheduled to have an operation in Japan to help resolve her health problems. Just before the operation she heard the voice of her dead husband, saying that the operation was not necessary and that there was another way. This prompted her to speak with her doctor about alternative treatments and he referred her on to Hayashi’s Reiki Clinic.
]Hawayo Takata received daily treatments at this clinic for a period of four months and during this time her symptoms completely abated.

This led Hawayo Takata to take Reiki One training (Shoden) with Hayashi on 10th December 1935. She studied the first level with him for a little over one year. In 1937, Mrs. Takata received the second level, Okuden. Shortly after this, she returned to Hawaii. A few weeks later, Hayashi visited Mrs. Takata with his daughter and stayed until February 1938. During this time Hayashi officially made Mrs. Takata a Reiki teacher.

Between 1940 and 1970, Mrs. Takata ran several Reiki clinics and taught many classes in Hawaii. In 1973 she taught her first class in the United States itself. In December of 1980 Mrs. Takata died. Much gratitude and acknowledgement is recognised for Mrs. Takata in enabling Reiki to spread throughout the world. Without her, the system of Reiki may have to this day remained unknown except to a select few in Japan. 

 

Dr Usui's Original Reiki Teachings

The deeper spiritual practices and techniques of the Japanese traditions, however, have remained behind Japan’s closed Reiki society. The original Reiki of Mikao Usui still flourishes in Japan but is considerably different in practice. Outside of Japan there are only three authourised teachers of the pre-1922 system – one of whom is a member of The Reiki Guild.

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