The History Of Reiki

The History of Reiki is unfolding even as we breathe.

New sources, adding to what we are currently being told is the 'true' history, are regularly being 'rediscovered' by researchers - though this is not to say that we should necessarily believe that absolutely everything we are told are indeed 'facts'.

A word of caution is, I think, not inappropriate.

History in a broad sense, is at best a subjective discipline, and however unintentionally, always contains some degree of bias.

The most reliable history is usually arrived at by studying various sources - with an emphasis on those sources who, to coin the phrase "do not have an axe to grind", or have no real vested interest in the outcome of the research.

Can this be said of the quest for the 'truth' concerning Reiki - being carried out solely by 'Reiki people'?

I would like to think so.

However human nature being what it is, we would perhaps be a little naive to dismiss the possible influence of ulterior motive and 'Reiki ego-politics' on the evolving 'revisionist' view of 'true' Reiki History.

[Sometimes, for example, In my more suspicious (and admittedly 'un-Reiki-like') moments, I marvel at the growing number of Usui-Sensei's original students who keep cropping up to validate the theories of this or that 'faction' within the Reiki Research Community.]

Open-mindedness and trust is one thing - gullibility another....

We should also, I feel, be mindful of the phenomenon which is (in a very 'non-PC' way) commonly referred to as: 'Chinese Whispers' [or, in the case of Reiki, perhaps that should be 'Japanese...']

And then there is the central issue of objective research itself: the fact that most Reiki Researchers - due to a lack of background knowledge re: the broader context of Japanese Mystical, Religious, Therapeutic and Cultural influences, etc - can make glaring mistakes & mis-understandings, and albeit unintentionally find themselves responsible for the evolution and propagation of Reiki 'Urban Legends'

Add to this, the general problem of reliability of sources:
(A seasoned researcher in various disciplines, I for one, long ago learned that if, for example, a member of, say, the Jodo Shin sect, or the Shingon sect tells you that Usui-Sensei was a Tendai Buddhist all his life, you can probably believe this to be true - but if however, a member the Tendai sect tells you Usui-Sensei was Tendai all his life, you may need to find a secondary impartial source...)

With the ongoing research into Reiki history, numerous contradictions continually arise - there is much rumour, hearsay, and 'mis-information' - and many 'hidden agenda'....

It has of course been pointed out that Reiki allows for many styles and methods of practice (and teaching) and that we should not question Usui-Sensei's methodology or his reasons for incorporating specific practices into his Reiki system.

I am in full agreement with this, and I feel the important point here is that it is not a matter of seeking to question the reasons behind Usui-Sensei's methodology, but rather to question the validity of the ever-growing number of new, diverse and dissonant claims as to what exactly Usui-Sensei's methodology was in the first place.

For example, many are now claiming that Usui-Sensei taught the Shinto practice of Kotodama as part of the Reiki system - and a significant number of people have reported favourable results from incorporating Kotodama into their current Reiki practice.

And while I agree that use of Kotodama may have noticeable effects - and like many other spiritual meditative techniques, can be a valid practice in terms of self-development - again, it is not a question of whether or not Kotodama 'works' per se, but rather a question as to its status as an original Reiki technique.

On its journey to popularity in the 'west', Reiki - as envisioned and taught by Usui-Sensei - went through many changes and developments (whether you see these as positive, negative or neutral) - and since Takata-Sensei's day, has continued to change - and will no doubt keep on changing in the future, as creative people continue to make modifications to the System to suit personal tastes, beliefs, perceived efficacy, social trends and levels of acceptability.

And likewise, we are also beginning to discover that in the three-quarters of a century since Usui-Sensei's death, Reiki in Japan has also undergone some profound changes and developments...


Takata-Sensei brought the Reiki healing modality from Japan to the west (Hawaii) in the late 1930's (-she received her Master Level initiation from Hayashi-Sensei in 1938), and with the actual Reiki modality, came the story (- familiar, I believe to just about everyone who has ever attended a 'Takata-lineage' Reiki class -) of Usui Sensei and the origins of Reiki.

This 'authorised version' of the Reiki story remained - to all intents and purposes - unchallenged, up to and beyond Takata-Sensei's death in 1980 - in fact right up into the mid to late 1980's, when the very first snippets of 'new' information suggesting possible alternatives to the accepted history surrounding Reiki and its origins, began to surface.

Later, when it was discovered that several specific details of the 'Reiki story' as taught by Takata-Sensei, could at best, not be substantiated, and in some cases could actually be 'proved' to be inaccurate, many Reiki practitioners felt some what disheartened, yet others perhaps even felt, in some vague sense, betrayed.

And of course there were a great many who, having previously recounted the 'Reiki story' with reverential attitude, could suddenly not disassociate themselves quickly enough from this 'misrepresentation of the facts' .

Though, later, upon reflection, many of us have no doubt come to the realisation which a few, more enlightened, souls than ourselves were aware of all along - that the 'Story of Reiki' was exactly that - a story, or more precisely a 'teaching-story' - a Parable to engage and teach the Heart ('Heart Facts'), rather than a factual history to occupy the intellect ('Head Facts').

And yet, perhaps the Heart is still being given the opportunity to learn more than the Head, if it is willing...

However, in the West we want the 'Head Facts', believing they will serve us well.

For quite some time, as rumours about someone (the 'someone' in question turned out to be Hiroshi Doi) teaching rediscovered Japanese Reiki practices, trickled out into the Reiki Community at large, many people seemed to be under the impression that all these 'Japanese Reiki Techniques' being taught by Hiroshi Doi were 'Original Reiki' - until the hype died down and people took the time to really 'listen' and find out that Doi had clearly stated that many were techniques from his 'Modern (Gendai) Reiki' system

Then of course there is the matter of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai itself - the 'Original Reiki Society' (initially believed to have been set up by Usui-Sensei, then later said to have been set up by some of his students after his death) - supposedly preserving Usui-Sensei's original Reiki teachings - 'keepers of the flame' - as it were.

Again, when the hype began to die down, we discovered that this supposed 'benchmark' organization apparently does not actually teach Usui-Sensei's original system of Spiritual Development, but has, from its inception, taught what is essentially a significantly different system of energywork, which the Gakkai founders consciously evolved, based on Usui-Sensei's original system...

There were other rumours of secret Usui Diaries kept in Japanese Temples; Tendai Buddhists claiming Tendai origins for Reiki, Shingon Buddhists claiming Shingon origins; Qi Gung practitioners claiming Taoist origins; Kotodama practice claiming Usui Sensei taught Kotodama; martial artists claiming Usui Sensei was a high level martial arts practitioner, etc, etc.

Not unexpectedly, this new (and to a certain extent, conflicting) information gripped the hearts, minds and imagination of a great many Reikifolk, and has given rise to a whole host of magazine articles, books, lectures - even the occasional video -as well as spawning a plethora of workshops / courses teaching numerous subtly different versions of 'original Reiki techniques''.

Even now, new material continues to emerge from existing sources, and new sources are still occasionally 'stepping into the limelight' to offer up their contributions, or to corroborate, dispute or refute recent revelations from other sources.

Gradually this 'original' and often dissonant Reiki material is being (-some might say, 'creatively') woven together in an attempt to reconstruct the 'truth' about Reiki - it's origins, history, teachings and practices...

[I am reminded of something a Japanese bujutsu Sensei once taught me - about what he felt was a particularly Japanese concept (though perhaps it is far more universal) - something he referred to as tatemae, which has to do with maintaining a harmonious society. He said that for a gaijin (non-Japanese) to truly begin to understand the Japanese mind-set (and by extension bujutsu and other arts) we need to understand that, in the final analysis, Japanese consciousness is not overly concerned about 'hard-fact reality' - rather, it seeks to find a 'reality' that everyone can agree about. A compromise: an agreed version of truth - even if it is a fantasy, as long as it is one everyone consents to believe...]


What follows is a basic 'Timeline' - setting currently accepted (Dec 2003) Reiki-related-events (from the birth of Mikao Usui, 1865, to the death of Chujiro Hayashi, 1940) in the broader context of Japanese society at the time.

[NOTE:This document is continually being amended as clearer information becomes available. The most up-to-date version will always be found at ]

Aug 15
Mikao Usui born in the village of Taniai, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.
Apr 25, 1867 Tokyo opened for foreign trade
1867 Ryoma Sakamoto, a Samurai, helped topple the feudal government system. The Tokugawa Shogunate gave up power.
1868 Beginning of Meiji period
1869 Emperor relocated Japan's Capital from Kyoto to Edo, renamed Tokyo ("Eastern Capital")
1869 Mikao Usui believed to have been sent to a Tendai Monastery School
Feb 3
Proclamation of the Great Doctrine which restored Shinto - also known as: Kami no Michi ('the Way of the Kami') as the guiding principle of the nation. Every Japanese citizen required to register at the Shrine of the local Kami of his residence - i.e. the local Shinto Temple (not at Buddhist Temples, as is mistakenly stated by several Reiki researchers)

Jun 27

The Yen became the new form of currency in Japan.
1871 Samurai class banned from carrying swords
1873 Centuries-old ban on Christianity lifted, and compulsory registration at local Shinto shrines was terminated after vigorous criticism from many
1877 Last Revolt by the Samurai class is quelled
1877/78 At the age of 12 Usui-Sensei began martial arts training. He studied either 'Yagyu Ryu' or 'Yagyu Shinkage Ryu' - martial arts incorporating (swordsmanship) and Ju-jutsu (unarmed combat). He would go on to gain his Menkyo Kaiden (teachers licence) in his 20's.
Sept 15, 1880 Chujiro Hayashi born in Tokyo
1882 The central Bank of Japan was established.
Apr 4, 1884 Isoroku Yamamoto was born. As a Japanese Naval Commander, he would go on to mastermind the attack on Pearl Harbour.
Feb 9, 1885 The first Japanese arrived in Hawaii.
1887 Chujiro Hayashi's wife, Chie born
1888-92 It had been claimed by some that during this period (- apparently as a result of a Cholera-induced, profound near-death experience in which he is said to have received visions of Mahavairochana Buddha) Usui-Sensei converted from Tendai to the other Major Branch of Japanese Mikkyo (Esoteric) Buddhism - the Shingon school [ - however, the source of this information has recently been exposed as having fabricated a considerable amount of supposed 'original' Reiki information and documents. It is generally asserted that Usui Sensei remained Tendai until the end of his life]
Jul 23, 1894 Japanese troops took over the Korean imperial palace in Seoul.
1894/5 Sino-Japanese War
Apr 23, 1895 Russia, France, and Germany forced Japan to return the Liaodong peninsula to China.
1899 A statute was passed that discriminated against the northern Ainu people.
Dec 25
Hawayo Kawamuru (later: Takata) born in Hanamaulu, Kauai, Hawaii.
Apr 29, 1901 Hirohito, future Emperor of Japan, born.
Japan formed an alliance with England.
Dec 1902. Chujiro Hayashi graduated at the Japanese Naval Academy
1904/5 Russo-Japanese War
190? Mikao Usui married Sadako Suzuki
Feb 24, 1908 Japan officially agreed to restrict immigration to the U.S.
1908 Usui-Sensei's son, Fuji (1908-1946) born
1910 Japan officially annexed Korea.
1911 Seitosha - first Japanese feminist group founded in this year
1912 Death of the Emperor Meiji. Prince Yoshihito became Emperor Taisho
1913 Usui-Sensei's daughter, Toshiko (1913-1935) born
A book entitled Kenzon no Gebri (Health Principles), written by a Dr. Bizan (or Miyama?) Suzuki, includes the admonition:
"Just for today, do not anger, do not fear, work hard, be honest, and be kind to others."
This is almost certainly the direct source of Usui Sensei's Five Reiki Principles.
[There may have been an earlier edition of this book published in Dec.1914]
Aug 23
Japan joined the Allied side in World War I, declaring war on Germany
1914 Possible date when Usui-Sensei received the Reiki ability??. This is apparently the date given in 2 different Japanese Books on Reiki??
1915 A Tendai Buddhist nun referred to as: 'Suzuki San', becomes one of Usui Sensei's student, remaining with him until 1920
Jan, 1915 Japan claimed economic control of China
1915 Tamai Tempaku, a practitioner of the ancient art of Ampuku (abdominal massage) and student of Chinese acupoint therapy, published the first book describing his newly developed therapeutic modality, which he named 'Shiatsu'.
In the volume entitled: Shiatsu Ryoho (“Finger Pressure Method of Healing”) Tamai described the treatment of pathological conditions identified by modern Western medicine using his Shiatsu Ryoho which integrated traditional therapies, spiritual wisdom, and western models of anatomy and physiology.
1917 Hawayo Kawamuru and Saichi Takata married
1918 Chujiro Hayashi appointed Director of Ominato Port Defense Station, at the foot of Mt Osore, Northern Japan.
1918 Japan's first Parliamentary Cabinet formed.
1918/19 Usui-Sensei said to have begun 3 year training in Zen.
1919 A therapist named Mataji Kawakami (?) published a book entitled: Reiki Ryoho To Sono Koka (Reiki Ryoho & Its Effects)
1920 Mariko-Obaasan (- a Tendai Buddhist Nun) and her friend met Usui-Sensei on Mt. Hiei (Headquarters of the Tendai sect). She would spend almost every day from then on working with him, up to the time of his death
1920 Mrs Chiyoko Yamaguchi (founder of Jikiden Reiki) born
1920/21 Toshihiro Eguchi, a friend of Usui-Sensei spent several months working and studying with Usui-Sensei
1921 Usui-Sensei believed to have begun working as secretary to Goto Shinpei, head of the Department of Health and Welfare, who had from 1898 to 1906 been head of the civil admistration of Taiwan, and would would later (1922) become the Mayor of Tokyo.
Nov 25, 1921 Hirohito became Regent of Japan.
March 1922 Possible date when Usui-Sensei received the Reiki ability??
Kurama Yama (Mt Kurama), about a 20 minute train ride from the old capital of Kyoto, is said to be the mountain in where Mikao Usui carried out his 21-day meditation, and on the 21st day
experienced the phenomenon that is Reiki.
[However, others have previously suggested that it was in fact Koya Yama (Mt Koya) and not Kurama Yama which was the place.]

Whatever the case, prior to this date, Usui-Sensei is said to have been practicing and teaching his own personal system of self -development involving teachings which, while Buddhist in origin, included some Shinto energy practices. Apparently he did not really have a name for the system -though it is referred to by some as:
'Usui Do' - 'Usui Way'
April 1922 Usui-Sensei opened his first training centre (some call it a "clinic") in Harajuku, Aoyama, Tokyo.
His 'motto' for the training centre was:
"Unity of self through harmony and balance".
It is also claimed by some that Usui-Sensei founded Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Usui Reiki Healing Method Learning Society) at this time, though others maintain that the Gakkai was actually founded by some of his senior students sometime after Usui-Sensei's death.
1922 Usui-Sensei supposed to have used the Reiju empowerment method for the first time in Harajuku, Tokyo.
1923 Usui-Sensei said to have introduced a grading system used by Jigoro Kano (creator of Judo). Thus the levels in the original Usui-Do system became:
Rokyu, Gokyu, Yankyu, Sankyu, Nikkyu (CKR symbol taught at this level), Ikkyu (SHK symbol ), Shodan (HSZSN symbol), Nidan (DKM symbol), Sandan, Yondan, Godan, Rokudan, Shichidan (/Nanadan).
This format was in use up until late 1925
1923 Toshihiro Eguchi returned to the training centre to practice his own te-no-hira (palm healing) system which apparently incorporated elements of Usui-sensei's teachings. Eguchi's system had religious overtones and included a form of blessing ceremony that Eguchi had learned from a friend named Nishida.
Usui-Sensei, it seems, was somewhat uncomfortable with Eguchi's approach but eventually permitted Eguchi to teach at the centre on a twice-weekly basis. He was allowed to perform the blessing ceremony, but apparently not allowed to chant a prayer element known as the Komyo Kigan . Eguchi even had a small book printed which discussed healing methods and related techniques, and went on to found his own school: Eguchi Tenohira Ryoji Kenkyu-kai
1923 Torii gate at entrance to Amataka shrine in Taniai village erected by Usui-Sensei and his family.
1923 Over 106,000 people reported missing or killed, 500,000 injured and 694,000 houses were destroyed, in an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale - the epicentre was about 50 miles from Tokyo. Usui-Sensei apparently became quite famous as a result of helping many of the survivors, and his success and reputation with Reiki is said to have spread all over Japan.
Usui-Sensei moved his Centre to larger premises in Nakano, outside of Tokyo.
Jun 26, 1924 Crown Prince Hirohito married the daughter of Prince Kuniyoshi Kuni, Nagako
1924 U.S. passed an Immigration Act banning Japanese from emigrating to the U.S.
Males over the age of 25 were given the vote
May 1925 A further group of Tendai nuns arrived at the Usui Sensei's Training Centre (staying until the November of that year).
May 1925 Chujiro Hayashi arrived at the training centre
Chujiro Hayashi received Sandan(?) training from Usui-Sensei
18 junior Naval Officers and the Rear Admirals: Juusaburo Gyuda (also known as Ushida) and Kanichi Taketomi (-these latter two are believed to have been the actual founders of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai -) joined Usui Sensei's classes.
At this point there was a sudden shift in the nature and structure of the training given at the centre, and as a result of the Rear Admirals' influence, a significantly different system of energywork began to emerge alongside Usui-Do - with a focus on working on others rather than on oneself.
This system apparently included Eguchi's hand healing concepts and blessing ceremony, and was being referred to as: 'Usui Reiki Ryoho' by the Naval Officers, who also produced a healing guide (compiled by Hayashi-Sensei) and began utilising several Ki Ko (Qi Gung) techniques from Eguchi's book.
A new grading system came into use - grades above Nidan were dropped - and four new levels introduced, called: Shoden (first grade), Chuuden (middle grade), Okuden (inner grade) and Kaiden (grade of explanation)
It is also possible that it may have been under the influence of the Naval Officers that the Gyosei (: poems penned by the Meiji Emperor) began to be used at the start of the meetings

Kaiji Tomita learned Reiki around this period, and later taught Reiki in the 4-level format introduced by the Naval Officers.
Apparently, his classes for the first three levels: Shoden, Chuuden and Okuden, each involved a 10-hour period of training over 5 days, and Kaiden involved 15 days training (presumably 30 hours).
After Usui-Sensei's death, Tomita went on to establish the 'Tomita Teate Ryohokai' (Tomita Hand-Healing Centre).
[One of Tomita's students: Asuke-san, also went on to found his own Healing Society]

Jan 1926 The grading levels were changed once more to: Shoden (which now included Chuuden, and had four sub-levels), Okudenzenki (previously: Okuden), Okudenkouki and Shinpiden (the latter two covering what had formerly been taught as Kaiden), with the Shinpiden level having almost the same content as the Sandan level in the grading system originally used by Usui-Sensei.
It is said that Gyuda and Taketomi reached the Shinpiden level with much celebration, however Hayashi-Sensei had continued his training and, unbeknown to the other Naval personnel, was awarded the original grading system level of Shichidan.
The only other person to reach this level was Toshihiro Eguchi and it is said that both Eguchi and Hayashi-Sensei continued teaching the original Usui-Do system along with their own healing systems for several years after Usui-Sensei's death.
March 9
Usui-Sensei travelled to Fukuyama town to meet with his creditors, and died there, age 62, as a result of a stroke (he had apparently had several previous ones)
* * *
1926 Mariko-Obaasan and her friend remained at the training centre for some months after Usui-Sensei's death, then left.
Apparently, while they were still there, some of Usui-Sensei's remains were placed in a private shrine along with a large portrait photograph of him and the original copy of the 5 Precepts that had hung in the training centre.
1926 A few months after Usui-Sensei's death, Hayashi-Sensei (with the cooperation and assistance of Ushida and Taketomi) is believed to have moved Usui-Sensei's training centre to the Shinano Machi district (where apparently his own clinic was)
Dec 25, 1926 Hirohito became the Emperor Showa. However, he would not be formally enthroned for almost another two years
1926/27 According to some, Rear Admiral Juusaburo Gyuda and other students formed the "Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai" (Usui Reiki Healing Method Learning Society[/Association])"', posthumously honouring Usui-Sensei by naming him as the first 'president' of the society.


Usui-Sensei's students said to have erected the memorial to his memory which now stands in a graveyard at the Saihoji temple, Tokyo, and which mentions Mount Kurama as the site of Usui-Sensei's receipt of the Reiki phenomenon.
A family tomb (containing some of Usui-Sensei's remains) was erected on the same plot as the memorial by Fuji Usui.
1927 A woman named Chio Uno (1898-1996) scandalized Japanese society by cutting her hair short!
1928 Wasaburo Sugano (Uncle of Mrs Chiyoko Yamaguchi) learned Reiki from Hayashi Sensei
Mar 4, 1928 Article about Reiki by Shou Matsui (a student of Chujiro Hayashi ) appears in a Japanese magazine: 'The Sunday Mainichi'
1928 Toshihiro Eguchi established his own school: Eguchi Te-no-hira Ryoji Kenkyukai (Palm Treatment Research Association)
1930 Hayashi-Sensei had begun to restructure his own system, referred to as: Hayashi Reiki Ryoho Kenkyukai - something which would in time evolve into the therapeutic modality learned by Takata-Sensei between 1935 and 1938, and later presented by her as 'Usui Shiki Ryoho'.
1930 Toshihiro Eguchi published: Te-no-hira Ryoji Nyumon (An Introduction to Healing with the Palms)
1931 Hayashi-Sensei left the Gakkai. By this time he apparently stopped teaching the original Usui-Do system, although he had conferred Shichidan status on Tatsumi and at least 11 other students.
Eguchi had also left the Gakkai by this time (some suggest he had joined the Gakkai for a year out of respect to Usui, but left because he was unhappy with the ultra-nationalistic attitudes of the Naval Officers), however he continued to teach Usui-Do alongside his own system - one of his Shichidan level students being Yuji Onuki.
1933/4 Kaiji Tomita wrote a book: Reiki To Jinjutsu – Tomita Ryu Teate Ryoho (Reiki & Humanitarian Work - Tomita Ryu Hands Healing).
1935 Chiyoko Yamaguchi's elder sister Katsue studied Reiki in Daishoji in the North of Japan
Hawayo Takata was accepted into a one-year internship at Hayashi-Sensei's clinic
On completion of internship, Hawayo Takata initiated into second degree
It is suggested by some that Hawayo Takata and Hayashi-Sensei's wife: Chie, both received the master level initiation some time late in the year.
Takata-Sensei returned to Hawaii.
Hayashi-Sensei, accompanied by his daughter, travelled to Hawaii, and they embarked on a lecture tour to promote the art of Reiki Healing.
Feb, 21
Takata-Sensei certified by Chujiro Hayashi as: "a practitioner and Master of Dr. Usui's Reiki system of healing"
1938 Chiyoko Yamaguchi began studying Reiki in Daishoji in the North of Japan
May 11, 1940
Cognisant of the likely entry of Japan into what we now designate W.W.II, and of the moral and ethical conflict between resuming military duty and his Reiki values, Hayashi Sensei - in the presence of his students, including Takata Sensei whom he had called back to Japan - committed seppuku (suicide) at his Villa in Atami, near Mt. Fuji..
After Hayashi-Sensei committed suicide, his wife Chie took over the running of the Hayashi Reiki Ryoho Kenkyukai clinic

Takata-Sensei returned once more to Hawaii.
Partly, one assumes, as a result of Japan's entry into the war, Takata-Sensei is said to have lost contact with both the Hayashi Reiki Ryoho Kenkyukai itself and with other Japanese Reiki practitioners.

It would be more than 40 years before contact with Japanese Reiki practitioners would be re-established...

[Though recently it has been claimed that Takata Sensei may have actually travelled to Japan in 1952 for a memorial service for Hayashi Sensei and met with his wife Chie]


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Article written by James Deacon


Author: "Unless, of course, you know differently..."

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