The History of Reiki – Mikao Usui and Usui Reiki Ryoho

Much has been written in books and interesting research has been conducted about the History of Reiki. We are currently conducting our own and expect to gather more information through our travels and from professional Reiki Teachers who have a genuine desire to share. We’ll acknowledge those researchers who have kindly shared their knowledge at the end of this page.

Mikao Usui Sensei is the founder of the Usui System of Reiki. He was born on August 15, 1865 in the Yamagata district of Gifu prefecture, Japan. His father was Uzaemon Tsunetane (a military commander) and his mother was from the Kawai family. In 1869 at the age of four, it is believed that Usui was sent to a Tendai Buddhist school, where he remained for a period of years. During this time he studied kiko, the Japanese version of qigong, which is a health and healing discipline based on the development and use of life energy. He meditated regularly at “Kurama Yama” (“horse saddle mountain”). The sacred mountain “Kurama” (570 Meters above sea level) is 12 kilometres due north of Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Usui was extraordinarily gifted in academics, studying under adversity. His memorial states that he traveled abroad to China, America and Europe, was a talented, hard working student who was by nature versatile and loved to read books. He studied history and medicine, Buddhist and Christian scriptures and was well versed in psychology, Taoism, even in the art of divination, incantation, and physiognomy. Presumably, Sensei’s background in the arts and sciences afforded him nourishment for his cultivation and discipline, and it was very obvious that it was this cultivation and discipline that became the key to the creation of Reiki Ryoho.

At around 1918/1919 – Usui began training as a Zen Buddhist, studying for 3 years. 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”. Distraught with his life, desperately seeking answers, he followed his Zen Master’s advice, deciding to fast on Mt. Kurama until he became enlightened. It was not uncommon for Usui to fast as he made regular trips up the mountain to seek answers. This is a common practise called “shyu gyo”, a spiritual discipline, including fasts and meditation for 21 days, a strict spiritual training. On his memorial it says that at the last morning of his fast “he felt one great Reiki over his head”.

The word Reiki during Usui’s time and before meant (loosely translated) “Atmosphere of the Divine”. Usui Sensei became enlightened and obtained 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.

In April 1922, Usui-San founded the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Usui Reiki Healing Method Learning Society) and opened his first clinic in Aoyama, Tokyo, where he practiced and taught Reiki. During his study of Shinto and Mahayana Buddhism he discovered Reiju (Empowerment method) and Hatsurei-ho (cleansing process for body, mind and spirit). 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. But as he began to teach others he realized the need of set instructions, and he created a manual for his students, which he called the Usui Reiki Hikkei.

In 1923 on September the 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 epicentre was about 50 miles from Tokyo. During this emergency, 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.

He outgrew his centre in 1925, and moved to larger quarters in Nakano, which was then outside of Tokyo. His travels with Reiki had taken him all over Japan and many of the places he visited were naval bases.

Sensei, accepting invitations to teach went to Kure and then to Hiroshima and Saga, and reached Fukuyama. Unexpectedly, he became ill and passed away there. It was March 9 of the 15th year of Taisho (1926 A.D.), aged 62.

Usui Sensei’s students erected a memorial to his memory in 1927. It is located in a graveyard of the Seihoji temple in Tokyo. Much of the information on the history was received from it.

The society which Usui started is still in existence today. They hold weekly meetings at Tokyo headquarters. During these meetings, the students sing Waka poetry, chant the Reiki Principles and do Hatsurei-ho.

The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai is a closed society, following closely the original teaching of Usui Sensei. They have their own manual on Reiki called: “Reiki Ryoho No Shion” which means “Reiki Healing Method from the Kindness of a Teacher” and is given only to members of the society. Anyone may take Shoden or first level, but higher levels are only given when the student is able to exhibit proficiency in various techniques and can demonstrate their healing ability. Another way of looking at this, Shinpiden or Teacher level is rarely given. There are only 6 Shinpiden currently in the society, which has 500 members. It is believed that members of the Gakkai still meet on Mt. Kurama to regularly receive Reiju and honour Usui Sensei.

According to Arjava Petter, there is no title of Grandmaster or Lineage Bearer in the organisation started by Usui Sensei. Mikao Usui was the first president of the society. Since then there have been five successive presidents:

Mr. Ushida, Mr. Taketome, Mr. Watanabe, Mr. Wanami, Ms. Kimiko Koyama and the current successor to Mikao Usui as of 1998 is Mr. Kondo.

Dr. Chujiro Hayashi was a retired naval officer. He received the Reiki Master initiation from Dr. Usui about 1925 at the age of 47.

Mrs. Hawayo Takata received the Reiki Master initiation from Dr. Hayashi in 1938. She was the thirteenth Reiki Master Dr. Hayashi initiated.

Hawayo Takata brought Reiki to the west, and between 1970 and 1980 she initiated 22 Reiki Masters. Among them was Beth Grey, who introduced Reiki to Australia. Denise Crundall was initiated by Beth Grey as a Reiki Master/Teacher in 1988, after a five-year apprenticeship.

Marcus Nassner received his initiation and permission to teach from Master/Teacher Denise Crundall, at a Reiki Retreat in Byron Bay/Australia in 2001, after a 9 year apprenticeship (3 years as a co-teacher in Australia, California, Canada and Germany). He also studied with Master/Teacher Frans Stiene from the “International House of Reiki” to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Japanese Art of Reiki and received “Shinpiden Master/Teacher – Usui Reiki Ryoho in 2002.

There are more than 4,000,000 people worldwide now practicing Reiki.

With gratitude to Mr. Hiroshi Doi, Light and Adonea, Frank Arjava Petter and William Lee Rand for sharing and educating us on the history of Reiki.