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A Brief History of Usui Reiki

Mikao Usui was born on 15th August 1865 in Japan in the village of Taniai, Miyama- Cho district of the Gifu province, near the present-day Nagoya. Little is known about Mikao’s mother Sadako Usui. His father Uzaemon Usui owned a retail business sell- ing rice, grains, miso, salt, timber and charcoal and was one of the wealthiest people in Taniai. His grandfather had owned a sake brewery. Mikao had one older sister and two younger brothers.

Usui’s ancestors appear to have descended from the samurai clan of Tsunetane Chiba. His family were Jodo Shu (“Pure Land”) and Tendai (“Lotus School'') Buddhists. Mikao’s education began in Taniai’s temple school at the Jodo Shu Buddhist Zendo-Ji temple.

As a young man, Mikao moved to Tokyo. His spiritual training included a Japanese form of energy work called Kiko which involved meditation, breathing and moving exercises similar to the practises of Tai Chi and Chi Kung, as well as techniques for healing through the laying on of hands. Further training included Shugendo (a blend of shamanism, Daoism, Buddhism and Shinto), Zen and Tendai Buddhism. Important spiritual groups and movements that are likely to have had an influence on Usui were the Omoto Kyo, the Kurozumi Kyo and the Konkokyo.

His career path included working as a journalist, in prison ministry, as a social worker, as a missionary for a Shinto group and as the private secretary to the states-man Baron Shimpei Goto (1857 - 1929). In this position, Usui travelled abroad extensively and met many influential people. These contacts helped him set up his own business. He married Sadako Suzuki and in 1908 their son Fuji (†1946) and in 1913 their daughter Toshiko (†1935) was born. After modest success, his business started to decline around 1914 and finances became tight. The resulting crisis inspired Usui to reconnect more deeply with his spiritual aspirations. 

Around 1919, Usui started a meditation retreat in a Zen temple in Kyoto that lasted three years. In March 1922, he decided to climb Mount Kurama, a sacred mountain near Kyoto and spend 21 days fasting and meditating to accelerate his spiritual opening. Towards the end of this retreat, Usui had a profoundly transforming spiritual experience. He described it as a great light entering through the top of his head, filling his entire being with light and attuning him to an energy that he decided to call Reiki.


As Usui descended from Mount Kurama, the legendary “four miracles” are said to have occurred: he stubbed his toe and it healed instantly as he placed his hand on it; he ate with comfort a full meal after a long fast; he healed a woman’s toothache and he freed the Abbot of a Zen monastery from arthritis. From that time on, he found his healing abilities to be greatly enhanced without depleting his own energy when treating others. He was filled with joy and gratitude for his new gift and soon went on to initiate others into Reiki and to teach the healing techniques he developed. 

A month later, in April 1922, Usui moved to Tokyo and founded his Usui Reiki Healing Method Society (Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai). On 1st September 1923, a devastating earthquake hit the Kanto area and destroyed several cities including Tokyo. Usui and his students offered all the help they could and soon the word spread and Reiki came to the attention of many. 

It is said that due to the vast amount of people suffering, Usui treated up to five people simultaneously at any time. The desperate need for more practitioners and teachers prompted Usui to initiate as many into Reiki as he could. Before his death on 9th March 1926, Mikao Usui had taught Reiki to over two thousand students and had trained twenty Reiki teachers (Jap. Shihan). Usui’s death in Fukuyama, Hiroshima prefecture, was caused by a stroke whilst travelling. 

In the year 1925, Usui initiated Chujiro Hayashi (*15 Sept. 1880, † 11 May 1940) , a medical doctor in the Navy, as a Reiki teacher. Not long thereafter, Hayashi opened his own Reiki school and clinic (the Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai) in Tokyo.

In 1935, Hawayo Takata (born on 24 Dec. 1900), a Japanese woman who lived and worked in Hawaii, came to Tokyo for surgery. She heard of Hayashi’s Reiki clin- ic and chose to have treatment there instead of undergoing the surgery. Following her full recovery, Takata asked Hayashi to teach Reiki to her. She became Hayashi’s full-time apprentice (Jap.: uchideshi) and lived with his family, but returned to Hawaii in 1937. In 1938, Hayashi visited Takata in Hawaii to help her complete her Reiki Master & Teacher training, to give talks and to help establish Reiki there.

On 11th May 1940, Hayashi committed suicide in his villa in Atami. Several specu- lations have been made as to why, but we do not really know why Hayashi chose to end his life.

During World War Two, the Japanese government associated all spiritual and humanitarian groups, including those practising Reiki, with the peace movement and forced them to work underground. After the war, the American occupying power made all alternative healing methods illegal in Japan for the benefit of modern Western medicine. These were the darkest times for Reiki.

At the same time, in the years following World War Two, Takata took Reiki to the USA mainland and Canada whilst keeping Honolulu as her base. At the same time as Reiki almost disappeared in Japan, it began to flourish in the USA.

By the time of her death on 11th December 1980, Takata had initiated 22 Reiki Masters. It wasn’t before the early 1990’s that Western and Japanese Reiki practitioners began to communicate and share their developments since Usui’s and Hayashi’s deaths.

Since then, Reiki has spread all over the world and continues to celebrate its strength with you today.    


                  Mikao Usui                                        Chujiro Hayashi                                     Hawayo Takata




Kyo dake wa - Just for today

Ikaru na - Do not be angry

Shin pai suna - Do not worry

Kan sha shi te - Be grateful

Gyo-o hage me -
Take responsibility and fully do what you’re here to do

Hito ni shin setsu ni -  Be kind to others




Just for today I will give thanks for my many blessings.

Just for today I will let go of worry.

Just for today I will let go of anger.

Just for today I will do my work honestly.


Just for today I will be kind to my neighbour and every living thing. 

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