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The History of Reiki

Mikao Usui was the originator of what we today call Reiki. He was born on August 15th 1865 in the village of 'Taniai-mura'  in the Yamagata district, Kyoto.


Mikao Usui probably came from a wealthy family as at that time only children from wealthy families could get a good education.

As a child he studied in a Tendai Buddhist monastery school entering at an early age. He was also a student of different martial arts. His memorial states that he was a talented hard working student, he liked to read and his knowledge of medicine, psychology,  and theology of religions around the world, including the Kyoten (Buddhist Bible) was vast. He learnt Sanskit in order to study Buddhist texts to deepen his knowledge of what he believed to be a very ancient healing practice that had been lost over time.

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He married and his wife's name was Sadako, they had a son (born 1907) and daughter.


Usui  studied and traveled to western countries and China several times, this was encouraged during the Meiji Era and later, to learn and study western ways. It was whilst in America that he enrolled at the University of Chicago Divinity School and gained a Doctorate in Theology. 


During his life Mikao Usui held many different professions; pulic servant, office worker, industrialist, reporter, politician's secretary, missionary, supervisor of convicts. He also worked as a private secretary to a politician Shimpei Goto, who was Secretary of the Railroad, Postmaster General and Secretary of the Interior and State.

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At some point in his life he became a Tendai Buddhist Monk/Priest (what we in the west call a lay priest). On several occasions it is believed he took a form of meditation lasting 21 days. His memorial says that at one time this took place on Mount Kurama (Horse Saddle Mountain). This is where he is supposed to have been given the inspiration for his system of healing - Reiki. It is very likely that he incorporated ideas and knowledge about healing from other systems, both spiritual and physical, like Chinese Medicine,  other Eastern healing systems like Chi Gong, the Japanese equivalent Kiko, acupuncture and others.


In April 1922 he opened his first school/clinic in Harajuku Tokyo. Usui had a small manual which  is now translated into English and published by a western Reiki Master living in Japan, Frank Arjava Petter, under the title "The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr Mikao Usui"


Mikao Usui's skills as a healer and teacher spread quickly throughout Japan. This was a time of great change in Japan, it was opening up to the west and experiencing changes both in government and religion. His teachings became popular among the older people who saw them as a return to old ideals and spiritual practices.

His Reiki students seem to have worked with him as payment (a small monetary fee might also have been involved).

The Usui teachings included teaching people how to heal themselves (a very central point still in Reiki of today).


In 1923 on the 1st of September an earthquake struck Tokyo and Yokohama, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was 50 miles from Tokyo. Over 140,000 deaths were reported. The majority were killed in the fires started by the earthquake. It was the greatest natural disaster in Japanese history. Mikao Usui and his students started to give healing in the area and the demand and need for Reiki was enormous and as a result of his work he became even more famous.

In 1925 Usui had become so busy that he had to open a new larger school outside Tokyo in Nakano. As he traveled widely his senior students would continue with his work when he was away from his school/clinic.

During his travels he met Churjiro Hayashi, a retired naval officer, who ultimately became Usui's successor and set up his own clinic in Tokyo. Usui trained him as a Reiki Master and he went on to train perhaps another 16 people to this level.

Hawayo Takata,  a lady living in Hawaii but native to Tokyo, visited her parents in Japan and was about to have an operation whilst there but keen to investigate other methods, visited Hayashi's clinic. It was through this visit and her recovery that she herself requested training and ultimately became a Reiki Master.

When she finally returned to Hawaii it was a chance to introduce Reiki to America and Canada. Training only a small number of people to Reiki Master level , it remained relatively unknown for many years, only becoming more widely spread in the last few decades.

Dr Mikao Usui passed away on March 9th 1926 at the age of 62. He is buried in Saihoji Temple in Suginami-Ku, Tokyo. Later his students created and erected a large memorial stone next to his grave describing his life and work. Much of the new information about Usui  comes from the translation of this memorial.

For more information, visit the UK Reiki Federation website.

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