Health & Harmony

with Joanna Castle

Reiki - Universal Energy » Reiki in Japan


By Frank Arjava Petter, Author of Reiki Fire

When I talked to the well-known Reiki teacher and author Walter Lübeck in 1996 about my research concerning Reiki history and the book that I have written about the subject, I was taken by surprise. He was so excited by my work and was certain that there would be a lot of interest in my research in the worldwide Reiki community.

There were already too many books about Reiki on the market outside Japan and I did not want to add another one. I just wanted to get it published here in Japan. Also the war that was and still is raging in the Reiki community really turned me off. I did not want to become a knight of the Reiki Crusade and was afraid that I would be drawn into a position I did not want. But the truth about Reiki and its history wanted to come to the light. With the help of Walter and his publishing company the book came out in several different languages.

Now what is the truth about Reiki history? We have all heard and read so many stories with a fairy tale character about Reiki that any critically minded person would laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Theoretically speaking Reiki is one of the many forms of Chinese ChiGong, that is being practiced all over South East Asia. The Usui Reiki Ryoho (System) was conceived by Mikao Usui in the early part of this century. Usui Sensei, how he was called by his disciples, was neither a physician nor a Christian monk, but a traditional Japanese business man, loyal to his Emperor. Many sources claim that he taught at the Christian Doshisha University in Kyoto, but their activist told us that Dr. Usui was neither a teacher at their institution nor a student.

Mikao Usui

The apparently Christian elements in Usui Sensei's life and teachings were either taken out of context, or added later on by his Western followers in order to make Reiki respectable in the West. The story that he worked in the slums of Kyoto for instance, has a different background: after the devastating Kanto earthquake (1923) that killed an estimated 40 000 and wounded many more, Usui Sensei worked with the victims.

During the Meiji period a large number of hand healing techniques were taught in Japan. Most of these groups disappeared after World War II. One of the more important groups called Taireidou, was lead by Morihei Tanaka, who was said to have been Usui Sensei's teacher. What exactly Usui Sensei learned from Mr. Tanaka is not known. The so called Reiki Principles, which were originally designed by the Meiji Emperor of Japan (1868 - 1912) were adopted by Usui Sensei to give his students an ethnical backbone.

We do know that a relation between the Kurama Dera (Kurama Temple), North of Kyoto and Reiki exists. On the inscription of Usui Sensei's memorial* in Tokyo it is written that Usui Sensei was initiated into Reiki while doing a meditation retreat at Kurama. We were told that he experienced a satori, a temporary realization of the divine while meditating under a man-made waterfall on the Kurama Temple grounds.

Joanna in Japan

Before his death in 1926 Usui Sensei chose his successor. This successor was not Mr. C. Hayashi as is taught in the West, but Usui Sensei's close friend and associate Mr. Ushida, who wrote the inscription of the Usui Memorial. As a matter of fact, Mr. Hayashi, Mrs. Takata and all the others that followed her are not known by most of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai members in Japan. Apparently Mr. Hayashi was one of a group of Reiki teachers, but he was neither made a 'Grand Master' nor a 'lineage bearer' nor a successor to Usui Sensei. The first president of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, the organization that Usui Sensei started, was Usui Sensei himself. The second - his successor - was Mr. Ushida. The third was a Mr. Taketomi. The fourth was a Mr. Watanabe. The fifth was a Mr. Wanami, followed by a sixth, a Mrs. Koyoma who retired in the beginning of 1998. The seventh an current president, the real successor of Usui Sensei is a Mr. Kondo.

Stating that Mr. Hayashi was not the successor of Usui Sensei does by no means say anything about what he taught. The Reiki System that is being taught by Western Reiki teachers is absolutely wonderful. In any case I doubt that Mr. Hayashi would have had the impertinence to claim to have been Usui's successor.

In Japan, Reiki has evolved over the years and there are now many different streams that flow all over the country. Some teachers say Reiki is part of the Buddhist tradition, other claim it is basically Shintoist. The fact seems to be that it is a mixture of the above. Japan is a country of synthesis: Buddhism and Shintoism are so intertwined that it is impossible to divide them again.

In the past fifty years the Western form of Reiki has evolved a great deal. This process is certainly valuable. Humankind evolves steadily and something that was 'good' and 'useful' a hundred years ago may be outdated today. Bullock carts turned into cars, airplanes and space shuttles. Something that is unable to evolve and grow will die and disappear in due time. Unfortunately some Japanese Reiki aspects and techniques have not been taught in the West for whatever reason, for instance the work Usui Sensei did with crystals. He used to place programmed crystal balls on the diseased body parts of his clients. Breathing exercises, scanning and other rather Eastern methods were also deleted.

The Reiki symbols that originate in Mikkyo Buddhism (a Japanese form of Tibetan Buddhism) and ancient Shintoism did survive the trip across the ocean un-altered. We have not been able to find additional Reiki symbols in Japan.


It is clear now that there is no 'original' Reiki teaching to be found anywhere, except in the handbook that was given to his students by Dr. Usui himself. We received a copy of this manual in the summer of 1997 and you will find a translation of the first part in my latest book "Reiki, the legacy of Dr. Usui". The second part will be published this fall. In the text Dr. Usui answers questions as to what Reiki is, and how it is used. It opens a totally new dimension, a new understanding of Reiki as such. We were told what many of us have intuitively felt for a long time: Reiki energy is always present, always real, pure and always perfect the way it is. Impurity only enters the world of Reiki when we try to use the energy for own petty, egoistic ends. Reiki is and will always be part of the collective heritage of the human race that cannot be owned by an individual or a collective group. It remains what it is: a wonderful gift that is given to us by existence, life or god - whatever you may be inclined to call it. Let's come together and honor it in this spirit.

*a translation of the memorial inscription is featured in "Reiki Fire". Lotus Light Publications, ISBN 0-914955-50-0

© 1998 Frank Arjava Petter

Frank Arjava Petter has been living in Japan for the past ten years, where his Japanese wife and himself are operating a language school and a healing center. He is the author of the books "Reiki Fire" and "Reiki, the legacy of Dr. Usui", both published by Lotus Light Publications and is currently traveling all over the world teaching Japanese Reiki techniques.