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The History of Reiki From the “Takata Story” to Recent Findings

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The History of Reiki

From the “Takata Story” to Recent Findings
by Frank Huebner

March 8, 2010

This article contains information about the development of Reiki, beginning with the life of Dr. Mikao Usui, Dr. Chujiro Hayashi and Hawayo Takata. We’ll revisit the “Takata story” of Reiki, will summarize more recent findings about Usui’s life and Reiki, and address why these findings differ (in many cases significantly) from what Hawayo Takata taught her Reiki students.
The information that follows is from our White Light (formally Johrei) Reiki-I manual (“Takata story”), several books, and one article and pictures from the Internet.

Dr. Mikao Usui was born on August 15th, 1865 and died on March 9th, 1926 of a stroke. He is buried at the Saihoji temple, which is a Buddhist temple in the suburbs of Tokyo. Usui’s family belonged to the Tendai sect of Buddhism and to receive his primary education he was sent to a Tendai Monastery at the age of four. Usui spent his early adulthood living in Kyoto with his wife and two children.

Usui was a Buddhist monk in Kyoto who was on a (28 year) quest to rediscover how the Buddha had performed healing. Usui spent much time and money collecting and studying Buddhist scriptures, especially Buddhist healing techniques. After Usui learned Sanskrit and other ancient languages, he studied the Japanese Lotus Sutras, the Chinese Sutras and the Sanskrit Sutras of Tibet. He made a spiritual pilgrimage to Mt. Kurama Yama, north of Kyoto, in March of 1922 where he fasted and meditated for 21 days. On the last day of his pilgrimage, he gained a realization into the way of healing. According to his memorial stone, a great energy appeared over his head and he received the empowerment of the Universal healing energy. After returning from his pilgrimage, he performed some powerful healings and practiced Reiki in his home and in the inner city slums where he gave Reiki to the poor, homeless and destitute.

In April of 1922 Usui moved to Tokyo and started a healing society named “Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai” (“Usui Reiki Healing Society” in English). He opened up a Reiki clinic in Harajuku, Aoyama, outside of Tokyo, where he began teaching his system of Reiki. The clinic quickly was too small and Usui opened up another clinic in February of 1924 in Nakano, outside of Tokyo. According to Dr. Usui’s memorial stone at the Saihoji temple in Tokyo, he taught about 2,000 people and initiated 21 Reiki Teachers (Reiki Teacher’s level, called “Shinpiden”; Usui did not use the term “Reiki Master”, which was introduced later by Hawayo Takata) ([2] states that he initiated 21 Reiki teachers, while [5] states that he only initiated 16). Dr. Usui appointed Dr. Chujiro Hayashi to preserve the Reiki teachings.

Dr. Mikao Usui [6].

Dr. Chujiro Hayashi was born on September 15th, 1880 and met Usui at the age of 45 and spent two years following Dr. Usui practicing Reiki in the slums ([2] states that Hayashi only studied with Usui for 10 months before Usui’s death). Dr. Usui attuned Hayashi as Reiki Master at age 47 and made him the “Grand Master” of the Reiki tradition ([5] states that the title “Grand Master” was never part of the original Usui system; [7] states that Hayashi became a Reiki Master at the age of 46).

Dr. Hayashi founded a Reiki clinic in Tokyo, which had ten Reiki tables ([7] states that it had eight tables). His clinic used a method where several/two Reiki Practitioners worked on a client at the same time to maximize the flow of energy. To encourage practitioners to join his clinic, Hayashi attuned practitioners for free in return for three months of work in his clinic. After that time, he offered the better students the second degree attunement for a further nine month work commitment. Those who completed this second work commitment had a chance to receive the third degree attunement (teacher level). After two more years of commitment, practitioners were attuned to become Reiki Masters. Hayashi modified Usui’s teachings, including a method of attunement utilizing symbols and mantras, and also created a system of Reiki degrees. He developed a more complex set of hand positions. He attuned many Reiki Practitioners and 13 Reiki Masters. He passed his Reiki teachings to his wife and to Hawayo Takata. He died on May 11th, 1940, not long after appointing Hawayo Takata the “Grand Master of the Usui Reiki System of Manual Healing” in February of 1938.

Hayashi developed a new handbook “Reiki Ryoho Shinshin” (“Guidelines for Reiki Healing Method”) [7]. Differences to Usui's teaching were that Hayashi had two or more practitioners treating each recipient (vs. one-one-one treatments), that he focused more on the meridian lines of acupuncture and the chakras (vs. focus on the tanden and navel), and that he described hand positions relative to organs (vs. in relation to vertebrae). Hayashi placed much emphasis on the five Reiki precepts (“Gokai”) and on receiving regular attunements during “Reiju-kai” (attunement sessions).

Dr. Chujiro Hayashi [6].

Hawayo Takata was born on December 24, 1900 in Kauai, Hawaii as daughter of Japanese immigrants [5] ([2] mentions December 25, 1900 as Takata’s birth date). After the death of her husband in 1930 and her sister in 1935, she moved to Japan where she became very ill ([5] mentions that she became ill while still in Hawaii) and was told that she needed surgery. She insisted on an alternative to surgery and Dr. Hayashi’s Reiki clinic was recommended to her. After four months of intensive daily treatments she was completely healed of her illnesses and lived to be 80 years old. Takata had a strong desire to learn Reiki for her own healing and also to heal others. Dr. Hayashi attuned her to be a first degree Reiki Practitioner on December 10th 1936 and she received her second degree attunement in 1937. She returned to Hawaii and Dr. Hayashi visited her in Hawaii and during that visit attuned her to be a Reiki Master on February 21, 1938. Between 1940 and 1970, Takata ran several Reiki clinics (in Hilo, HI and Honolulu, HI) and taught many classes in Hawaii.

Hawayo Takata [6].

Below is an advertisement by Takata in a local newspaper, the Tribune Herald, dated March 3, 1941 (this was before the attack on Pearl Harbor) [1].

It lists Takata's Hilo clinic at 2070 Kilauea Ave. in Hilo, HI and is now occupied by the Kline Chiropractic Clinic.

Takata's Reiki sign is still in the basement of the building [1].

Above and behind the words in the upper left of the sign the work "Reiki" can be seen. Takata apparently changed her mind about advertising Reiki (perhaps after the start of World War II).

Hawayo Takata started attuning Reiki Masters in the United States in the early 1970‘s. She attuned 22 Reiki Masters to what she termed “The Usui System of Natural Healing” or “Usui Shiki Ryoho”. She charged $10,000 to become a Reiki Master, in order to instill a greater respect for Reiki. Hawayo Takata died in 1979 ([5] states that she died on December 11, 1980).

While Dr. Usui and also Dr. Hayashi issued Reiki training manuals and allowed their students to take notes, Hawayo Takata popularized the notion of Reiki being an oral tradition, i.e., no manuals existed. This led to changes to Takata’s system of Reiki as Reiki Masters added and removed various aspects of the original training. In the early 1990’s, Dr. Usui’s memorial (in 1993) and also Dr. Usui’s [3] and Dr. Hayashi’s [4] Reiki training manuals were discovered. It was also discovered that there exists a Japanese Reiki Learning Society, the “Reiki Gakkai”.

Dr. Usui’s memorial stone [6] at the Saihoji temple in the Suginami district of Tokyo and is about 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

The Reiki Gakkai was formed in 1922 by Dr. Usui and was open to his students. The Reiki Gakkai still exists today. In 1999, some of the original methods taught by the Reiki Gakkai were revealed by Hiroshi Doi, who is a member of the Reiki Gakkai. Usui was most likely never the official (but an honorary) president of the Reiki Gakkai. Jusaburo Ushida, who was the second president of the Reiki Gakkai, was also the author of Dr. Usui’s memorial stone. The Reiki Gakkai has six “Proficiency Levels” in the teachings and it takes as long as ten years to attain the third level. The Reiki Gakkai is based in Tokyo and has currently about 500 members.

Since Chujiro Hayashi modified Usui’s Reiki system and Hawayo Takata inherited Hayashi’s system under the Usui name, what was taught to western Reiki students as “Usui Reiki” was initially considered the only style of Reiki (even though Usui attuned 20 Reiki Masters other than Hayashi), but is in reality the Hayashi/Takata style of Reiki. Takata’s students were under the impression that she was the only living successor of the Reiki tradition (and that all other students and teachers had died prior to or during World War II).

New Findings Contradicting Some of Takata’s Story

Hawayo Takata brought Reiki to the West just before World War II started (with the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, where Takata lived and practiced Reiki). At that time, basically nothing of Japanese origin was received with enthusiasm. The thinking is that Takata decided that the only way for her to continue practicing Reiki would be to make the founder of Reiki appear to be more of a Westerner. This may have led her to state that Usui had been a Christian minister, that he had attended a University in the United States and that he had been president of a Christian University in Japan.

The “Takata story” depicts Dr. Usui as a Christian, teaching theology at the Doshisha Christian University in Japan, however, recent research shows that Usui was a devoted Buddhist and Doshisha Christian University states having no knowledge or record of Mikao Usui (a letter from Doshisha Christian University stating this in on page 303 in [5]). Also, he is buried at the Saihoji temple, which is a Buddhist temple.

The “Takata story” also states that Usui traveled to the United States and received a Doctorate from the University of Chicago in the late 1880s. The University of Chicago has confirmed that it has no records of Mikao Usui (letter by the University of Chicago on page 304 in [5]).

It became also known that Takata had contact with several Reiki Masters in Japan after World War II and Reiki has been practiced continuously over the years [5], even though Takata advertised herself as the only Reiki Master in the world (e.g., in an advertisement of her classes in 1976 on page 302 in [5]).

Takata also told students that she taught an unaltered form of Usui Reiki, but (leaving out that Hayashi already modified Usui’s system) it turns out that Takata did not teach some of Usui’s exercises, while her diary shows that she knew about them (e.g., Kokyo-Ho and Reiji-Ho).

Takata taught that Dr. Usui had rediscovered Reiki in a formula in one of the Buddhist sutras that he read in Sanskrit at a Zen temple, while Dr. Usui states in his handbook “Reiki Ryoho Hikkei” (“Reiki Treatment Companion” in English) that Reiki is “something original” and Usui’s memorial stone has inscribed that Reiki came from Usui’s mystical experience on Mt. Kurama.

  1. Mrs. Takata’s Hilo Clinic , W.L. Rand

  2. Reiki Healer – A Complete Guide to the Path and Practice of Reiki by Lawrence Ellyard, Lotus Press, 2004.

  3. The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui by Dr. Mikao Usui and Frank Arjava Petter, Lotus Press 2007.

  4. The Hayashi Reiki Manual by Frank Arjava Petter, Tadao Yamaguchi and Chujiro Hayashi, Lotus Press 2003.

  5. The Spirit of Reiki – The Complete Handbook of the Reiki System by Walter Lübeck, Frank Arjava Petter and William Lee Rand, Lotus Press 2006.


  7. The Story of Dr. Chujiro Hayashi by Marianne Streich, Reiki News Magazine, Fall 2009, pp. 36-41.

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