Andrew Bowling's REIKI HISTORY Archives

(formerly located at
From 1998 through 2006 Andy Bowling presented a web site detailed with Reiki History and facts.  When he discovered original teachings of Mikao Usui shared by Chris Marsh, he began to focus more in that direction.  In 2007 Andy decided to stop his Reiki History pages but gave me permission to host this archive at my web site. I hope you enjoy this original contribution to the Reiki world.

If you have comments or suggestions, Contact Me.
Rick Rivard  (
December 2007

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The Story of Mikao Usui

"Virtue is what you obtain through cultivation and training, merit is to spread and carry out the instruction and salvation. The great founder is someone with great virtue as well as great merit. From ancient times, every person who started a new theory or religion were considered that way. Master Usui should be one of them"

(Taken from the memorial to Usui's virtue. Saihoji Temple. Tokyo)

During a life time of training and study in Tendai Buddhism, Shinto and the Martial Arts, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Mikao Usui taught a Spiritual Way of Living to improve ones life. 

This he called his:

'Method to Achieve Personal Perfection'

To fully understand Usui's teaching
both Reiki and his Spiritual Dharma
-meditate on these Precepts-
For today only: Do not anger - Do not worry

Be humble

Be honest in your work

Be compassionate to yourself and others

Please note, the information contained in these pages comes mainly from living students of Mikao Usui.
Twelve (12) students are still alive in Japan and we are very privileged to receive the information and teachings from them.

Mikao Usui

Mikao Usui was born on 15th. August 1865 in the village of 'Taniai-mura' (now called Miyama-cho) in the Yamagata district of Gifu prefecture Kyoto.

Kyoto at that time being the capital of Japan.

Golden Pavilion - Kyoto

He was born into a very old traditional Samurai family. They were 'Hatamoto' ,that means they were from the higher Samurai ranks. Hatamoto were allowed to carry two swords and  have retainer's, they would also have had land and station (according to the rank).
The Usui family were Tendai Buddhist followers.

He was born in a time when formal education was not that common. He followed the path of these wealthy families and he became a student in a temple school. As a child he studied in a Tendai Buddhist monastery school entering at an early age maybe as young as 4 years.
He followed the Buddha's teachings all his life and was a very spiritual man.

Common as well with his station in life, he trained in the martial arts, and continued with his Buddhist education to the point where he became what we would call a lay priest, still having his own home, not living in the temple. This is called a 'Zaike' in Japanese, priest possessing a home.

His practice in the Martial Arts, from as early as 12 years old, eventually reached the highest levels of Menkyo Kaiden by his mid twenties. He continued training in the Arts and reached high levels in several other of the most ancient Japanese methods. He was renowned for his expertise and highly respected by other wellknown martial artists of his time. He was friendly with several of Japans famous teachers of Martial Arts, Jigoro Kano founder of Judo, Gichin Kunakoshi founder of Karate, Morihei Ueshiba founder of Aikido and others.

The Usui family crest was Moon and Stars, these were the symbols of 'Myoken Bodhisattva', the icons for Samurai and family crest of the Chiba's.


He also had a sister and two brothers, one of whome studied medicine.

His memorial states that he was a talented hard working student, he liked to read and his knowledge of medicine, psychology, fortune telling and theology of religions around the world, including the Kyoten (Buddhist Bible) was vast.

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

In his younger life he experienced much adversity, lack of money, no security or regular employment. He was regarded as  being very wise and knowing, something of an eccentric. His poverty was not through dubious business dealings, it was through his own choice, simply  placing a lack of importance on material things.


History Note.. 1868, three years after Usui's birth, a very important time in Japans history, the restoration of rule by Emperor. To be called the Meiji Emperor. - 'The Meiji Restoration'

Mutsuhito, who was to reign until 1912, selected a new reign title- -Meiji, or Enlightened Rule--to mark the beginning of a new era in Japanese history.

Japan opened its doors to the outside world after many years of being a closed country.

Daibutsu - Kamakura

Regarding the traditional  Western Reiki story as told by Takata, it should be noted by the student that for over two centuries, starting 1641, all Europeans except Dutch had been expelled, Chinese and Dutch had been confined to special trading centers in Nagasaki only. No Japanese were allowed to leave the country. Christianity was declared illegal, all Japanese were forced to register at Buddhist temples. Those Japanese who refused to renounce Christianity were executed, so were a number of the European missionaries who refused to leave the country. This was the case untill 1868.


At the later end of his life he 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. His duties included administration and security.
In 1922 Mr. Goto also became Mayor of Tokyo.
How long Usui worked with him is not known.

Previous to this he had other similar jobs in the civil service.

Kurama Temple

On many occasions during his life he took a form of meditation lasting 21 days, this was a common Buddhist practice.

This type of spiritual discipline in Tendai Buddhism is called 'Lotus Repentance Meditation', a strict process of spiritual training.

On his memorial it says that at one time this took place on Mount Kurama.

The sacred mountain.... Kurama Yama .... Horse Saddle Mountain.


Mt. Kurama (570 Metres above sea level) is 12 kilometers due north of Kyoto Imperial Palace and can be reached in 30 minutes from Kyoto by car or train.

The Kurama Temple, founded in 770 as the guardian of the northern quarter of the capital city (Heiankyo). Is located halfway up the mountain. The original buildings, however, were repeatedly destroyed by fire. The Main Hall was last rebuilt in 1971. The temple formerly belonged to the Tendai sect of Buddhism, but since 1947, it has been included in the newly founded Kurama-Kokyo sect as its headquarters.

Kurama is also a very special place for Martial Arts, it is the abode of the Tengu who impart the secrets of Budo to worthy warriors. Morihei Usheiba, founder of Aikido often took students to the mystical Shojobo Valley to train.

Additional information..   KuramaYama.html


Despite what the memorial states it was not usual for this sort of meditation to have been taken on Kurama.

However it is recorded that this occured, but it was very late in his life and long after he had started teaching.
In the records no special event is recorded.

In traditional western Reiki a great deal of importance is put on the Kurama story, however, this is not true and not referred to by his students.

Although he was known as a healer, it was not until around 1912 that his spiritual teaching realy started to evolve.
Previous to 1912 he did not have a formal way of teaching his spiritual way or a place of learning, however he had taught to others on an informal basis for many years. It was something he had practiced from his very early days of practice. His  hands on healing method was not something he taught until around 1925 when the military were interested in learning. Previous to 1925 he had only worked with Buddhist and Shinto followers.


History Note... Kyoto was the capital city until 1868 when the new Meiji era moved the capital to Tokyo.
To further dramatize the new order, the capital was relocated from Kyoto, where it had been situated since 794, to Tokyo (Eastern Capital), the new name for Edo.

Meiji Shrine Tokyo

In April 1922  Mikao Usui opened his first 'Spiritual Seat of Learning' in  Harajuku Tokyo.

His teachings were what is called a 'Ronin' (leaderless) method, this was to ensure that no one-person could lay claim to them, then, or in the future. This would keep them freely available for all who wanted to practice.

He not only practiced and taught  his Spiritual Teachings but also gave healing.
From what we now understand of the way he worked, it seems very possible that he was accepted by his Buddhist leaders as a teacher. This is very understandable as he was often accompanied by Buddhist monks/nuns and also because until about eighteen months before he died his teachings were given only to Buddhist and Shinto followers.
He made no provision for his teachings to be continued after his death. He had expected others to come along who would surpass his own capabilities, this did not happen.



He was very wellknown for his healing skills and people would go to visit him.

His skills must have been extraordinary as his fame  had spread throughout Japan !
His 'spritual teachings' were very popular among the older people who saw them as a return to the older 'Spiritual Ways'. This was all taking place at a time in Japan when many changes were being made by the  Meiji government, in particular in religion and westernisation.

Usui sensei was against advertising and strictly held that line even for spreading of his teachings

He could be very outspoken and  controversial, this would often cause concern amongst his friends for his welfare, his answer to them would be 'just for today'. He was seen in many ways as a strange man, because he was very true to his own regime and he couldn't care very much about what other people thought of him. He was quite a big, powerful man, and he could become quite abrasive.

He was against war but honoured the ancient 'warrior' spirit in men.

A description from one of his students...

He was physically big, quiet manner and extremely powerful.
Did not accept fools willingly and could be quite abrasive at times.
He could get righteously angry and quite impatient, particularly with people who wanted results but were not prepared to work for them.

His Place of Learning was formed not just for the spiritual teachings but  also for people to obtain the healing.
People were very poor in the Taisho era and could not afford to visit a doctor.
It is not yet known how the school was operated but one would assume that it was very cheap or free to obtain healing.
This place was actually Usui's house, it had a banqueting hall which was used for teaching and discussion groups. (the house could possibly have come with his job at that time)

According to Japanese history articles, healing and other similar practices at that time would be given for very minimal cost, more likely for free.

The Usui teachings were mainly about teaching people how to heal themselves.

Although he did not have a name for his teachings he did refer to them as a -

'Method to Achieve Personal Perfection'
He taught that it is by mastering the mysteries of self that we learn to effect the mysteries of life.
His spiritual teachings included the 'Oneness' of all things.
We are all one and come from and return to the same place.
He taught the value of all life.
These were his teachings.

His method was a truly Spiritual one based on the Precepts and leading a proper life, healing yourself, emphasizing health and happiness.

Unlike today's reiki teachings, these were based on meditation exercises for improvement and healing of one's life.

For today only: Do not anger - Do not worry

Be humble

Be honest in your work

Be compassionate to yourself and others

These are the foundation of Usui's teachings and very, very important.

The  spiritual teachings are Buddhist in origin and include some very ancient Shinto energy practices.
They were structured to suit any student regardless of religion, or belief.


Front Page Hikkei

Usui had a small manual which I understand came into use about 1920 before his move to Tokyo.
At this time it did not contain the hand positions for healing others, which at that time were not taught.

It contained  the Precepts, Meditations and also the Waka poetry100+ copies.

The student would copy the Hikkei (manual) and fill it with his/her own notes. These notes would usually be questions they wanted to ask the teacher, the answers would then be recorded in the  students own Hikkei. It should be realised that these notes for most students would almost certainly relate to spiritual training and not healing of others.

The Hikkei shown on other pages is from the a Gakkai manual and may have belonged to Ms. Koyama. This would appear to be a compilation of Q&A from several manuals. The introduction by Usui is not in the original copy neither are the handpositions. It now seems certain these manuals were prepared in the last year of Usui's life.

The handpositions  in the Hikkei (treatments for different illnesses etc) were introduced just before Usui died, and compiled by Chujiro Hayashi at Usui's request. This was then used by Hayashi in his own training for others, the detail is also very similar to that used by other healers around the same time and found in various books and manuals.


The term 'Reiki' does not seem to have come from Usui more likely Hayashi or the other naval officers.
Usui's healing method seems to have been referred to as 'Usui Teate'  meaning 'Usui Hand Touch' or 'Usui Do'. The Reiki kanji was not used at all as a name for the system and is only found on more common copies of the precepts.


The Earthquake:

For more information on the Kanto Earthquake and pictures...  Kanto

History Note.. In 1923 shortly before noon on 1st. September an earthquake shook Tokyo and Yokohama, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale. The epicentre was 50 miles from Tokyo. Over 100,000 deaths were reported.

The majority were killed in fires ignited by embers from charcoal stoves which spread quickly through the wooden buildings. It was the greatest natural disaster in Japanese history.

The Kanto is the largest plain in Japan and very densely populated. The large metropolis of Tokyo and Yokohama are located in the Kanto region, which consists of seven prefectures.

Mikao Usui with his helpers took his healing to the area and as a result of his work became even more famous.

During this emergency Usui Sensei's way of giving relief was to 'reach out his hands of love to suffering people'.
(Source-Usui Memorial)

It seems quite feasible that as he was living and working in the Tokyo area at that time that his school /home may have been directly affected by the earthquake.

Following the earthquake he was awarded an honourary 'Doctorate of Literature', this was in recognition of his services to the public during the emergency.


He died from a stroke in a town called Fukuyama in Hiroshima - Ken.

In the last year of his life he was approached by the Naval Commanders - Ushida, Taketomi, Hayashi and others, they asked him to teach them. In such a short time they would not possibly have learned the Usui 'Spiritual Teachings', they were only taught his healing method. see Techniques
It was for these people he introduced the term 'Ryuku' which means, someone who is a good practitioner but not familiar with the full teachings.

After his death those students who had been following the spiritual teachings went back to where they were. They returned to the monasteries, they returned to their homes, and continued their lives but they continued practicing the teachings out. There was no formal teaching structure.

'Usui-sensei told that his method is a spiritual healing technique and an energy healing technique. Spiritual healing brings fundamental healing by helping us to become part of the universal consciousness, while energy healing centers around removing the symptoms of mind and body disorders.'

Click here to see Usui the Teachings.

Article published in Japanese magazine March 1928.

I would like to talk about the healing with pleasure, since this is a reader's request. 

The healing method is named "Reiki Ryoho" and some special people practice it. Mikao Usui founded, or should I say created? this Reiki Ryoho, and he passed away about 3 years ago. Currently, Usui's students have a clinic to give healing treatments or teach this Reiki Ryoho. This healing method is so great that it can heal any disease, however, this is not well known to people. The reason is that Mikao Usui did not like to announce it and his students avoid making it public even now.

Shouoh Matsui, a Student of Chujiro Hayashi

"A Treatment to Heal Diseases, Hand Healing" Shouoh Matsui 

It is interesting to note that further into the article he states this... 

The Reiki Ryoho is considered a spiritual technique, as the name "Rei" shows,
('Spiritual energy'   ???)

Some additional notes for the student on the life of Usui sensei:

I wish to make the point here that Mikao Usui was a Tendai Buddhist and remained so ALL of his life.
At no time did he change.

It should be understood that Healing, and the teaching of it, were very popular in Japan at this time, that is before and after Usui. These healing methods were all very similar and almost ALL put the importance of treating the head.


No evidence is known of his ever being taught in any way by Christian teachers/ministers.
He never had any medical training and was never referred to as 'doctor'.
This information comes from 'living' students of Mikao Usui some of them are also his relatives.


The term 'Reiki' may have been introduced by Hayashi or the gakkai, however I have sometimes continued to use the name for clarity.
The name used by Usui's students is 'Usui Do'  (way) - 'Usui Teate' - 'Usui Hand Touch' or 'Usui Hand Healing'.
The name Reiki is not used or known by Usui's students. (this is a very important point)

Additional information about his teachings and life are becoming available and changes will be made to these pages when known. In the meantime please understand that some contradictions will appear, please have patience as adjustments are made.


The monument to Usui sensei is situated in Tokyo and has a large inscription to 'Usui's Virtue'.

At least three translations of the memorial exist one in 'Reiki Fire' the book by Frank Arjava Petter, another at Reiki Threshold and one in a book called 'Iyashi No Gendai Reikiho' a Japanese book by Hiroshi Doi sensei.

After his death, in 1926, as a memorial to him, the 'Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai' was started, and was formed by Eguchi, Hayashi and the Naval Officers. When people mention that Usui was the first President of the Gakkai this refers to the fact that it was awarded as a memorial to him (posthumously).


Sensei means Master a title traditionally given in Japan as a sign of respect to a teacher, doctors, artists etc. It is not a title given or taken to oneself, it is given, for instance, by a student as a sign of respect for his teacher.
The teacher would 'never' take or use the title himself.
A number of Reiki Masters in the west are now using this term for themselves !!!!

The title Master as used in the west, we tell ourselves, is meant to mean Teacher.

Why then don't we use the title Teacher? And maybe earn the title Master (sensei)?


His Students

Not many students reached the level of Shinpiden.
The term Shinpiden may only mean that a student has reached that level, but not necessarily that he has completed it.

One was a man called Toshihiro Eguchi(link to picture) a school teacher, who was Usui's friend and probably helped him with his teaching of healing. He also taught his healing methods in Usui's teaching establishment. These methods are very similar to those used by Hayashi.
Eguchi eventually established "Tenohira Ryoji Kenkyu-kai (hand healing research center)". Famous students of Eguchi are Yasukiyo Eguchi, Kohshi Mitsui, and Goro Miyazaki. One of his pupils can be traced through the lineage's of Dave King Traditional Japanese Reiki.
Eguchi was an authority on Shinto and his teachings reflected this.

He also joined the Gakkai which was formed following Usui's death, he left later because of the military nature of the Gakkai membership. He was a good friend of Usui's and may only have joined out of respect for his friend.

Other Shinpiden students. (Courtesy Hiroshi Doi)
These were within the Gakkai and not Usui's students.

Juzaburo Ushida         Rear Admiral
Kanichi Taketomi       Rear Admiral
Tetsutaro Imaizumi     Rear Admiral
Yoshiharu Watanabe  Admiral (Director of Military Education)
Chujiro Hayashi         Admiral
Imae Mine                  Musician
Sono'o Tsuboi             Tea Ceremony Master
Harue Nagano            ?

Some doubt now appears as to what these students gained Shinpiden in, it is most likely they were in what we call Reiki.

A gentleman by the name of Masayuki Okada, a Doctor of Literature, was the author of the inscription on Usui Sensei's memorial. The brush strokes were by Naval Rear Admiral, Jusaburo Ushida.


From the memorial it is written...

"In spite of Sensei's death, Reki Ryoho must be wide spread and passed on for ever. How remarkable of Sensei to spread what he obtained on his own"


Additional Notes for  Western Students:

It should be noted by the student at this stage that....

NO record has been found of a Grand Master level in Japan.

(The title Grand Master seems to be something Mrs. Takata may have given to Mr. Hayashi her teacher)

Reiki did not disappear from Japan at any time, not even during the war, as claimed in a newspaper article about Hawayo Takata.
She was probably not aware of Usui's society or that it still existed.

No one person was appointed by Usui, or anybody else, to continue his spiritual lineage.

From the Memorial.

Reiki not only heals diseases, but also amplifies innate abilities, balances the spirit, makes the body healthy, and thus helps achieve happiness.

To teach this to others you should follow the five principles of the Meiji Emperor and contemplate them in your heart.

They should be spoken daily, once in the morning and once in the evening.

1) Don't get angry today.

2) Don't worry today.

3) Be grateful today.

4) Work hard today.

5) Be kind to others today.

The ultimate goal is to understand the ancient secret method for gaining happiness (Reiki) and thereby discover an all purpose cure for many ailments.

If these principles are followed you will achieve the great tranquil mind of the ancient sages.

To begin spreading the Reiki system, it is important to start from a place close to you (yourself), don't start from something distant such as philosophy or logic.

Sit still and in silence every morning and every evening with your hands folded in the "Ghasso" or "Namaste".

Follow the great principles, and be clean and quiet.

Work on your heart and do things from the quiet space inside of you.

Anyone can access Reiki, because it begins within yourself!

'This is a truly important admonitary.

This is the same way as wisemen and saints discipline themselves since ancient times'

'Sensei named these to clarify his purpose to teach'

'It was the true meaning of this to practice it in daily life, using it'

'This is the reason why Reiho became so popular'