I've noticed that many seemingly "authoritative" Reiki web sites and articles tend to state what the author believes to be facts but for some reason they leave out their sources. The reader is left to guess as to whether the author received the information in person, or through their own translation work, or whether they simply "borrowed" the knowledge from another web site, Reiki book or Reiki teacher. I feel it might help you to understand where I was able to get some of my information for this article so you can appreciate how this kind of information can come to light.
The fact that a Reiki
existed in Japan was not widely known in the early 1990's. The
I learned of such a group was in 1996 from Dave King, who in the
year had visited the Vortex Reiki school in Tokyo, run by Toshitaka
One of the school's teachers (Takahashi-san)
member of an old Reiki society which we were later to discover was
Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai.
The following year (1997), I received pages from a 1986 Japanese magazine that held an article on Reiki. The article mentioned the existence of the original society and the fact it was still in operation after all this time. It included an interview with one of the senior members, a Reiki Shihan (teacher) named Fumio Ogawa who was in charge of the Shuzuoka district south of Tokyo. It also revealed the existence and location of a large memorial to Usui Sensei at the Saihoji Temple in Tokyo. With the help of 2 of my Japanese students, Shiya Fleming and Emiko Arai, I placed a rough translation at my web site. (Recently I had the complete article translated).
Later that same year, Arjava Petter confirmed this in his book "Reiki Fire". His translation of the Usui memorial at the Usui family plot in the Saihoji Temple verified the society's existence as early as 1926, and suggested it may have originated with Usui himself. The society was called Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai ("gakkai" means society or academic meeting.)
More information continued to gradually flow outside Japan and in 1999 my friends and I hosted a Reiki conference here in Vancouver, featuring Mr. Hiroshi Doi, a Gakkai member since 1993. Arjava and many other well known Reiki Masters attended as well. Doi-sensei was actually there with the permission of his teacher, URR Gakkai past president Ms. Kimiko Koyama. Doi-sensei taught us many old techniques formerly used in the Gakkai (they were no longer part of the Tokyo branch's training) and he shared some of it's history and past presidents as well. Much of this was presented in his book "Iyashino Gendai Reiki Ho" ("Modern Reiki Method for Healing") which I helped to get translated and published. Doi-sensei continued to make presentations at URRI conferences in Kyoto, Madrid, Toronto and Denmark from 2000-2003.
One piece of information Doi-sensei shared was that the Gakkai had only one Shihan in each branch and that they could operate somewhat autonomously from the Tokyo headquarters.
In 2002 I was given a copy of Mochizuki's 2nd book published the previous year - Cho-Kantan Iyashino Te. It contains a chapter dedicated to the Gakkai and includes a group photo of Usui Sensei, his family and Gakkai members, as well as separate photos of a couple senior Gakkai members. In 2005 I finally managed to get a translation of that chapter. It has details of some of the better known Gakkai historical figures.
You might recall the name Mochizuki from another of my pages that deals with his first book, "Iyashino Te." Mochizuki-san enjoys collecting old, out-of-print Reiki books and he gets them re-published. I have a few in my possession and am slowly getting information out of them thanks to my Japanese students.
Another source about early society members and Usui's original school showed up again via Dave King, in the form of one of his teachers - a senior student of Usui Sensei named Tenon-in (her temple name). Dave shared much of this at the URRI conference I hosted with Tom Rigler in 2002. Dave will have more information in his soon to be published book "O-Sensei: A View of Mikao Usui." I've had the pleasure of proof-reading it for him.
Finally, I have to thank all my students and associates who over the years have offered to do translation work for me. Even though I have always either paid for this or offered some form of compensation like free classes, I am still very grateful that these wonderful Japanese Reiki practitioners would take the time to perform this challenging work. I also would like to thank Masumi Yamashita, PhD, for often reviewing the translations to improve them, and Tom Rigler for his dedication to improving the grammar of many of the translations.
So let's look at some of the information all of the above brought to light.
The Society's Early Days
According to the Usui Memorial at Saihoji Temple graveyard:
"In April of the 11th year of the Taisho period (1922) he (Usui) moved his residence to Harajuku, Aoyama, Tokyo. There he founded "Gakkai" (a learning society). He taught Reiki Ryoho."
This would suggest that the society was actually formed by Usui Sensei. However, his surviving student known as Tenon-in reported that he simply ran a training hall or dojo, teaching a spiritual way of life that had benefited him. Certainly, after Usui Sensei's death in 1926 a formal society was in existence. It styled itself "Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai", most likely named after the new style of training that appeared in the Usui dojo in early 1926. The term "Usui Reiki Ryoho" was actually Usui Sensei's expression for the central "gainen" or concepts he wrote of in his 1921 kakejiku (wall hanging.)
The president of the society in 1926 was the very influential retired rear admiral Juzaburo Ushida. Ushida was about the same age as Usui Sensei. He showed up in the Usui dojo in November 1925 along with retired rear admiral Kani'ichi Taketomi and 17 other junior officers of the navy. It is not known what enticed them to attend the dojo, but it is possible they had learned of the experiments of senior Usui students with applying high energy Ki (attributed to Usui Sensei) to non students acting as patients.
According to Tenon-in, Ushida took charge in the dojo right away. She said that Usui Sensei did not protest much as the navy's attendance was helping to pay the bills. However, from time to time he did express some concerns over ideas presented in the dojo, such as when the navy people began chanting the Gainen over and over while sitting on the sides of the dojo.
As early as 1923, Usui Sensei was renting the dojo out in the evenings so that other lecturers could present their ideas. One person who took advantage of this 2 evenings a week was Usui's senior student Toshihiro Eguchi, whom he had originally taught in Kyoto in 1921. Eguchi had completed the entire Usui-Do training to Shichidan level and in 1923 began teaching his own version of Usui's training (simply called "My method" by Usui or Usui-Do) which became known as Usui Teàte to his students. Eguchi was a school teacher, a natural healer (according to Mochizuki's original book "Iyashino Te") and he had actually been teaching a version of this system in Kyoto before he showed up in Tokyo in 1923.
Usui Sensei would sit on the side of the dojo and keep watch over these classes, but he did encourage his other senior students Tenon-in and her friend Yuri-in to observe. Eguchi introduced a small transformation marking ceremony (borrowed from a friend) given to each student in class (which later led to the use of Reiju in the URR Gakkai). He may have been trying to emulate the simple end-of-class blessing Usui Sensei would give to the entire class after his sessions. Eguchi also brought in outside material including a recently published booklet containing many teno-hira or hand techniques for applying healing. In 1925 he even began inviting non-students into the dojo in order to experiment with placing high energy Ki near another person.
In mid 1925, a retired navy surgeon captain named Dr. Chuujuru Hayashi had also shown up in the dojo. Tenon-in said he always had a nice smile. He and Eguchi began to explore applying Ki or healing energy to non students. They tried out the ideas in Eguchi's booklet and Dr. Hayashi suggested a simple cleansing technique (from Qigong or Kikou origins) called Kenyoku-ho to prepare the practitioner before each healing. He was asked to write some kind of procedural material and he introduced a Ryoho Shishon or healing guide for applying Ki to various body parts depending on the injury or illness. Eventually these would become part of a booklet the URR Gakkai would give to their new students. It was called Usui Reiki Hikkei.
As Eguchi and Hayashi explored the healing of others, it may have been this possibility that lured Ushida and the navy to investigate. A growing navy might require more resources for healing the wounded in battle.
A Reiki System is Born
Tenon-in reported that by January 1926, Ushida had influenced a new version of Usui Teàte and called it Usui Reiki Ryoho. The levels were renamed Shoden, Chuuden, Okuden and Shinpiden, and much of the spiritual material taught beyond the old nidan and kaiden gata levels was left out. (See the chart at the Usui-Do page.)
However, unknown to Ushida and Taketomi, Dr. Hayashi had continued instruction in the original Usui-Do and became the only other doka (student) besides Eguchi to achieve the complete training to Shichidan level..
Tenon-in said that when Ushida
others graduated with the new Shinpiden level, there was great
and sake. It is reported that about 22 people attained this level
around this time. The students who completed this training in
1926 and thereafter until Usui Sensei's passing (March
considered themselves permitted to teach. However, later on in the URR
Gakkai, the ability to teach (Shihan) was
to others as this part was split from Shinpiden. They also would
have attributed Usui as their Sensei since he was the head of the dojo,
although Tenon-in reports that he did not actually teach Usui Reiki
nor even the Usui Teàte. He would just sit on the side and
observe. It was most likely Eguchi who was the senior teacher at
this time, assisted by Dr. Hayashi, and as I said, motivated by Ushida.
After Usui Sensei's passing, his will stated that Dr. Hayashi should run the dojo. At some time in May the dojo was closed at it's Nakano-ku location and moved to Hayashi's Shinano-Machi clinic. This seemed to be the place to get good practice as Dr. Hayashi had 8 treatment beds (tables raised a little off the floor, possibly with a futon on top) and he assigned 2 practitioners per patient. One of his senior (Shichidan) students Tatsumi-san (1927-31) recalled seeing the 2 retired admirals (Ushida and Taketomi) helping at the clinic.
Around this time some of the Shinpiden began their own schools, most notably was Kaiji Tomita, author of “Tomita Téaté Ryoho", one of the earliest books on Reiki. Within a year of Usui Sensei's passing, Eguchi had left the society to form his own school - Tenohira Ryoji Kenkyukai - apparently after having a disagreement with Ushida. He also wrote a couple of books, one titled “Tenohira Ryoji."
Eventually Dr. Hayashi also left the society in 1931, possibly due to changes he was making in his system of teaching. He formed his own school which he named Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai (research centre). Tatsumi reported that he and 4 other senior students were upset by the changes he was making and they left the clinic and school. Up until this time, Dr. Hayashi was still teaching the original Usui-Do process, as well as the modified version Eguchi and he had come up with.
Thanks to Eguchi and Hayashi, and the efforts of Ushida and Taketomi and others, the society began spreading Reiki throughout Japan at a very fast pace. Reportedly there were as many as 60 or more URR Gakkai branches throughout the country before World War 2. The following chart shows some of the key members of the URR Gakkai and the list of presidents (and their teacher).
In Mochizuki's book "Cho-Kantan Iyashino Te", he has a chapter where he shares some of the history he has been able to discover about some of the Gakkai members. Below is an excerpt from that section.
Note: I have recently had Ogawa-sensei's book translated and plan to share some sections at my web site.
Mr. Doi related that after the war, there was some concern about the Gakkai being led by a military person. At the time, Admiral Taketomi was the president. He decided to step down temporarily and Yoshiharu Watanabe took his place. Watanabe was president for less than a year when Taketomi felt it was acceptable for himself to return as president.
Mr. Doi also explained to me that
the years there were some Shihan who walked away from the Gakkai,
over some policy or another. Due to this and also to
by the early 1990s the number of branches diminished to 5. Part
this was due to the affect the war had on the society, especially the
in Tokyo and all the bombing there. It had to be moved often and it is
possible some records were not preserved. An example of the disruption
in communication involved one of Taketomi's students named Mrs. Ayako
who was the head of the Hiroshima branch. After the war she lost
contact with the society but felt she did not have the authority to
on as the URR Gakkai. So she continued to run a school privately
and it seems she eventually simplified much of the Gakkai's ways.
In 1982, Doi-sensei learned a simple healing system (teàte) from a colleague named Hiroshi Ohta, at the Hiroshima hotel Doi-sensei managed 3 days a week for his firm. Ohta taught Doi-sensei a very simple but effective energy process that included giving Doi a very simple reiju (attunement) to each of his hands each day he met him - usually whenever they went to a restaurant. Ohta taught him until 1984 when Doi was transferred back to Ashiya. But before he left, Ohta introduced Doi to his sensei, Mrs. Sasaki. In 1998 when Doi-sensei published his Reiki book - Iyashino Gendai Reiki Ho - he learned from another Sasaki student that she had been a Gakkai Shihan, and that what he had learned from Ohta would have been Reiki. The Gakkai verified this for Doi-sensei and accepted his training as valid.
URR Gakkai Training
Just before Usui Sensei's transition, the system known as Usui Reiki Ryoho came into being due to the influence of Ushida. It seemed to release the original higher levels of Usui-Do and Usui Teàte which were more focussed on spiritual development, and instead embraced the healing concepts that Eguchi and Hayashi were exploring. The levels were now known as Shoden, Okuden and Shinpiden, although each level may have been divided into 2 to 4 segments.
Originally a Shinpiden was given
to teach. At some point, when many chapter or branches of the URR
were established throughout Japan, Shinpiden became more of a
level to the branch teacher or Shihan. A Shihan then was only
when the existing branch leader retired, resigned or passed away.
Shinpiden often helped out in classes and might even give initial Reiju
to students. After 1931, Dr. Hayashi also used these 4 levels of
designation although Mrs. Takata seemed to combine the 3rd and 4th back
into one level. In any case, she did not confer Shinpiden/Shihan on
until 1976, almost 40 years after she became a teacher.
Note that a Shihan could decide what and how he or she wished to teach in their own branch. Their members would be local branch members but if they wished they could join the greater URR Gakkai membership, which entitled them to travel to other branches. However, they had to fulfill URR Gakkai requirements for each level as well as their own branch requirements - which may or may not be the same. Meetings were held usually on a weekly basis and opened with Hatsurei-ho, during which a brief Reiju would be given by the Shihan to all members. Doi-sensei told us in 1999 that there were about 500 Gakkai members and that when he went to monthly meetings in Tokyo, he was usually the youngest there (Doi was age 64 in 1999.)
The Shihan would hold classes on a periodic basis, usually with the first level or Shoden being in a group format. Okuden and Shinpiden might be held on a one-to-one basis. Each chapter of the Gakkai would hold monthly meetings and members were permitted to attend meetings of other chapters. Doi-sensei said that membership was less than $100 and you would pay about $15 to attend the meetings. I learned elsewhere that you might also pay for training in some chapters, but perhaps this did not seem to be so in the Tokyo chapter. (note that according to Yamaguchi-sensei of Kyoto, Dr. Hayashi's classes cost about 50 yen, which in 1938 was equivalent to $5000).
Chapters may also hold monthly healing sessions. I was told the Osaka and Kyoto chapters at one time did this and that they were open to non members. Doi-sensei has said he attends the Kobe chapter healing sessions and has been allowed to bring some of his students.
A Shoden class would be held over 4 to 5 days (or evenings), about 2-3 hours a day. Class was mostly a lecture format, depending on the teacher, but practice time might be allowed. In each class the student was given Reiju so as to assist the student to develop their own Ki. In this case, the teachers were presenting their own version of the highly developed Ki that Usui Sensei had exhibited, and this Ki became known as "Reiki."
The purpose of giving Reiju in each class was so that as the student integrated and became more familiar with the energy, their ability to flow it in increased strength would grow. The student was expected to assist this by practicing Reiki each day, presumably on themselves, and to flow Reiki as they meditated or reflected on their day. The latter was suggested by way of a mindfulness ceremony called Hatsurei-ho, and/or by thinking on the Gainen or principles that Usui Sensei had written out for his students. Originally, Usui had taught students to live his Gainen each day, not merely to recite them. Even today this is the mark of a person who has integrated Reiki and the Gainen into his or her life, the ultimate goal in original Usui Reiki Ryoho.
The student would also receive a
the Usui Reiki Hikkei
which contains comments attributed to Usui Sensei, a copy of the
the original version of Dr. Hayashi's healing guide, plus a copy of 125
style poems or Gyosei written by the Meiji Emperor (most
likely taken from a published booklet pictured in Mochizuki's 2nd
They were encouraged to learn all techniques beginning with the simple Bu or hand positions for self, and Dr. Hayashi's Ryoho Shishon (healing guide) - mainly the first part involving the treatment of body parts. However, much more emphasis was placed on Byosen Reiki Ho (scanning) and Reiji Ho (intuitive work) as the preferred ways to heal. Doi-sensei said that the Ryoho Shishon was given mainly as a beginner's guide to assist those who had had not developed Byosen or Reiji.
After the first set of classes, the student was encouraged to retake them as often as they wished. This helped the student to develop and understand all the doctrine and healing methods taught. In traditional Japanese society, usually a student might not strive to move up in the ranks, but would be more focused on achieving an adeptness at the level he or she was currently at. So some people might remain permanently at Shoden.
Once a student had mastered the Shoden techniques, they had only to achieve a certain energy rating for their ability to flow Reiki energy. During class or at a gathering, the Shihan would quietly or formally rate the student's Reiki energy, using a scale of 6 to 1, 1 being the highest rating compared to that of Usui Sensei. The method to measure this might be taught at Shinpiden level and the student could ask their rating of their sensei, although as a rule it was not revealed to others. In order to attain entry to Okuden the student had to achieve a rating of 3. Usui Sensei was said to have rated himself a 2 in the belief that someone would one day surpass him. However, out of respect for him, a student might never be rated beyond a 3, nor would a Shihan publicly acclaim a rating of 2 or 1.
Doi-sensei told me that a student might be invited to Okuden level if he was still Shoden after 10 years and had still not attained a rating of 3 nor was able to competently demonstrate Byosen Reikan-ho and Reiji-ho.
Okuden was divided into at least
and in some branches into as many as 4 segments. The usual were
and Koki. A list of the techniques taught at these levels are at
my Usui Reiki Ryoho
Techniques page (thanks to Doi-sensei).
These were first introduced by Eguchi in 1925 from a hand published
he had obtained. Melissa Riggall, an Usui-Do Shihan, also discovered a
copy of this Japanese booklet in a Taoist retreat near Harbin,
It was dated 1923.
The concepts of the traditional symbols were taught at Okuden level although not in the form originally taught by Usui Sensei, nor in the form later modified by Eguchi. The Gakkai dropped the use and teaching of the actual symbols and simply taught a form of the kotoba (word) to be used in a chant or kotodama. Some Japanese teachers have used the term "jumon" which is used for a word of magic. The symbols and their purpose actually came from old Taoist teachings Usui Sensei discovered within Tendai Buddhism, verifiable by their presence in Taoist teachings in China. The kotoba however were the Japanese forms of the Chinese.
The kotodama also changed over time and seemed to leave out the hard sounds of the original. I am guessing this was done because the original kotoba would have a meaning to to the Japanese student (as each was an actual Japanese phrase) and thus to eliminate any distraction to working with the required energy, a revised kotodama was adapted. Students learned to allow these energies to simply be a part of their own Reiki and did not seem to use them outwardly in their healing or personal work. It was Dr. Hayashi who retained the use of the original symbols (and kotoba) and explored their use with his healing work. This explains why Takata-sensei made them a part of her own teaching. While Usui Sensei had taught that these kotoba and symbols were intended to awaken the awareness of certain inner potential, the URR Gakkai taught that all the energies of these symbols were actually present within Reiki. Each of the Gakkai's Reiju were exactly the same, regardless of the level being taught.
Okuden could take a long time to complete, depending on the Shihan. And over time some branches like the Tokyo one, actually discontinued teaching many of the old techniques. Doi-sensei had learned these from other Gakkai members before the 1998 publishing of his book "Iyashino Gendai Reiki Ho" when one member loaned him a copy of a Gakkai booklet called "Usui Reiki Shiori." It seems Doi-sensei was able to confirm their use with some Gakkai members as well. Meanwhile, Arjava Petter received a copy in 1998 from a friend of the Ogawa family (Mr. Oishi) after Fumio Ogawa's death. Mr. Ogawa and his father before him had been the Shihan of the Shizuoka URR Gakkai branch. The Kyoto branch version of these techniques that I learned in 2004 were slightly different than those Doi-sensei had learned from Tokyo.
At some point in time, usually after many years of membership, a student who had completed Okuden might be invited to Shinpiden level. Doi-sensei said in 1999 that he knew of at least 12 of these, and they would all have been very old members. As expected, at this level the fourth kotodama was taught along with it's purpose and use. The student might learn one or more methods of giving Reiju, and also some of the old spiritual concepts of Usui Sensei might be taught. At some point, the student might also be shown the original versions of the symbols for historical purposes. Ogawa-sensei had said that the use of distant Reiki was taught at this level, but this may have changed later to Okuden.
The method of giving Reiju was
from time to time, but a Shinpiden might learn not only his current
style, but also that of Ushida. Doi-sensei shared a couple old
with us during the URRI conferences in Madrid and Toronto (2001
& 2002). The ceremonies were much simple than those
in Western Reiki. A Gakkai Shihan only used one form of Reiju for each
of the first 3 levels. It was identical in form for every Reiju
in class and in the weekly meetings.
A Shinpiden might assist in the training of students during a Shihan's class, and even in the giving of Reiju. However, Shihan and Shinpiden taught only within their own branch and did not have separate schools outside the Gakkai.
When a Shihan resigned, or passed away, a new Shihan was selected either by the out-going Shihan or the URR Gakkai president. In 1998 when Koyama-sensei stepped down as Tokyo Shihan and Gakkai president, there were no Shinpiden interested in taking her place. According to Doi-sensei, she raised 5 Okuden to Shinpiden and then to Shihan status. 2 of these were the latest president of the Gakkai and Tokyo chapter Shihan, Masayoshi Kondo, and Koyama-sensei's granddaughter, Makino-sensei, who is the current vice president of the Gakkai.
When Shihan level was conferred, the simple ceremony Usui Sensei used was performed and taught as well. Usually the Shihan could operate his or her branch in the way they wished, and in certain cases may not even attend the Tokyo meetings often. Doi-sensei said that one change made after Koyama-sensei stepped down was that all teaching was now being given at the Tokyo branch. This may have been due to the resignation of some Shihan upon learning of the promotion of Kondo-sensei.
Supposedly at the time he was not in favour of teaching foreigners (a practice which was also frowned upon by a large number of Gakkai members) and so one or more Shihan may have pulled their membership out of the Gakkai. Since Doi-sensei's training was passed over to Kondo-sensei after Koyama-sensei passed away in 1999, it may be that he has been able to change Kondo's feelings about this. Doi-sensei has traveled outside Japan and taught several times, and thus has had a chance to determine the Reiki situation in several countries in person.
Originally a Shihan might also be a sort of spiritual resource for the student, but of course all Japanese were Shinto and Buddhist from birth. This type of spiritual guidance did not seem to be present in Dr. Hayashi's teachings nor Mrs. Takata's, at least not to the extent where the teacher was responsible for the students' Spiritual progress. Thus Takata-sensei's term of "Reiki Master" for a Reiki Shihan may seem a bit misleading to many Westerners. Note that "Shihan" translates to "teacher" or "example."
From the view point of the actual
presidents, here is a table showing the leaders' time in office and and
their date of transition. Note that Taketomi served 2 terms.
to Doi-sensei, this was because after the war there was some concern
having the military seeming to be in charge. So Watanabe stepped
in for a brief term as president.
If you have comments or suggestions, contact me. I will try to answer them all.