A Brief History of Reiki

Reiki Ryoho was founded by Mikao Usui Sensei (1865-1926). According to his memorial stone in Tokyo, Usui Sensei was spiritually awakened while fasting and meditating on Mt. Kurama in Kyoto, Japan. As a result, he received healing ability. He was able to use Reiki energy to heal, and after he received this gift, he began to practice and teach this form of healing at his Tokyo dojo, Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai.

He taught over 2,000 people, and 21 of them became Reiki teachers.

Usui Sensei was a lay Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhist, and he was laid to rest at Saihoji Temple in Tokyo.



One of Usui Sensei’s many students was Chujiro Hayashi Sensei (1879-1940), who continued to share Reiki after Usui Sensei’s death. Like Usui Sensei, Hayashi Sensei also had a dojo in Tokyo where he practiced and taught Reiki classes.

He was a Reiki teacher for fifteen years, and in that time he taught thirteen people to be Reiki teachers.


Hayashi Sensei taught Hawayo Takata (1900-1980), a Japanese-American woman. She practiced Reiki in Hawaii, and in the 1970s, she taught 22 people to be Reiki teachers.

It is largely thanks to her and her students that Reiki has become so popular in the West (although many traditional Japanese Reiki techniques were lost for many years, and have only recently been taught in Western Reiki schools).


Hayashi Sensei taught another young woman in 1938, Chiyoko Yamaguchi Sensei (1921-2003) She studied with him for a total of five days, and she learned three shirushi (symbols) from him, but did not learn about Usui Sensei or the history of Reiki Ryoho. She did not become a Shihan, but was taught how to give reiju (attunements) by her uncle, another of Hayashi Sensei’s students. Unlike her teacher, she did not teach publicly; instead, she privately practiced Reiki healing with her family and friends for most of her life.

It was only in 1996, by the request of Rev. Hyakuten Inamoto, that she began to teach publicly. Her informal classes were held every Monday afternoon for five students. Having no set curriculum, her classes consisted of chanting the Five Precepts (click here) three times, a reiju, and a Reiki exchange each week. She did not provide any written materials or certificates, but did tell Reiki stories during her lessons. Also, there was no clear line between levels, and no specific class was taught to designate her students as Shoden, Chuden, Okuden or Shinpiden (see definitions here). She simply taught as she went along.


One of these five students was Rev. Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, who founded Komyo Reiki Kai. Yamaguchi Sensei taught him how to pass Reiki to others via reiju (attunements), but told him not to teach her style of Reiki because her son, Tadao Yamaguchi, wished to be the only person in the world to bear her lineage. Hyakuten Sensei complied, and added the fourth shirushi, which he learned from another Japanese Reiki teacher, but had not been taught to Yamaguchi Sensei. He also developed teaching manuals and formalized the four class levels. He is the only student of Yamaguchi Sensei’s class of five who went on to teach Reiki – three students did not continue with the classes and the fourth, Miyoshi-san, does not teach. Eventually Yamaguchi Sensei stopped teaching to allow her son to take over, and she passed away in 2003.

In comparison to the West, Reiki is not as prevalent in Japan, and for a long time relatively few people became Reiki teachers. However, that is now changing and more and more people, both Japanese and non-Japanese, are now studying, practicing and teaching Reiki in Japan.