The History of Reiki

Hawayo Takata

The next part of the History of Reiki about how and why the practice of Reiki survived and came to be so prevalent in the west and the world at large too, is due to Hawayo Takata. Mrs. Takata crossed paths with Reiki in Hayashi Sensei’s clinic in Japan. As a brief historical aside, the first Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii on February 1885, only 20 years after Usui’s birth.

Takata was born on 12/24/1900 in Hanamaulu on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Her parents were Japanese immigrants and her father worked on the plantations there as a pineapple harvester. She was named Hawayo in honor of their new home (Hawaii). Her full name was Hawayo Hiromi Kawamuru. She may have left school around age 7 or 8 in the 3rd of 4th grade. At the age of 12, she started working as an assistant to a primary school teacher, then as a saleswoman in a store while continuing her studies at a Japanese school. Later she was hired as a cellar girl on a sugar cane plantation next to the one where her father worked. She spent 24 years working at this plantation, at the end of which she became the main housekeeper. It was on this plantation that she met the man who was to become her husband. She eventually married the bookkeeper of the plantation in 1917 where she was employed. His name was Saichev Takata also called Saichi and together they had 2 daughters. In October 1930, Saichi died at the age of 34, leaving Mrs. Takata alone to raise their 2 young children.

In order to provide for her family, she had to work very hard with little rest. After 5 years, she developed severe abdominal pain and a lung condition. She also had a nervous breakdown. One week after her husband died, one of her sisters also died, and it was Takata Sensei’s responsibility to travel to Japan, where her parents had resettled to deliver the news about her sister’s death. She felt it would be kinder to deliver the news of her sister’s passing to her parents in person, rather than in a letter or other written correspondence. Additionally, prior to her husband’s death, Saichi reportedly left instructions stating that he was to be buried in his native Japan. Mrs. Takata was therefore going to take his ashes along with those of her sister back to Japan to honor her husband’s wishes. She also felt she could receive help for her health issues in Japan during the trip she was obligated to take.

In 1935, she returned to Yamaguchi(?), Japan where she informed her parents of her sister’s death and attended the funeral. Shortly thereafter, she was admitted to the Maedo Hospital in Akasaka and was diagnosed with a tumor (Cancer), gallstones, appendicitis and asthma. She was told to prepare for an operation. While in the hospital, Mrs. Takata closed her eyes to meditate and she heard a voice saying, “The surgery is unnecessary.” She was startled, opened her eyes, looked around and saw no one. She closed her eyes and heard the voice again. The voice was persistent and urged her to speak to the surgeon. Takata then asked the surgeon “do you know of any other treatment that I could try?” The surgeon reasoned that she was short on time and age, and replied "Yes, if you can stay longer in Japan...", and told her about the Reiki treatment practiced at the Chujiro Hayashi clinic. Takata decided to opt for Reiki treatments instead of going through with the surgery. The surgeon then called his sister, introduced Takata and was taken to Dr. Hayashi, who was a surgeon.  

Mrs. Takata was unfamiliar with Reiki but was impressed that the diagnosis of the Reiki practitioners at the clinic closely matched the diagnosis the doctors at the hospital had given her and so she began receiving treatments there. Two Reiki practitioners would treat her each day and the heat from their hands was so strong that she thought they were secretly using some kind of equipment or machinery to generate the heat and vibrations she felt. Seeing the large sleeves of the Japanese kimono worn by one of the practitioners, she thought she had found the place where they were secretly hiding this mysterious machinery. Grabbing his sleeves one day, Mrs. Takata startled the practitioner, and of course found nothing. When she explained what she was doing, the practitioner began to laugh and told her about Reiki and how it worked. The rest, as they say, is history, or in this case, herstory.

Mrs. Takata got progressively better and in 4 months was completely healed. After her recovery, she asked to be taught Reiki, but was initially refused, not because she was a woman, but specifically because she was a foreigner. At that time, Hayashi was not yet allowed to share knowledge of Reiki with the outside world. Instead, he went to the Gakkai, and asked for and received their permission to teach her before proceeding. Many in the Gakkai thought he should be expelled from the society for teaching Takata the healing methods of Reiki. As it turns out, it was not the act of teaching Takata Reiki that would lead to his early death, but rather the fact that Hayashi visited her in Hawaii that would seal his fate.

Mrs. Takata now wanted to learn Reiki for herself. One of her Canadian Students, someone known only as H. K., explained that Mrs. Takata took out a 2nd Mortgage on her house to pay for the Shoden training in Japan, then sold her house to cover the Okuden level training. In the Spring of 1936, she received First Degree Reiki from Dr. Hayashi. She then worked with him for a year and received Second Degree Reiki. Mrs. Takata returned to Hawaii in 1937 followed shortly thereafter by Hayashi Sensei, who came to help establish his daughter, Kiyoe, and Reiki. He stayed for approximately five months giving classes and treatments with Takata briefly on Kauai, and then in Honolulu. When Hayashi visited her in Hawaii in 1938 to confer Shinpiden and Shihan levels on her, she was required to get 100 students for him at the equivalent price of $125.00 (at that time) each. In February 1938, Hayashi Sensei initiated Hawayo Takata as a Reiki Master. To avoid licensing issues, the following year, Mrs. Takata studied at the National College of Drugless Physicians in Chicago and also received a license to practice massage in Honolulu.

In January 1940, Takata received a nocturnal vision of Hayashi-Sensei. Fearing something was wrong, she wrote to her daughter who, at the time, was living with the Hayashi’s in Japan while attending school in Tokyo. Although her daughter replied that all seemed well, Takata remained disturbed by the vision for some time, eventually deciding to set sail for Japan in late March. She arrived in mid-April at Yokohama and made her way to Tokyo. Upon her arrival, Hayashi-Sensei instructed her to go to Kyoto and study Hydrotherapy. Just a few weeks later on 05/09/1940, Hayashi wired Takata instructing her to come immediately to his summer villa in Atami near Mt. Fuji and she did whereupon Hayashi committed Seppuku or ritual suicide which he carried out in the presence of Takata Sensei and his other students in order to restore honor to his family name.

On 12/07/1941 Pearl Harbor was attacked and with the entry of Japan into WW II, anything and everything even remotely Japanese in nature was looked upon with great distrust and suspicion. It should come as no surprise that Mrs. Takata began to tell people that Usui Sensei was a "Christian monk," likening him to Jesus who travelled the world looking for a way to cure the sick and heal the poor. In retrospect, while Mrs. Tataka’s tactics were completely understandable given the environment of the time in which she was living, the further muddying of the waters of the true History of Reiki has not done any favors to the legacy of Reiki history the world has inherited.

Takata Sensei practiced Reiki in Hawaii, establishing several clinics, one of which was located in Hilo on the big island which she established in October of 1939 where she remained for the next ten years. She called her practice Usui Shiki Ryoho – the Usui Method of Natural Healing. She gave treatments from 1939 to 1950 at her clinic located at 2070 Kilauea Avenue, Hilo, HI. 96720 and initiated students up to level II Reiki. The building still exists today and is currently home to chiropractic services and a natural wellness center; however, on the 2nd level of the house, there is a small shrine area dedicated to Mrs. Takata. The room where Takata gave Reiki treatments has been divided into 3 treatment rooms with a hallway area that has a bench for meditation. The original hand-painted sign she had made to advertise her services now hangs there accompanied with a copy of the 1941 newspaper classified ads she bought to promote her studio and a guestbook for the Reiki practitioners to sign who have come to honor Mrs. Takata and the place where Reiki got its start in the West. According to the clinic’s website, they also now have a regular Reiki therapist working in their office available by appointment only which is only fitting given the history of the building!

Mrs. Takata became a well-known healer and traveled to the U.S. mainland and other parts of the world teaching and giving treatments. Takata practiced Reiki for more than 40 years. She was a very powerful healer who attributed her success to the fact that she did a lot of Reiki on each client. She would often do multiple treatments, each sometimes lasting hours and treat difficult cases every day for months until the client was healed. To help with this process, she often initiated members of a client’s family (for which they paid) so they could give Reiki to the client as well. She was an engaging teacher and a successful business woman. She facilitated amazing healing, attuned countless men, women and children to Reiki and managed a number of business enterprises. 

Takata taught in Hawaii for a number of years before starting to teach classes on the U.S. mainland in the 1970’s. She started teaching in Canada in 1976. The first mainland class she taught that included students of non-Japanese origin was taught on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington state in 1973. She often held classes in private homes, teaching a number of classes from 1974 to 1977 in Redwood City, CA and Woodside, CA. at the home of Beth and John Harvey Gray. Her classes were focused and intense. One student remembers Takata as “an exceedingly efficient teacher…when that little Japanese fireball said ‘jump,’ everyone jumped.” Another student recalls, “Mrs. Takata took her Reiki very seriously and she could be a taskmaster and disciplinarian, but she was also sweet, even motherly to us and had a heart bigger than she ways.” Robert Shingledecker, one of Takata’s students stated that Takata told him privately that a Reiki practitioner should remove all jewelry prior to giving a Reiki session because it [meaning the metal jewelry] can get very hot.”

Takata Sensei had a unique way of practicing and teaching Reiki that was noticeably different than how Usui Sensi or Hayashi Sensei practiced and taught. Usui Sensei practiced Reiki in a less structured way than did Mrs. Takata. He relied more on his intuition and inner sensitivity when giving session. He did not use the standard set of hand positions as taught by Mrs. Takata. Unlike Usui Sensei and Hayashi Sensei, Mrs. Takata did not provide her students with a manual or printed materials. She changed the way she taught Reiki because she said the Japanese style was too complicated and would be difficult for the western mind to learn. Because of this, she simplified the system.  

This included the development of her own hand position system, which she called "The Foundation Treatment." The foundation treatment consisted of 8 hand positions which were on the abdomen, shoulders and head. She also included some additional hand positions on the back of the client as needed by them. Mrs. Takata’s Reiki treatments consisting of the “foundation treatment” were followed by a search for the cause of the condition and additional Reiki applied in those specific areas related to the cause. She advocated treatments, daily, if possible, for chronic conditions and she welcomed what she called “healing reactions” as a sign that the body was beginning to heal itself. The standard hand placements as taught by Mrs. Takata have value in that by treating the whole person, they automatically treat the areas most in need. They also create balance and increase vitality and create a reservoir of Reiki energy that continues to heal and energize the person even after the session is over.  

She did not allow the taking of notes during her classes; her teaching was in the oral tradition and she expected her students to memorize everything. Likewise, papers on which students practiced drawing the Reiki symbols were destroyed at the end of each class. She was very exacting about the teaching of the Symbols and had students practice them over and over. After the class, she burned all of the practice papers because her students were to have memorized them. Takata considered the symbols to be sacred and admonished her students that they were not to be shown to anyone who was not already attuned to Reiki. Additionally, she had a different attunement method for each level of Reiki, taught her students that the attunements empowered the symbols and taught a Master symbol that was given to Master students. In her system, the Master symbol was needed in order to give attunements and it would also be used during Reiki sessions for the purpose of healing.

This simplified system that Takata Sensei taught was effective and has proven to produce valuable results for her students and their clients. She is yet another important innovator of Usui Reiki Ryoho. A remarkable addition that Takata Sensei make to the practice of Reiki is that she is the one who added the Master symbol. Prior to her teaching style, neither Usui Sensei nor Hayashi Sensei used a Master symbol. Those who were initiated by her before 1975 did NOT have a Master symbol, but those initiated by her after 1975 DID have a Master symbol. While Usui Sensei and Hayashi Sensei knew of the kanji for the Master symbol, they did not use it as a Reiki symbol, but instead, used it to convey an understanding of the state of consciousness the symbol represents and that this higher state is a goal for all Reiki students.

One thing that is also important to understand is that if it were not for Takata Sensei, Reiki would most likely have fallen into obscurity and never have been practiced by people all over the world. Even in Japan it would have been mostly unknown. This is because after World War II, the United States required Japan to unconditionally surrender. This placed the U.S. in complete control of Japan. One of the conditions the U.S. required is that all those practicing any type of healing be required to have a license. Some of the healing groups did get licensed, but the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai decided that they did not want to be controlled by a licensing board and instead chose to go deep, deep underground. They decided that members were not to talk to anyone outside their group about Reiki and that they would only practice with each other. This made it difficult for anyone to find out about Reiki in Japan, including the Japanese! Also, because it became very difficult for new members to join, the membership slowly declined. This problem exists even now and the Gakkai membership continues to slowly dwindle. If this pattern continues, at some point in time in the not-too-distant future, the Gakkai will likely cease to exist. 

Because Takata Sensei learned Reiki in Japan and returned to Hawaii and began teaching Reiki before World War II, she prevented Reiki from being lost to history. She was a great teacher and promoter and taught Reiki classes all over Hawaii and in many parts of the U.S. mainland. Before her passing on 12/25/1980, she taught 22 Reiki Masters who carried on the tradition. She was one day past 80 years old when she died. Takata’s original 22 Masters passed on the Reiki tradition, and Reiki has spread throughout North and South America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia to many parts of the world. It is now almost impossible to estimate the number of Reiki Masters and practitioners in the world.

As time went by, Mrs. Takata contemplated the need to train other Reiki Masters. She realized that the Japanese concept of respect might be difficult to instill in the Western Mind given that for the Japanese it was a multi-faceted concept consisting of etiquette, respect, courtesy and honor to name just a few aspects. Because Reiki Mastership is so easily learned, being passed on during the Reiki Master Attunement, she felt that Westerners might not value it. So, she devised a plan of charging a large sum of money for those wanting to become Reiki Masters. She retainer Hayashi’s fairly high fee structure in order to promote a certain appreciation and respect for the training. She felt that money was something that Western people understood and respected and this would help create the appreciation and gratitude for Reiki that was needed. She decided that $10,000.00 was a large enough sum to instill the respect needed for the Reiki Master attunement. It should be noted that the prices she paid in Japan, or their equivalent in clinic time worked would have been much higher.  

Takata Sensei required that all the Masters she trained charge a fee of $10,000.00 for anyone who wanted to receive the Master Level training. She taught that this was a required fee and if you did not charge this fee, then you would not be teaching "Usui Reiki." This fee was NOT based on the length or quality of training she provided as no apprenticeship was included. According to some of Tataka’s students who were interviewed, the high cost of the training was to instill respect for the Master level. Takata would sometimes suggest that her Master level students simply get her the equivalent in Reiki 1 and Reiki 2 students to be applied toward their $10,000.00 fee and a couple of her students paid part of their training fee in this way; however, the high price along with the tendency of Takata Sensei’s Masters not to teach many other Masters, was causing Reiki to spread very slowly.

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