Mikao Usui was born a Tendai Buddhist and as a young child studied in a Tendai monastery according to recent researchers. In the West, it was once believed that he was born a Christian. Hawayo Takata probably added this information as a reaction to the anti-Japanese sentiment in America during and after World War II. Christianity was actually outlawed in Japan at the time Usui Mikao was born.
Due to the fact that he travelled greatly through Japan and overseas his career was also varied. At one point, according to Frank Arjava Petter, he was a private secretary to a politician called Shinpei Goto who, amongst other positions, was Governor of the Standard of Railways. In 1920 Shinpei Goto became the Mayor of Tokyo.
At the turn of the century hands-on-healing or teate was very popular in Japan. Eguchi Toshihiro was a friend of Usui Mikao and studied with him in the 1920s. Eguchi created the Tenohira Ryoji Kenkyu kai (Hand Healing Research Center).
Usui Mikao was never a doctor as professed in the West but did become a lay Tendai priest called a zaike according to students of Suzuki san. This meant that he could remain in his own home with his family, without having to reside in a temple as is commonly expected of priests at the time that Usui Mikao became a zaike some say he took the Buddhist name of Gyoho, Gyohan or Gyotse.
It’s also believed that Usui Mikao included techniques as well as jumon (jumon means spell or incantation. It is also for the mantras of the Reiki symbols) in his teachings that are based on Shinto and Tendai practices.
It is impossible to offer a commencement date for Usui Mikao’s teachings. He was 35 years old at the turn of the century and, as stated by students of Suzuki san (who claim to have seen his Menkyo Kaiden certificate) was proficient in martial arts from his mid-20s. Suzuki San had been aware of Usui Mikao her whole life as she was his wife’s cousin. Her formal training with him is said to have begun in 1915 when she was 20 years old and her relationship with him continued on a less formal basis until his death in 1926. It’s understood that Suzuki san and the other 11 living students have preserved a collection of papers including the precepts, waka, meditations, and teachings. In a translated 1928 article a student of Chûjiro Hayashi states that the system was founded ‘decades ago’.
What we know has been passed on to us through a series of lineage bearers who have been guardians and preservers of the integrity of the practice. The successor of Mikao Usui was Chûjiro Hayashi who practiced and taught in a clinical setting in Tokyo, Japan. He became a student of Mikao Usui in May of 1925 when he was retired as a naval officer and surgeon. When Mikao Usui died his school was using the title of Usui Reiki Ryôhô Gakkai. When Chûjiro Hayashi left this school, he formed his own school and called it the Hayashi Reiki Kenkyû Kai. It was in Hayashi’s clinic that he continued to teach and practise Reiki.