Mikao Usui, or Usui Sensei as he is called by his students in Japan, was born on August 15, 1865 in the village of Taniai in the Yamagata district of Gifu prefecture, which is located near present day Nagoya, Japan. It is thought that he entered a Tendai Buddhist school on or near Mt. Kurama (“horse saddle mountain”) at age four.
He also studied Kiko, the Japanese version of qigong, which is a health and healing discipline based on the development and use of life energy. The young Usui found that these healing methods required the practitioner to build up and then deplete his own life energy when giving treatments. He wondered if it were possible to do healing work without depleting one’s own energy.
Usui Sensei had an avid interest in learning and worked hard at his studies. He traveled to Europe and China to further his education. His curriculum included medicine, psychology, and religion as well as the art of divination, which Asians have long considered to be a worthy skill. Some think that he was from a wealthy family, as in Japan only the wealthy could afford to send their children to school although others think this was not the case. Eventually he became the secretary to Shinpei Goto, head of the department of health and welfare who later became the Mayor of Tokyo. The connections Usui Sensei made at this job helped him to become a successful businessman. Usui Sensei was also a member of the Rei Jyutu Ka, a metaphysical group dedicated to developing psychic abilities. In March 1922 Usui Sensei’s personal and business life was failing. As a sensitive spiritualist, Usui Sensei had spent much time meditating at power spots on Mt. Kurama where he had received his early Buddhist training. So he decided to spend some time on this holy mountain to see if he could discover a solution to his personal problems; he was not seeking to discover a method of healing as some have said. He enrolled in Isyu Guo, a twenty-one-day training course sponsored by the Tendai Buddhist Temple located there. We do not know for certain what he was required to do during this training.
When this happened, he was filled with excitement and went running down the mountain. On his way down he stubbed his toe on a rock and fell down. And in the same way anyone would do, he placed his hands over the toe, which was in pain. As he did this, healing energy began flowing from his hands all by itself. The pain in his toe went away and the toe was healed. Usui Sensei was amazed by this. He realized that in addition to the illuminating experience he had received, he had also received the gift of healing.
Usui Sensei practiced this new ability with his family and developed his healing system through experimentation and by using skills and information based on his previous study of religious practices, philosophy, and spiritual disciplines. He called his system of healing Shin-Shin Kai-Zen Usui Reiki Ryo-Ho (The Usui Reiki Treatment Method for Improvement of Body and Mind) or in its simplified form Usui Reiki Ryoho (Usui Reiki Healing Method).