Mikao Usui (臼井甕男, 15 August 1865 – 9 March 1926, commonly Usui Mikao in Japanese) was the founder of a form of spiritual practice known as Reiki, used as a complementary therapy for the treatment of physical, emotional, and mental diseases. According to the inscription on his memorial stone, Usui taught Reiki to over 2000 people during his lifetime. Sixteen of these students continued their training to reach the Shinpiden level, a level equivalent to the Western third degree, or Master level. Usui died on 9 March 1926 of a stroke.
Usui was born on 15 August 1865 in the village of Taniai (now called Miyama cho) in the Yamagata district of the Gifu Prefecture, Japan, which is now located near present day Nagoya.
A 19th century scholar, Mikao Usui seems to have earned a doctorate of theology at the University of Chicago, in the theological seminary.
Usui is also said to be Usui Shiko Ryoho method.
Shugendō is a Japanese mountain ascetic shamanism, which incorporates Shinto and Buddhist practices. Roles of Shugendō practitioners include offering religious services such as fortune telling, divination, channelling, prayer, ritual incantations and exorcism. Shugenja was often used by family clans to heal disease or to avoid misfortune.
Usui’s father’s common name was Uzaemon, and his mother was from the Kawai family. His brothers, Sanya and Kuniji, grew up to become a doctor and a policeman respectively. He also had an older sister called Tsuru. Usui married Sadako Suzuki, who bore children by the names of Fuji and Toshiko. Fuji (1908–1946) went on to teach at Tokyo University, and Toshiko lived a short life, dying at the age of 22 in 1935. The entire family’s ashes are buried at the grave site at the Saihō-ji Temple in Tokyo.
As an adult, it is believed that he traveled to several Western countries, including Americas, Europe, and China as a part of his continued lifelong study. His studies included history, medicine, Buddhism, Christianity, psychology, and Taoism.
Usui’s ancestors were the once influential Chiba clan and were Hatamoto samurai. According to the inscription on his memorial, Tsunetane Chiba, a military commander during the end of the Heian period and the start of the Kamakura period (1180–1230), was one of Usui’s ancestors. In 1551, Toshitane Chiba conquered the city Usui and thereafter all family members acquired that name. Usui was raised as a samurai from childhood, specifically in the martial arts techniques of aiki (合氣術)
Recent discoveries by Reiki Masters and practitioners have revealed the story of Reiki’s history and travel to the West as false. Hawayo Takata, a Reiki Master attuned by Chujiro Hayashi (林 忠次郎, 1880–1940), changed Reiki’s history of development in order to make Reiki more appealing to the West. To this end she made a relation of Reiki with Jesus Christ and not with Buddhism. She also presented Dr. Mikao Usui as the dean of a Christian school. While he had obtained the knowledge of Reiki from the Buddhist religious book “Tantra of the Lightning Flash”, Takata claimed that he had been inspired from the story of Jesus Christ, who had healed with the touch of his hand, and so had come to America to learn Reiki. She told this to spread Reiki among Christians too, believing it would otherwise be extinct. However in 1994, the original manuscript of Dr. Mikao Usui was found, which revealed him to be a Christian and that Reiki had originated from Gautam Buddha.