James Deacon's...... Reiki Pages..............................
(formerly: All Energy-Therapies Web)

+ + +


The following article, written by Reiki Master (or as he prefers to be termed:
'Reiki Instructor') and good friend of mine, Darragh MacMahon


Reiki, But Not As We Know It:
The Spiritual Densei of Juzo Hamada
Copyright © 2003 by Darragh MacMahon

A couple of years ago, while in Japan doing some research for a book on the diversity of Japanese healing practices; a book which in the end didn't actually get written, I was fortunate enough to be invited to stay with a Ukrainian friend, Sergei, and his wife Yuko who live on the outskirts of Kushiro City on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

When we had spoken on the phone prior to my visit, Sergei, who trains in a martial art called kempo, had suggested that as part of my research I might like to talk to the healer/therapist he and the other kempo students went to with training injuries. He said he would ask his Instructor if it would be possible to arrange an interview with the man he referred to as Izumi-sama, who was also a kempo practitioner, and the Instructor's 'senior'. The suffix -sama, I later found out, is a more formal term of respect than the -san I was already slightly familiar with.

By the time I got to Hokkaido, the meeting with Izumi-sama (that is, Mr. Izumi Takashi) had been arranged along with a couple of other meetings.
(In Japan, the surname comes first, the given or personal name comes second - in the west we would call Mr. Izumi Takashi, Mr. Takashi Izumi. To save confusion, from here on I will use the familiar western naming convention)

Sergei told me that Mr. Izumi wasn't the type to normally agree to such interviews, especially as he had in the past had problems with a newspaper reporter. He had only agreed to this interview because the Instructor at their dojo had requested it. He could not stress strongly enough that anything less than my most respectful behaviour would mean a loss of 'face' for both the Instructor and Sergei himself.

It was in the afternoon, 4 days into my visit, that I got to meet Mr. Izumi. Sergei had arranged for a friend and senior kempo student to accompany me as interpreter, as Sergei himself had important work commitments he couldn't get out of.

Sergei had reminded me that I should bring Mr. Izumi a formal temiyage or gift in gratitude for his agreeing to the interview, and from the suggested formal options, I had settled on a bottle of nihonsu (sake).

I presented the gift-wrapped bottle of nihonsu and in my best tourist Japanese, voiced the common statement when offering such a gift: "tsumaranai mono desu ga…" It's nothing much but…

Mr. Izumi's daughter Mizuki brought us tea and after an appropriate length of time, the conversation turned to the reason for my visit. With the interpretative help of Sergei's friend Yoshiki, I explained about my intended book, and how I would be giving everyone who did me the honour of permitting me to interview them the opportunity to read what I had written about them before anything went to publication.
[Even though the book did not go ahead, I still provided copy of this present piece and other material concerning Mr. Izumi, for him to review via an interpreter]

Mr. Izumi was very relaxed and friendly, and happy for me to take notes as we spoke about his methods.

It seemed that the more exoteric aspects of his therapeutic practice primarily involved a combination of what is known as amma / ampuku massage and therapy based around working with tsubo pressure points and keiraku (acupuncture meridians). Though Mr. Izumi said he did not use needles, simply finger pressure.

He also practiced a form of pressureless touch-based ki-healing and healing with the breath.

And there were also more esoteric elements to Mr Izumi's practice.

On one level, he explained, injury or illness can frequently be seen to be the result of the negative influence of spirits. Though in some cases these spirits are simply malicious, it is more often the case that injury or illness is the means by which a spirit attempts to communicate with the particular individual.

Sometimes the spirit has a grievance, having been offended in some way, then again they may simply be attempting to communicate their distress or bewilderment concerning their situation: a simple cry for help.

The particular kind of spirit affecting the individual can often be discerned by the nature of the manifesting symptoms.

For example, Mr. Izumi said, the spirit of an aborted foetus may cause pain in the hips, the back of the head and the shoulders. Headaches in general can indicate the influence of an ancestor. The spirit of a dead animal (such as a family pet) may cause the individual to talk nonsense, even cause madness. And so on.

Sometimes, as part of the treatment, if the influence of spirits is evident (Mr. Izumi did not elaborate as to precisely how he ascertained if a given illness or injury was indeed due to intervention of a spirit) the patient might be instructed to hold kuyo, a Buddhist memorial service, or perhaps undertake Shinto purification rites, to appease the spirit; or in some other way address the cause of their grievance.

In certain circumstances, Mr. Izumi said, he would prepare ofuda, essentially Spiritual formulae or charms, for his patients.

We talked a little about the nature of these formulae, but he asked that I did not write about them in any detail.

He told me he also prescribed particular exercises for his patients to do at home to assist in the healing process and would suggest specific modifications in diet and lifestyle depending on the nature of their particular complaint.

He explained that while he would treat specific areas of illness or injury, the main focus for treatment, whatever the problem, was always the head, the spine and the hara or belly. "Everything is connected with these three" he explained.

I asked about his methods of diagnosis and he simply said, "My kami helps me." Then after a moment " And of course I use my senses".

It transpired that by the term kami, Mr. Izumi was speaking of a guiding spirit, in the form of one of his ancestors, rather than as I had momentarily thought, one of the major kami or gods of Shinto.
(I should mention that such belief in guidance from a venerable ancestor is something quite common, especially, it seems, among healers, and other spiritual practitioners.)

When I asked what he meant by using his senses, he explained that from the moment he meets a patient he is acutely observant. He looks, listens, touches and smells - sees how they move, sit, gesture, the state of their complexion, the state of their eyes, etc. listens to the words they use and their tone of voice, the feel of their skin, whether it is warm or cold or clammy, etc. and the odour of the breath. All these things play a part in his diagnosis. He did not however, make use of what is probably one of the more common and at the same time quite complex, forms of diagnosis; the reading of the pulses.

We talked for some time about various aspects of his practice, and I was shown around his small treatment room, which had several charts and certificates on the walls, as well as a copy of the hannya shingyo or Heart Sutra, and the twenty-sixth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the chapter on Dharani or incantations.

Like a great many Japanese of his generation, Mr. Izumi's faith is a combination of both Buddhist and Shintoist belief and practice, and in his treatment room there is an altar/shrine to Yakushi - the Buddha of healing and to various Shinto kami also considered responsible for aspects of healing. To either side of this altar, there was a framed black and white photograph - one of Mr. Izumi's teacher and the other, his teacher's teacher.

Mr. Izumi said that he preferred whenever possible to have his patients sit upright when treating them, rather than lie on a futon. He would usually only have a patient lie down when they were receiving heat treatment. It transpired that what he was referring to here was something I had personally only seen previously in western therapeutic practice, though he assured me it was quite common, a form of heat therapy in the west often referred to as 'cupping'. In this practice, a series of very small glass bowls or cups are heated up and placed at strategic points on the patient's back, as the hot air inside the bowl cools it creates a suction effect securing the hot glass bowl to the body. (The effect is no doubt much the same as the acupuncturist's practice of burning moxa on the skin.)

Mr. Izumi told me he held surgery in the early morning and the evening; he liked to keep the rest of the day for himself.

I asked what role absent healing played in his practice.

Mr. Izumi said he had on occasion had cause to resort to this kind of healing, but it was not something he did lightly.

In most cases, if a person really wanted to get better from whatever ailed them, they would be willing to make the effort to visit him. If nothing else it was a psychological acknowledgment of their determination and commitment to be cured.

If they really couldn't come to visit him, for example, if they were bedridden, or for some other genuine reason, then he would arrange to go to visit them.

He had seen too many cases of people who said they needed absent healing as they were unable to come to see him in person, only on further investigation to discover that they were either too wrapped up in their work or even their social life, or just too lazy, or they didn't want to be seen to be consulting a healer, as opposed to a hospital doctor!

"You understand," he said, "not everyone who asks to be cured really wants to be cured in their heart"

"For these people, even so, I will still chant the daimoku, and the prayer to Yakushi " Mr. Izumi held up his open palm in front of him and in guttural tones, recited the Yakushi mantra: "On koro koro sendari matogi sowaka."

The daimoku, I knew, is the mantra of the Lotus Sutra, said to bring great merit to those who chant it or for those it is chanted for.

* * * * *

At one point while we were talking Mr. Izumi, in a most informal and unexpected manner, casually reached into his jacket and bought out a pack of cigarettes and asked if I would like one. Politely refusing his offer, I must have looked somewhat bemused as he lit up and drew heavily on what turned out to be a Chinese brand cigarette.

Through Yoshiki the interpreter, he said something to the effect of "Ah, you are thinking: 'he's smoking! Doesn't he of all people realise how bad smoking is for the health?'."

I had to nod in agreement.

He explained that in his view, the real problem isn't so much with smoking as with the state in which people smoke. He said that most people smoke when they are stressed and off-centre and that they smoke 'mindlessly'. "I only smoke when I'm relaxed, and then with mindful focus" he said, then with a laugh, "and what would an old man be without at least one bad habit!"

Mr. Izumi, who, before his retirement had been a clerical officer in the postal service, had begun his training as a healer in 1958 with a healer called Takanobu Shirasu who lived and worked in Utsunomiya City on Honshu Island. He told me that he had spent three years working as an assistant in Shirasu's clinic.

Unlike many other practitioners of traditional healing methods, Shirasu did not earn his living as a healer. By day he ran the family clothing business, practicing his therapeutic art in the evenings. He had insisted that he would only train Takashi Izumi on the condition that he too maintained a 'regular' occupation to support himself, rather than relying on the sickness of others as a means of generating income. He had also told him that a healer should either have a 'robust' manual job or take up some form of intense physical exercise to, as Mr. Izumi put it, " help the ki". This was how Mr. Izumi had become involved with kempo.

Shirasu had learnt his art during the 1930's working as an 'apprentice' or deshi to Juzo Hamada.

Juzo Hamada, who, prior to World War One, had for several years worked as a Civil Servant in the Japanese Administration in southern Manchuria, had studied widely in the healing arts. He had learnt elements of Chinese Medicine during his posting in Manchuria, and later traveled the length and breath of Japan, studying the methods of various well-known healers of the day.

Mr. Izumi reeled off a list of names of some of these people, including Yugaku Hamaguchi, Tamai Tempaku (who, I later discovered was the father of modern-day Shiatsu) and Shofu Yamato. Quite understandably, prior to this I had never heard of any of these people. But there was one name mentioned by Mr. Izumi that I certainly had heard of.

That name was Mikao Usui.

I hurriedly had Yoshiki explain that I recognised that name - that I had only quite recently become a student of Reiki myself.

He threw up his hands and grinned "Ah, Leiki, Leiki" he nodded.

Had he learned Reiki too, I asked

No, he wasn't a Reiki practitioner.
I couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed by this reply.

In fact, Mr. Izumi continued, it was only a few years ago that he started seeing articles in a couple of magazines which talked about this New Age (he actually used the phrase "nyu-eiji") teate healing art called Reiki that was becoming quite popular.

Before that he had never heard of it. He said he had been a little confused at first, by all the talk of this Reiki being an energy, as for many people of his generation, the term indicated the presence of an Ancestral Spirit or at least the beneficial effect of a spirit, not ki flowing in the body.

When "Teacher Shirasu" as Mr. Izumi called him, had spoken to him about "Teacher Hamada" and the people he had learned various methods from, he had never mentioned this term Reiki when he spoke of the healer Usui.

It emerged that beyond what he had read in the magazines in connection with the growing interest in Reiki, Mr. Izumi really knew very little about Mikao Usui other than he had been a spiritual healer, and that it was from Usui that Teacher Hamada has learnt how to "make the densei".

This was how Yoshiki had phrased it so I had to ask him what this densei was. He looked a little unsure, saying it meant something handed down from one generation to another; then after some conferring with Mr. Izumi, Yoshiki seemed clearer about it. He explained that Mr. Izumi was talking about a sort of spiritual transmission, not so much from generation to generation in a strict sense but more from an experienced healer to another less experienced one. Mr. Izumi referred to the procedure as densei because that was what Teacher Hamada and Teacher Shirasu had called it.

Mr. Izumi was talking about some kind of Initiation or Attunement process…

I suddenly had what seemed like a hundred questions buzzing round in my head at once.

This attunement, what form did it take?
Was it like the western style attunements I had undergone, or was it more like the reiju I had heard about, or …

I was about to start asking Mr. Izumi when his daughter, Mizuki, came in and ever so tactfully pointed out to her father that the first of his evening patients would be arriving in less than an hour.

Dejectedly, I realised it was time for us to leave.

I thanked Mr. Izumi for his hospitality, then to my great relief, as both he and his daughter showed us out, Mr. Izumi said something to Mizuki, who whispered in broken English "He say tomorrow, same time you come back, yes?"

I looked quizzically at Yoshiki. I was aware that often such invitations are just made out of politeness and not really meant to be taken literally.

Should I accept? He nodded.

I told Mr. Izumi I would be honoured to visit his home again. Thanking him once more, we left.

* * * * *



[click on banner]


James Deacon's REIKI STORE, UK:


James Deacon's REIKI STORE, US:


Reiki Pages

Darragh MacMahon

reiki books and music

reiki books and music

Site Built & Maintained by James Deacon. Copyright © 2002 James Deacon. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: The contents of this site is for general information only. James Deacon does not necessarily endorse the methodology, techniques or philosophy of individual modalities detailed herein, and accepts no liability for the use or misuse of any practice or exercise on this site, or ones linked to this site.