© 2007 James Deacon
[Additional info: Mar. 24 2007]
the mid 1980's in Japan, it is unlikely that anyone you mentioned
the term Reiki to would have recognised it as signifying
the healing practice we know by that name.
had you mentioned the term: Usui Ryoho or Reiki Ryoho,
well - even if the person you asked wasn't knowledgeable of alternative
therapies per se - simply from the word 'ryoho'
they would at least have grasped that you were referring to some
form of 'obscure' healing or treatment practice]
seems that the shortening of Usui Reiki Ryoho [i.e. Usui
'Spirit-energy' (or 'Spiritual') Healing Method] to the one word
Reiki was something that happened in the west.
a term for Usui-sensei's healing practice, it was (almost*)
completely unknown in Japan until western-lineage masters (starting
with Mieko Mitsui in 1985) went to Japan and began teaching and
referring to the art under that name.
while, over the past 20 years, Usui-sensei's healing method -
under this shortened name, Reiki - has become quite popular
in Japan (particularly amongst the younger generation) there are
of course a great many Japanese people today who are completely
unaware of it.
Reiki and ghosts?
the Reiki Community, there is an often-quoted notion that in general
usage, the word Reiki 
means a ghost.
[However, in the past, the word Reiki, it seems, was something
that never really found its way into 'general usage'!]
Japan even now, 'Reiki' is not a word often used as part of everyday
mundane conversation (unless you happen to be a Reiki Ryoho
practitioner of course!)
I find it interesting that none of the native Japanese
speakers (Reiki Ryoho practitioners and otherwise) I've
discussed this matter with, have personally been aware of the
term Reiki as having the meaning of 'ghost'.
on its own, the word Rei can refer to a ghost, yet the
term Yurei is more commonly used; and there are also several
other words indicating a ghost which are in general usage
one person did suggest that - the ki part of the compound
word Reiki implying 'influence' - the word could
conceivably be used to denote the sensation (ki)
or presence of a ghost (rei)]
it would seem that if Reiki is used by some to indicate
a ghost, this would be, at best, a rather indirect or obscure
usage of the word.
notion that Reiki referred to a ghost seems to originate
in the mid, or even early, 1990's.
I can't help wondering, was it originally a case of someone (presumably
an inquiring, and possibly somewhat over-enthusiastic, western
Reiki Ryoho practitioner!), actually being told that Reiki
meant ghost per se?
was it perhaps a case of simple misunderstanding due to language
Was it perhaps simply that the person asked had attempted to express
that, as far as they were aware, the word Reiki had "something
to do with the supernatural - ghosts and all that sort of thing"?
all, in isolation, the term Reiki [i.e. 'spirit-energy',
or simply 'spiritual'] is rather vague ;
and unless qualified by association with another term - e.g. 'ryoho'
('healing method'), could theoretically refer to a number of 'strange'
things (and many people might not feel comfortable talking about
such - to them at least - 'esoteric' matters)
again, it must be said that, in the early 1990's in Japan, there
were quite literally thousands of Japanese citizens - some
juvenile, some adult - who had their own very clear understanding
of what the term Reiki meant, and also the context in which
it was most frequently used
knew that the word Reiki did not mean a ghost per se,
but also knew that (in the context with which they were familiar
with the term) it did indeed have strong significance in
relation to the world of ghosts, spirits and demons...
would tell you that Reiki was at once an 'energy' and a
'power' (i.e. an ability) possessed by humans (an ability
more developed in some than in others) - a force, emanating from
the human spirit...
people knew all about the famous Reiki master - that diminutive,
elderly Japanese lady, and how she could pass on her Reiki
ability to others
could tell you all about Kurama
about numerous Reiki techniques that, at the time, nobody
in the West had heard of.
Techniques such as the:
Rei Gan (the 'Spirit Sphere'),
Rei Ko Hado ('Spirit Light Wave'),
Rei Ko Kyu - or what we would describe as a 'Reiki ball'
So, who were these people? Members of the Usui Reiki Ryoho
students of some other 'long lost' Japanese Reiki Ryoho
no. They were simply fans of the 19 volume manga (Japanese
Yu Hakusho ("Ghost Files")
by Yoshihiro Togashi and published between 1991-1994 [and also
turned into a 112 episode animation (anime) series], Yu
Yu Hakusho was quite possibly the place where a great many
people came across the term Reiki for the very first time...
you go rushing off to order either the manga or the anime:
suppose I should tell you that the name of the famous, elderly,
female Reiki Master in Yu Yu Hakusho is not Mrs.
Takata, but Genkai
and the 'Kurama' referred to, is not the sacred mountain
where Usui-sensei first experienced the Reiki phenomenon, but
rather, is a 'reformed' fox-demon...
even though Reiki Master Genkai (and some of the other
characters), can use their power to heal, Yu Yu Hakusho
is not a tale about Usui Reiki Ryoho.
fact, the Reiki energy-power of Yu Yu Hakusho, while indeed
seen to emanate from the human spirit, is not primarily
about healing at all.
as for the Reiki techniques mentioned - well you really
wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of any of them.
see, Yu Yu Hakusho is actually a story about a 'spirit
detective' and his comrades whose task it is to fight against
evil (in the form of demons and other bad guys), and protect the
the weapon-of-choice with which most of the fighting against evil
is carried out?
it's a very special 'offensive' or 'martial' energy-power
an ability emanating from the human spirit
- an ability called:
[ see: Reiki in Japan before 1985
- a New Perspective]
there are several Japanese words (written using different kanji-pairs
and having very different meanings) which transliterate as 'Reiki',
here I am of course referring to the particular 'Reiki' as used
in the context of Usui Reiki Ryoho.
a bit of Japanese-Westerner role-reversal:
Just imagine for a moment that you're a Japanese person who has
learnt a somewhat obscure American therapeutic practice - we'll
call it the "Gibbs spirit-energy healing method" (aka
Gibbs-style Healing Method) - which had been imported into Japan
several years ago.
On a trip to America, you decide to ask an "Average Joe"
what they know about this obscure practice. Would you imagine
that, potential language-barrier aside, the response would be
a full and informative one? No of course not. Most likely you
would receive, at best, a simple (or perhaps non-committal) response;
at worst, some comment about you being some kind of New Age weirdo.
Now, let's throw in an additional complication:
Let's say that, sometime over the years in Japan, the name of
the healing method had been shortened for simplicity's sake. But
rather than calling it, e.g. "Gibbs Healing", it had
become known simply as: "Spiritual-energy".
So, there you, are a Japanese person, struggling slightly with
an unfamiliar language, attempting to ask an American "Joe
Average" about the concept of "spiritual energy",
when really what you want to know about is Mr. Gibbs method of
- allowing that the response you got was not completely dismissive
(or worse!) just how confusing and (albeit unintentionally) misleading
might the information you receive actually be?
Info: Mar, 24, 2007
mentioned above, there are several Japanese words which, when
written usng the Latin (English) alphabet appear as 'Reiki'.
seems that the notion that 'Reiki' meant 'ghost', may well have
something to do with a simple confusion as to which particular
'Reiki' was being enquired about.
example, recently, while doing some research with regards to the
Konjaku monogatari-shu ("Tales of times past")
- a collection of stories from the Heian period - I discovered
that, in volume 27 of this collection, there is indeed talk of
Reiki as directly indicating 'ghosts and demons'.
However the 'Reiki' in question is not 'our' Reiki.
While the first kanji (rei) is the same as the rei
in 'our' Reiki (and as mentioned above this
rei can in isolation mean ghost), the second kanji
is different - being one that may be read as either ki or
oni - and having the meaning of 'demon'.
Ghosts & Demons