By Shalandra Abbey
Yes, from the little healing island of Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i the healing art of reiki has spread to the rest of the Western World. And it all started from Hawayo Takata, who was born in the sugarcane camp in Hanama‘ulu, Kaua‘i in December 1900. She was tiny and had a hard life growing up cutting cane and trying to meet her daily quota.
Mrs. Takata had overtaxed her frail body, striving to keep up with children twice her size, resulting in many health problems by the time she was 30 years old. As was the custom in those days, she was sent to her ancestral home in Japan for surgery. It was not an easy journey. She took a small boat out of Kealia Harbor to Honolulu, then boarded a large ship and traveled for many days before finally arriving at her destination in Japan. Instead of having surgery, she was healed by Reiki Natural Healing.
Mrs. Takata begged them to teach her reiki, she pleaded that it was so needed on Kaua‘i, stating she simply couldn’t leave Japan without it. She was told, “No, this is not something for women to do — only men can practice reiki. We have shared our culture with the Western World before and they have abused it. It will not happen with the sacred healing art of reiki.”
She continued her plea and stayed in Japan and studied reiki for a full year before returning to Kaua‘i with the reiki in her hands. In October 1936, she opened the first reiki practice in the Western World on Hauala Street in Kapa‘a. Later, she moved to Hilo, and then to Honolulu.
Takata taught reiki at the University of Hawai‘i and had reiki approved by the American Medical Association to be practiced in Hawai‘i hospitals in 1974. She started teaching other reiki masters in the early 1970s to carry on this sacred practice. She had taught 22 reiki masters before she made her transition in December 1980 — two weeks before her 80th birthday.
During her three and a half decades practicing Reiki in Hawai‘i, she acquired clients from all corners of the globe, including Barbara Hutton and Doris Duke. The latter broke her wrist in 1957 and was treated by Mrs. Takata. She became a pupil.
“Reiki is available to anyone who seeks it,” Mrs. Takata said. “When a student is ready to accept it, he is shown the way. With the first contact or initiation, the hands radiate vibration to the ailing spot. If there is pain, it registers on your fingertips and palms. The ailment disappears when the body responds to the treatment.”
In 1990, Shalandra Abbey left the IBM Corporation in Florida to move to Kaua‘i to become a full-time reiki master. It had been 10 years since Mrs. Takata had made her transition, and reiki wasn’t discussed openly very much on Kaua‘i. As her practice grew, locals would come to her with stories about Mrs. Takata and her reiki. One man said Mrs. Takata was “a real go-get-um lady, one of the first women to drive an automobile on Kaua‘i — and that was when there was only one stop light on the whole island.”
During Shalandra’s 16 years practicing Reiki on Kaua‘i, she organized and ran a Reiki Natural Healing program at Wilcox Hospital for 10 years — until she moved to Maui. One of the highlights of the program that she and her students fully enjoyed included weekly visits to long-term care and adult day care.
“We wore our Hilo Hatti aloha shirts. Often they didn’t remember us personally but as soon as our shirts come through the door they would start to get in line for their weekly boost of reiki healing energy,” Shalandra said.