By Léo Azambuja

Hawayo Takata

Early in the 20th century, a tiny baby girl was born to Japanese immigrant workers on Kaua‘i. She was so small that her parents picked a name representing something huge; the Big Island of Hawai‘i. And accordingly, her accomplishments in life — and beyond it — were monumental.

Hawayo Takata, born in a sugar plantation camp in Hanama‘ulu on Christmas Eve in 1900, was the first westerner and the first woman initiated as a Reiki Master in Japan. She became the third lineage bearer of Usui Shiki Ryoho, or Usui System of Natural Healing. She brought Reiki from Japan to Kaua‘i in 1936, and from here, she is credited as spreading this sacred healing art to the West.

“Reiki is a method of natural healing that gives your body the energy it needs to heal itself,” said Reiki Master Shalandra Abbey, who has been practicing Reiki full-time for more than a quarter century. “There are two ways to receive Reiki; in the form of treatments or in the form of training.”

Reiki is usually administered through hand placements on the body or just above the body, though it can also be done from afar, according to Abbey. Reiki initiations received in classes open, balance and fine-tune energy fields, so the energy can flow through the body in a precise manner.

Reiki Master Shalandra Abbey, center, is seen here with Second Degree Reiki practitioner Leah Lei Agustin, left, and Reiki Master candidate Kaeo
Bradford at the gardens at Kilohana.

“When we share Reiki with someone, their bodies regulate how much they want and where. We don’t try to make anything happen as Reiki practitioners; we are merely a funnel for the life-force energy coming through us,” said Abbey, adding the beauty of it is that there is no transfer of personal energy. “We actually receive a Reiki treatment as we are giving one.”

As a result, Abbey said she feels even more energized after a full day of providing Reiki treatments. Many can benefit from Reiki on all levels, and especially those whose work means constant physical and emotional interaction with others.

“Reiki Natural Healing is unblocking energy in the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical body,” Abbey said. “Many people are very healthy in one of those areas, but not so much in the other three. Very few people are healthy and balanced in all four. So that’s what’s so powerful about Reiki, it works to balance all four areas”

Mikao Usui

Abbey’s learning traces back to Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki Natural Healing about a century ago. In the early 20th century, after fasting for 21 days atop Mount Kurama, northwest of Kyoto, Usui was struck by a vision of two Sanskrit symbols and two Japanese symbols. Those symbols opened up his ability to flow energy to heal him and others. Additionally, he was shown how to initiate others to do the same.

During his life, Usui taught more than 2,000 students. Before his death in 1926, he named Dr. Chujiro Hayashi as the second lineage bearer of Reiki Natural Healing, according to Abbey. Takata was trained and initiated by Hayashi.

In 1935, Takata took a month-long boat ride to Tokyo to tell her parents, who had returned to Japan, that her sister had died. She was also seeking medical help, and one of her main goals for the trip was having surgery in Japan.

Dr. Chujiro Hayashi

“The trip was long and difficult for her. When she arrived there, she was in really bad shape. She was told it would be at least a month before her body would be strong enough for surgery,” Abbey said.

Abbey said Takata was getting ready for surgery, on the operating table, when she demanded to see the head surgeon. Takata asked whether there was an alternative for surgery, and the doctor told her of a Reiki clinic nearby ran by Hayashi. She had never heard of Reiki, but decided to try it instead of surgery, and her medical records were transferred to Hayashi’s clinic, according to Abbey.

A few months later, Takata was healed. But she was to return to Kaua‘i, and wanted to continue treating herself and also treat others on her home island. So she asked Hayashi to train her. At first, he refused, saying no women had been trained before, according to Abbey.

“She was really persistent, she kept asking,” said Abbey, adding Hayashi finally agreed after being told during meditation to pass the knowledge to Takata, so she could safely take it out of Japan and spread it to the rest of the world.

First Degree Reiki students are seen here during a class by Reiki Master Shalandra Abbey on Maui.

Many of Hayashi’s students traded work in his clinic for Reiki training. It was no different for Takata. She would work for at least one year in the clinic before she would return to Kaua‘i with Reiki in her hands.

Takata opened a Reiki clinic in Kapa‘a Town in 1936. A local newspaper advertisement indicates her clinic was functioning in Kapa‘a at that time.

In 1938, when Takata wanted to go through the Reiki Master training, Hayashi came to Hawai‘i to provide the training before initiating her as a Reiki Master. To pay for the training, she mortgaged her home on Kaua‘i, according to Abbey.

Wilcox Reiki Natural Healing Program organized and ran by Reiki Master Shalandra Abbey, front row center, from 1996 to 2006.

Hayashi died in Japan in 1940, shortly after naming Takata his successor in Reiki Natural Healing, according to Abbey.

Takata continued treating people and teaching Reiki for the rest of her life, and trained 22 Reiki Masters to continue her legacy. She passed her knowledge mostly through oral tradition and forbade students to take notes or tape her, though there is at least one record of a class that received handouts from her. She died two weeks before reaching 80 years old in December 1980.

After Takata’s death, her granddaughter, Phyllis Lei Furumoto, was recognized by the majority of the Reiki Masters trained by Takata as the fourth and next lineage bearer of Usui Shiki Ryoho.

Throughout the years, alternative methods of Reiki were developed, but the majority of the original Reiki Masters initiated by Takata formed The Reiki Alliance and took an oath to keep her teachings unchanged, Abbey said.

To Abbey, the circumstances that caused Takata to bring Reiki from Japan to Kaua‘i and then spread it to the world were no mistake, “it was a divine setup.”

“Kaua‘i is the mother of the Pacific,” Abbey said. “I’ve done (Reiki) initiations all over the world, and it’s very, very different from when I do them on Kaua‘i. In Hawai‘i, it is so much more connected, the energy is so awesome here.”

Abbey first came in contact with Reiki Natural Healing in Florida in 1988. A couple years later, she relocated to Kaua‘i, where she practiced and taught Reiki for many years. While here, she recorded many stories from Takata’s contemporaries, and wrote a book titled Living a Life of Reiki available at and at the Kaua‘i Museum. Today, Abbey lives on Maui, and from there she continues to spread Reiki to Hawai‘i and the rest of the world.

Shalandra Abbey

On Feb. 16, the community is invited to a complementary Reiki Natural Healing Introduction and Demonstration at the YWCA in Lihu‘e from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Call Reiki Master Candidate Kaeo Bradford at 256-8839 to reserve a seat.

The event will be followed by a weekend First Degree Reiki class taught by Abbey on Feb. 18 and 19; and a Second Degree class on Feb. 23 and 24 for students who have practiced Reiki for a minimum of three months.

Visit for more information and class registration.