Not As We Know It:
The Spiritual Densei of Juzo Hamada
Copyright © 2003 by Darragh MacMahon
hardly slept that night, and the morning seemed to crawl by at a
eased into early afternoon and Sergei's phone rang. It was Yoshiki.
He had had a flat tyre and would be at least another half-hour.
was like an impatient child.
When Yoshiki eventually turned up I was waiting out side Sergei's
apartment, and the car had hardly stopped moving before I was in
the passenger seat.
somehow managed to arrive on time, and received the same warm greeting
we had the day before.
again Mizuki brought tea, then left, only to return a few moments
later with a small envelope and a good-sized old, black, box-like
case both of which she handed to her father. Then she was gone again.
the 21 hours or so since I had left Mr. Izumi's home I had been
going over the revised questions I wanted to ask him, even to the
point of making a list which ran on for a couple of pages in my
I was eager to begin my questioning, however Mr. Izumi seemed to
have other ideas.
sat there, sipping his tea thoughtfully.
Yoshiki indicated that I should be respectfully patient.
a couple of very long minutes, Mr. Izumi held up the envelope Mizuki
had brought him, saying he would like to show me some photographs
of his teachers.
day before, I had seen the two formal portrait photographs of Juzo
Hamada and Takanobu Shirasu on the wall of Mr. Izumi's treatment
room. The photographs he now took from the envelope were much smaller,
and also much more informal ones.
most of them I recognised a young Mr. Izumi with Teacher Shirasu,
there were a number of photographs of Shirasu on his own and the
rest, about four or five quite badly damaged, and seemingly tobacco-stained,
were of Shirasu and his teacher, Hamada, who had been born in 1881.
Izumi talked around the photographs as he showed each one to me,
recounting little incidental details which, particularly in my state
of impatience, seemed to be of little importance.
I realised that perhaps I had missed the point, perhaps Mr. Izumi
was attempting to form an emotional link in my mind with his honoured
teacher and his teacher's teacher.
explained that Juzo Hamada, as well as learning the traditional
ways of healing had been a man open to new ideas, and had always
been willing to experiment with practices in the hope they might
augment his healing work.
Izumi gestured to the black case which he had set down on the couch
had belonged to Teacher Hamada, he said.
the case, which had definitely seen better days, onto the small
magazine table to his right, he opened the clasp to reveal an ancient
electrical device, which I believe, was known as an electrovitaliser,
among other names.
electrical device built into the case, which Mr. Izumi said, Teacher
Hamada had ordered (sometime around 1910-2) at considerable cost
from Europe, had a number of leads and glass attachments.
to the instructions, written in French and still pasted to the inside
of the case lid, the device was used to run a harmless (!) electric
charge through affected areas of the patients body with the intent
of stimulating the 'nervous humours'.
was powered by a hand-turned magneto, and had various dials and
knobs for adjusting the level of charge it produced.
to Mr. Izumi, Hamada had only experimented with the device for a
few months after purchasing it. While it still functioned (Mr. Izumi
offered to let me try it for myself, but I politely declined), he
said neither he nor Teacher Shirasu, in whose possession it had
been for many years, had ever considered using it in their practice.
Mr. Izumi had only spent three years as an assistant in Takanobu
Shirasu's clinic before Shirasu considered him ready to set up his
own independent practice, he explained that Shirasu had remained
his mentor for many more years.
talked for a while longer about Takanobu Shirasu, but mainly about
Juzo Hamada, particularly about the people and forms of spiritual
and healing practice which had influenced his methods.
Izumi said that Teacher Shirasu had always talked with great reverence
about Teacher Hamada.
* * * *
began to see if I could steer the conversation around to the topic
of Mikao Usui and the densei Mr. Izumi had mentioned the
previous day, and gradually achieved my objective.
Izumi was by this time smoking again.
he know if Hamada had been a member of the society created by Usui's
"No, it was different then." He said.
Izumi was aware there had been such a society. Not that he'd given
it any real thought but he seemed to think that it had probably
been disbanded by the Americans after the war. Then (in one of the
magazine articles he had mentioned the day before) he had read about
how this society was supposed to still exist today. But he had never
met anyone or even knew of anyone who had been a member of it
far as Mr. Izumi was aware, when Hamada had studied with Usui there
wasn't a gakkai: a Society, as such. Hamada had studied with
Usui and a couple of other healers who worked with him at the time.
Mr. Izumi seemed to be of the opinion that these others taught a
somewhat different style of healing than Usui, but he couldn't be
asked about the densei, the Spiritual Transmission.
previous day, he had said that Hamada learnt how to make the densei
from Mikao Usui.
Mr. Izumi said, Teacher Hamada had made the shi densei for
Teacher Shirasu, and Teacher Shirasu had made the shi densei
for him in turn.
he had received the densei himself?
densei is like transmitting a 'memory' of experience from
one person to another" he explained.
Izumi had used the phrase 'shi densei'. Even with my limited
tourist vocabulary, I knew shi meant four.
are four densei - four transmissions?
explained that Reiki, certainly as we knew it in the west, often
involved four levels of training.
he mean, four levels of densei?" I asked Yoshiki.
came the reply. They were not levels as such, but simply for different
four densei were:
Wisdom / Spiritual Awakening
my mind at least, this seemed to suggest a connection with the Reiki
There is of course one symbol referred to as the Power Symbol which
could relate to vital force, and I knew that the name of another
of the symbols was actually a phrase about the importance of Mindfulness.
Could there be a connection between the so-called mental/emotional
symbol and Compassion, perhaps the Master Symbol was the Light of
or perhaps I was, in my enthusiasm, simply grasping
stopped trying to make connections, and continued with my questions
transmission did a student receive first? I asked
all depended on which was more beneficial to them at the time. The
jishin, seiryoku and nenshin transmissions
could be made in any order, but the kaigen transmission was
only ever made after all the others.
he had found that the student usually benefited by receiving jishin
"Maybe you think", he said, "seiryoku power
should automatically be made first; give the healer much force,
make him a strong healer?" Mr. Izumi held his palms out flat
in front of him, eyes closed, his arms shaking, face straining;
pretending to be working with some tremendously powerful energy
"oouuuhhh" he intoned resonantly. "Or maybe you think
nenshin should be first; help him be mindful of his skills?"
is not great skill, or great force of ki that makes a great
healer", he said, "these are important, yes, but what
really makes a great healer is great Compassion."
Densei was not something to be taken lightly.
is a sacred process" Yoshiki translated.
Izumi said Teacher Shirasu had asked that he only make densei
for worthy students.
In all he had only made densei for three people; for two
apprentices he had had over his forty years of practice, and for
his daughter Mizuki.
he had eventually made all four transmissions for the two students,
he had only made two for Mizuki.
This was not, Mr. Izumi was at pains to point out, because Mizuki
was a woman, but because it was not her destiny to become a healer.
was made by the meditation of the teacher. (Perhaps I should mention
here that the word, which Yoshiki had consistently translated as
Teacher throughout the interview with Mr. Izumi, that is: Sensei,
is something also meaning Instructor, and is a title of respect.)
Teacher and the student/apprentice would perform a meditation together
involving, as Yoshiki phrased it "the three secrets".
(He later clarified this by saying it was something from Buddhist
practice using ritualistic visualisations, gestures and mantras)
asked if there was a specific length of time that a student/apprentice
was expected to wait between receiving one transmission and the
Izumi frowned slightly, as if the question had no meaning.
explained how in Reiki there were differing opinions concerning
required waiting times between a student receiving the various initiations/attunements;
how, for example, some people considered it acceptable for the student
to receive the first and second levels with in a day or so of each
other, while others believed there should be a gap of several months
so as to let the student 'grow into' the attunement.
Mr. Izumi had heard about this. "Like your MacDonald's"
he commented via Yoshiki "Today people want everything now,
was not the same as what I spoke of as Reiki. I must stop thinking
of it in terms of this Reiki or I would only remain confused.
transmission was not to give the student healing abilities. It was
a Spiritual Enhancement to help someone who was already a healer
be an even better one.
Izumi explained that a student (or more properly, apprentice) might
only receive a transmission after a couple of years of training.
They were not considered substitutes for training.
Mr. Izumi had said densei was not Reiki in the sense that
we know it, the concept of the transmission, which he was attempting
to explain (while at the same time avoiding discussing the precise
details), certainly seemed to be a variant on the Reiki initiation/attunements.
became even more sure of this as he went on to explain that each
of the four transmissions involved a symbol (in the case of each
of the first three, visualised in a shining sphere or bubble of
light) being generated by the teacher and placed in the students
symbol for each densei was put in a different place.
he mean in different chakras? I asked
Izumi said he had heard of chakras, but didn't really know about
them, they were not part of traditional healing. No. Not in chakras.
was not going to elaborate. He did not have to say so, I just felt
it, and decided not to pursue it any further.
explained a little to him about Reiki and how, after attunements,
students often went through a period of catharsis or as it was called
'Healing Crisis'. Did healers who received the transmissions experience
Mr. Izumi said that if they did, then they hadn't been properly
prepared before the teacher made the densei. "In your
Reiki, you get initiation (denju) and then your hidden problems
get driven out for you deal with, yes?" he asked. "Our
way, the student deals with his problems first. Gets lots and lots
of healing, learns his art; gets lots and lots more healing; then
perhaps, and only then, he is ready for densei.
asked about the symbols used in the transmissions. I did not expect
that Mr. Izumi would explain the actual nature of the symbols, and
respected this fact. But could he say how they were used in healing?
was thinking with my 'Reiki Head' again.
symbols were only placed in the body, during the transmissions.
were not drawn or visualised on the hands or in the air, etc., as
in Reiki, for healing.
Izumi explained that the power or influence of each transmission
once it had been made, was always there with the healer.
Like a beacon, radiating from its place within. If the healer wished
to 'turn up the volume' [my words] of a particular power, he simply
focussed on the symbol encased in a bubble of brilliant light, within
his own body.
also mentioned that there was a particular meditative practice connected
to each of the symbols to enable the healer to deepen the quality
of the particular power within him.
* * * *
Izumi tactfully pointed out that we had probably talked enough about
densei. Though a sacred process, densei was only one
of several important practices which were part of the healer's ongoing
Teacher Hamada had studied with Mikao Usui and learned how to make
densei, he had also (as Mr. Izumi had pointed out the previous
day) studied with many other people including physical therapists,
faith healers, yamabushi (Mountain Priests) and other gyoja
(ascetic practitioners); and learned many therapeutic and spiritual
practices of great value from them too.
example, from the faith healer Yugaku Hamaguchi he had studied the
'Pah-pah' breath healing method.
had trained in the art of senrigan: 'thousand ri eye'
or 'long-distance eye' (Yoshiki explained this as the art of seeing
into the past or seeing events at a distance. That is, what in the
west we would call clairvoyance.)
had undergone byoki na oshi no gyo: religious healing training,
as a member of several spiritual groups.
went on to say that Hamada, while he had had the deepest respect
for those who shared their teachings with him, would only adopt
practices which he found to work well for him, combining the various
practices and teachings and developing them in ways he felt to produce
the most effective therapeutic results.
keeping with Mr. Izumi's wishes, I moved on from the topic of densei
to other issues, and talked around some of the other practices
that were part of the healer's development process.
or meditation, also known as mitama-shizume, "calming
& settling the spirit & collecting the mind" of course
also played an important part in the healer's life, Mr. Izumi said.
was a term chinkon kishin, meaning 'to repose in the Divine
- in the holiness of life'. This was the true purpose of meditation.
Izumi also spoke about something called furutama, 'the shaking
of the soul'.
Furutama is a practice involving strong physical movement,
aimed at generating a sense of heightened spirituality. Mr. Izumi
explained that furutama nourishes and revitalises the spirit/soul,
which just like the body can become tired or weakened. Furutama
freshens up the soul, makes it fully 'awake'.
also spoke of the importance of misogi or ritualised purification
of body and soul. I commented how I had heard that this bathing
ritual had to be performed under running water. Yes, he said, it
was usually performed in a stream or at a waterfall; sometimes in
the sea. Lakes and pools were no good as the water was still. You
could even perform misogi under a cold shower at home.
this washing the body is only the external expression of misogi",
Mr. Izumi said. Misogi also involved purifying the organs
and the blood through deep breathing and dietary practice. "This
is the internal expression." He explained.
is also a spiritual expression" Yoshiki translated, "cleansing
the heart. Purging the soul of evils".
explained that by the word 'evils', Mr. Izumi was speaking of maliciousness,
prejudice, fear, selfishness, anger, insecurity, envy and all manner
of other negative attitudes, thought patterns and emotions.
concept of misogi also extends to the purification of the
environment", Mr. Izumi continued.
He said this involved physical cleansing and tidying. It also involved
the intentional use of sudden, sharp sounds or noises, like hand-clapping,
and kiai (spontaneous utterances) to disperse stagnation
or negative vibrations form the immediate environment or from objects.
aspect of misogi also called for the individual to be conscious
of the thoughts and feelings they express in the world. How it is
important to use 'bright and 'luminous' words, while avoiding using
dark, discouraging words; that we should look for the good in life,
and make space in our lives for helping and serving others.
* * * *
had been keeping a check on the time. Though eager to continue talking
with Mr. Izumi, I did not wish to encroach on his preparation
time before his evening patients began to arrive.
we got up to leave, Mr. Izumi said he would like to do something
for me if I would permit him to. Would I let him fix my shoulder
was confused by this and looked at Yoshiki. "But there's nothing
wrong with my shoulder", I insisted.
reply was something to the effect of "Yes, it is a very old
injury, many years old." Mr. Izumi indicated to my left shoulder.
was momentarily speechless. I hadn't thought about it in ages. I
had injured the shoulder in a motorcycle accident more than twenty
believing he had picked up on it, I could only agree to Mr. Izumi's
so, holding my left wrist in his left hand, his right hand on the
back of my neck, Mr. Izumi gently began manipulating and rotating
my arm, testing the mobility of my shoulder.
said something to my interpreter, Yoshiki, who made a brief reply,
nodded, and glanced briefly at me. Yoshiki made no effort to translate
what had been said and I was about to ask when suddenly, with surprising
force, Mr. Izumi yanked on my arm.
pain was intense and I cried out explicitly.
smiled at me and said, "Oh, Mr. Izumi said 'this is going to
hurt like hell'
Meanwhile, Mr. Izumi had cupped his left hand over my collarbone
and his right on my shoulderblade. Accompanied by a deep guttural
"hudddss" noise, he blew forcefully along my shoulder
from the top of my arm to my neck. For a few moments there was an
incredible heat from his hands, far hotter than I had felt from
'Reiki Hands', and a sensation as if his hands were actually inside
a short while, he patted my shoulder quite hard. The heat subsided
and I realised that all the pain was gone. I rolled my shoulder
and stretched my arm and was aware of a freedom of movement I hadn't
known for many years - for so long in fact that I actually forgotten
that I had ever had that degree of flexibility in the first place.
I thanked Mr. Izumi profusely for both freeing up my shoulder and
for the amount of his time he had afforded me over the two days.
said our good-byes, and as we left I felt reasonably sure that I
had not said or done anything over the two days which would cause
my friend Sergei or his Instructor to suffer any 'loss of face'.
The next morning I would be making the 350 kilometre or so journey
southwest to Matsumae, to meet with a Tasmanian-educated Buddhist
Priest who practised a form of spiritual healing called kaji