Tuesday 9 January 2018


A day or two into our big Japan trip we received a message. A relative who is trained in Reiki healing had heard of our travels and wanted to see if we could do something for her. The message read a little like this:

"Are you in Japan now? I wonder if you can find the founder of Reiki's grave before you leave Tokyo, he is buried somewhere but I do not know where. If you find it will you pay respects for me?"

The message came to us like the ghost that suddenly follows you around in Zelda: Link's Awakening, and only disappears once you find the old house by the sea and then take it back to its grave (spoiler—sorry).

We had a couple of free days left in the city and decided that finding the grave might be an intriguing adventure. The hunt was on. But this was not our pilgrimage and we really had not much more than an vague idea of what Reiki stood for. More interested in exploring parts of the city that we may've otherwise missed, we set off one cold January morning in search of the final resting place of Miako Usui.

We found warmth in a the lung-drenching smoke filled section of the Excelsior Caffe in Sasakua station. The fist place to look was inevitably the internet. A lady had been to the grave and in true brilliant internet fashion had created a step by step map to the grave. Nothing is a hidden secret anymore.

A few metro rides to Shin-Koenji station to where the map led us. We came out of the station and the harshness of the bitterwinter hit our lungs and hurt. This was a local area with bike stands and poodle parlours patterned along small classically Asian lanes. Nothing was unusual or notable about this district and we wondered fleetingly what we were doing here; Tokyo is full of wonders and here we were, iPad in freezing hand trying to find notable points at which to turn left or right.

We had to walk along the wall of the graveyard for a long time and then we turned right and a gate appeared. We'd found a graveyard – this we thought was the accomplishment – this was meant to be the place where Mikao Usui was laid to rest. Clanking old watering cans and wooden buckets were neatly piled in sheds. Big sticks with Japanese wording painted diligently along them in memory of a lost one and graves attended to with the uppermost care.

The rows of dark grey stone felt tall and foreboding. A foreign graveyard, line upon line of graves and no clue which direction to take. The sun was sinking into the horizon and it was getting colder, our breath billowed out alive among the company of the dead as we slowly stepped along the small stone pathways, inspecting graves and trying to identify details. Was it this one? This stone looks the right shape. This one has the right characters but not quite.

Then we found it. The jagged shape of the memorial stone stood out and the bold character made sense. This was where Mikao Usui was buried and that message all the way from Somerset had lead us to here. A man came by as we stood. He bowed to the grave, lit an incense stick and took a moment for himself. We busied ourselves in looking at other graves, not wanting to disturb him. He left and went on with his commute home, this act seemed so normal to him that it must be part of his daily ritual. We wondered how many people visit this quiet spot in a big city to pay their respects. Buried at our feet was a man who stated a global spiritual practice and had effected many people's lives. His influence was outliving him, in death he continues to reach out with his teachings.

We decided we should find out what the memorial stone was telling us. The large kanji at the top of the memorial reads,

"Memorial of Usui Sensei's virtue."

"He never showed off and always had a smile on his face; he was also very courageous in the face of adversity. He was, at the same time, a very cautious person. His talents were many." You can read the whole translation here.

We left Mikao Usui's resting place and went back along the path we came. Returning to Sasazuka on the metro, back to the city buzz of the city as night fell but we did not leave all of Usui-san there. He came with us in his teachings. Like a key to the next part of the game, an entrance to the dungeon that would lead us to level up.

That night we sat down and wrote a message back to our Aunt:

'I found Mikao Usui's resting place and memorial in a beautiful graveyard and stood for a while and thought about his teachings.
Don't anger
Don't worry
Be thankful
Work hard
Be kind
Thank you for leading me there.


All photographs © 2016, yes/no. Please credit if used

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