Reiki in kanji – Japanese characters explain it all


Reiki in Japanese is often written in katakana, like this: レイキ. Katakana is a set of letters used to write foreign words imported to Japanese. The reason why reiki is written in katakana is because until recent years, a majority of the reiki practitioners were using western reiki taught outside of Japan.

As some of you may know, Japanese (and Chinese) characters called kanji are pictographic, and they portray what they represent. For example, the character for mountain, 山, actually looks like a mountain, and the character for river, 川, looks like water flowing down a river.

Since reiki originated in Japan, there are kanji characters in Japanese. In modern characters, reiki is written like this: 霊気, which is a simplified version of the original characters: 靈氣.

In this post, I will breakdown and explain what reiki means when written in original Japanese characters, because the characters themselves speak for themselves what reiki is intended to represent.

Character for Rei

The first character rei (靈) means “spirit” and is made up of 3 characters, and they are: 雨 (rain), 噐 (container), and 巫 (miko).

reiki-in-kanji-rainThe first character, ame, means rain, and it can be interpreted literally, water falling from the sky, which is a blessing for the land. It can also mean blessings from the universe.


reiki-in-kanji-utsuwaThe second character, which looks like 3 squares (口口口)is a simplified version of character utsuwa 噐, which means container. Container also refers to the the human body, which is the home for the spirit.


reiki-in-kanjiThe third character, represents a part of the character miko, which means female medium who communicates with the universe or the Gods, and interpret the messages to the humans. Miko are often seen in Japanese Shinto shrines.

According to the book “This is Reiki” by Frank Arjava Petter, “[a]ll Japanese Reiki sources talk about the aim for the practitioner to become like a miko.” Therefore, when you practice reiki, you become the conduit of the universal energy, and transmit the healing energy that’s available to all those who need it.


Character for Ki

The second character for Reiki is ki (氣), which means life energy (equivalent to “qi” or “chi” in Chinese).


The top character 气 kigamae” means steam, vapor or cloud.



reiki-in-kanji-komeThe bottom character 米 means “kome” or rice, which is the staple diet in Asian food culture. During my Jikiden Reiki training, my teacher Tadao Yamaguchi explianed that this character symbolizes the energy dispersing in all directions from the center.

This is important to remember, because the modern modern character for “ki” that we use today is written like this: 気. This character has メ  (instead of 米) , which means to seal or shut. We want the universal energy to disperse, rather than be sealed off.

Therefore, the ultimate goal as a reiki practitioner is rather self-explanatory. We receive the universal energy which falls upon us like rain, we become the vessel for our spirit and transmit the healing life energy to all those who are in need.

If you want to learn more about these characters, the book “This is Reiki” by Frank Arjava Petter offers details on the characters. I’ve written a book review on this book, so please take a look.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

“This is Reiki: Transformation of Body, Mind and Soul from the Origins to the Practice” – book review

2 thoughts on “Reiki in kanji – Japanese characters explain it all

  1. Thank you for your post. This was a good way to explain the complex meanings of the Japanese characters for Reiki. There is a lot to be said about ancient healing techniques like this, especially since its drug free, and therefore side effect free. It makes me want to learn more about the ancient therapies and the language itself. How long would you think it would take a newbie to learn how to do the healing?

    • Hi Patricia

      Thank you for your great comment! The beauty of reiki is its simplicity, and you can attend a Jikiden Reiki seminar which is usually 3-4 days and you will learn the philosophy and the technique. Then it’s up to you to practice and master the science. As for the Japanese language, it may not be easy to learn the characters, but Japanese/Chinese characters are pictographic, so you can visualize what characters represent. Again, it is up to you to spend the time, but I believe that if there is a will, anything is possible in life!


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