Alternate Currents: Reiki’s Circulation in the Twentieth-Century North Pacific

Hardback: $70.00
ISBN-13: 9780824894917
Published: September 2023
Paperback: $28.00
ISBN-13: 9780824895662
Published: September 2023

Additional Information

332 pages | 15 b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • In the second half of the twentieth century, Reiki went from an obscure therapy practiced by a few thousand Japanese and Japanese Americans to a global phenomenon. By the early twenty-first century, people in nearly every corner of the world have undergone the initiations that authorize them to channel a cosmic energy—known as Reiki—to heal body, mind, and spirit. They lay hands on themselves and others, use secret symbols and incantations to send Reiki to distant recipients, and strive to follow five precepts to cultivate their spiritual growth. Reiki’s international rise and development is due to the work of Hawayo Takata (1900–1980), a Hawai‘i-born Japanese American woman who brought Reiki out of Japan and adapted it for thousands of students in Hawai‘i and North America, shaping interconnections across the North Pacific region as well as cultural transformations over the transwar period spanning World War II.

    Alternate Currents: Reiki’s Circulation in the Twentieth-Century North Pacific analyzes how, from her training in Japan in the mid-1930s to her death in Iowa in 1980, Takata built a vast trans-Pacific network that connected Japanese American laborers on Hawai‘i plantations to social elites in Tokyo, Hollywood, and New York; middle-class housewives in American suburbs; and off-the-grid tree planters in the mountains of British Columbia. Using recently uncovered archival materials and original oral histories, this book examines how these relationships between healer and patient, master and disciple, became deeply infused with values of their time and place and how they interplayed with Reiki’s circulation, performance, and meanings along with broader cultural shifts in the twentieth-century North Pacific. Highly readable and informative, each chapter is structured around a period in the life of Takata, the charismatic, rags-to-riches architect of the network in which Reiki spread for decades. Alternate Currents explores Reiki as an exemplary transnational spiritual therapy, demonstrating how lived practices transcend artificial distinctions between religion and medicine, and circulate in global systems while maintaining strong connections with the practices’ homeland.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Justin B. Stein, Author

      Justin B. Stein is Chair of Asian Studies at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • This clear-eyed and exceptionally well-organized study of transnational spiritual therapies will be a revelatory work for specialists and general audiences alike interested in the rise of "new age" phenomena, beliefs, and practices in the mid- to late twentieth century. One of its key insights, that transnational spiritual therapies engage in "particular universalism," (i.e., privileging the cultures and values of the "original" locale while claiming universal applicability), which can result in an erasure or occlusion of influences from outside the original locale, is potentially very useful for studies of a wide range of cultural phenomena.
      —Nancy Stalker, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
    • This work will be appreciated by many audiences, including those interested in new religious movements, Japanese religions, imin studies (Japanese culture as it emigrates), Asian American religions, and transnational cultures.
      —Brett Esaki, University of Arizona