British psychic Henry Cumming talks about the appeal of Western psychics in Japan.

By Laurier Tiernan

Abroad, Japan has long held a reputation of being a deeply spiritual country. From the innumerable photographs of temples and shrines in travel brochures, to the stories of traditional fortune tellers setting up small tables on city sidewalks, the reputation is well-deserved. Less well-known, however, is that for decades now, a growing number of Japanese people have been shifting away from their homegrown reibaishi (mediums) in order to learn from the soothsayers of the West.

Gudni Gudnason, founder of the Modern Mystery School, weighs in on some possible causes for this phenomenon. “Some Japanese people seem to trust outsiders more than their own people (for alternative spirituality). And, for some students it’s entertainment.”

Domestic “New Age” agencies such as Voice, IIS and El Aura have capitalized on this blossoming movement, sponsoring visits by western mediums who come to teach, coach, and give readings for this expanding market. Voice got its start in 1988 as a book publisher. Soon turning to spiritual books, it has since developed into five subsidiaries, each taking care of a different aspect of its business – from workshop management to the sale of paraphernalia. El Aura opened its doors in 2001, also delving into publishing with its magazine, Trinity (now online-only). Having sponsored visits by such celebrities as Deepak Chopra and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh, they have become the exclusive organizers of the Iyashii Fair since 2015. An annual exhibition of western esoteric spirituality that started in 2001, the Iyashii Fair’s exponential growth has led it to start holding its sessions at Ariake’s Big Sight.


Henry Cumming (Photo by E.H. Tiernan)

Haremi Hayama, a retired accountant, has been interested in alternative spirituality for the past 25 years. She says she turned to western mediums because she felt that – although domestic ones might often be inexpensive – their messages are often too vague, and that the source of those messages is often too unclear. Tomomi Tanizaki, a 55-year-old interpreter who specializes in metaphysical matters, casts a professional light on the situation. She says that Japanese mediums focus on ghosts, earth-bound spirits, and unfamiliar Japanese deities, whereas many western mediums connect to ascended masters and angels.

One such western medium, Henry Cumming, has been visiting Japan twice annually for the past two years, with a steadily increasing number of students in his mediumship training courses, as well as a constant stream of clients for his private readings. Born in London, and growing up in Fife, Scotland, he says he was aware of his gifts for mediumship and healing from a very young age, despite being raised in a military family. At the age of 30, a gypsy neighbor named Flo beckoned him, told him about his childhood in surprisingly accurate detail, and then informed him that he needed to study mediumship in order to hone his skills. Henry then enrolled at the College of Psychic Studies, under the tutorage of Dr. Angela Watkins. Upon graduation, he soon began working on spiritualist church platforms all over the UK, which in turn led to being sponsored to give readings and teach mediumship in many different countries around the world.

His take on the increased popularity of foreign mediums in Japan is nationalistic. “Spiritualism, in the UK, is recognized as an official religion now. It’s been around for about 130 years, and the UK in that time has really expanded, developed and explored spirituality, mediumistic abilities and psychic abilities, and they’ve had a lot of psychic research institutes. So, we’ve really gone pretty much as deeply as we can go with it, and out of that has come a very good foundation from which to teach budding mediums how to develop their abilities.” And, in closing, how does he deal with skeptics? “I love skeptics,” he states plainly, “I just let the work talk for itself.”


Henry Cumming at Culloden Moor, Scotland

From November 23 to December 13, Henry will be teaching workshops and giving private readings through the new age agency “Voice”. Please contact Voice ([email protected]), or Henry Cumming himself ([email protected]), for further information.

Images by E.H. Tiernan