Volume 30: Chapter 5, Cheers of Victory 61–70

Cheers of Victory 61

The brilliant sun of youth rises to dispel the darkness.

With their pure eyes, bright smiles, indefatigable fighting spirit, and overflowing energy, youth are beacons of hope. When youth vibrantly step forward to take action, a new age dawns.

The Soka Gakkai designated 1982 as the “Year of Youth” and made a dynamic fresh start aiming toward the 21st century.

On New Year’s morning, Shin’ichi Yamamoto watched the sun rise in the eastern sky from the Kanagawa Culture Center.

“The curtain has risen on the age of youth!”

Shin’ichi keenly felt this whenever he visited different regions around Japan. The young people he had personally fostered with great care and attention had grown strong like young eagles. They were filled with eager determination to spread their wings wide and soar into the vast skies of the new century.

He called out in his heart: “Fellow members of Soka everywhere! Now is the time. We must seize the moment. Together with the youth, let us create a growing momentum for kosen-rufu!”

Shin’ichi composed several poems for the New Year.

On the distant horizon of
the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law,
mountains are visible
sparkling like diamonds
in the light of the morning sun.

***

I pray for the safety and well-being
of my precious friends
who time and time again
have surmounted
stormy peaks.

***

The joy of
selflessly dedicating one’s life
to spreading the Mystic Law!
Our efforts will live forever
in history.

On January 1, New Year’s gongyo sessions were held in five rooms at the Kanagawa Culture Center—on the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth floors, as well as on the second basement level. Shin’ichi, wearing a formal morning coat, visited each room, attending over a dozen sessions to encourage the participants.

He had decided that this year would be crucial in opening the way to victory in the new century. The only means to achieve that, he concluded, was for him to engage personally with the members, talk with them, and motivate and inspire everyone through his own example.

Only a courageous leader can foster courageous leaders.

That afternoon members of the Soka High School soccer team visited Shin’ichi, their school’s founder, at the Kanagawa Culture Center. They had come directly from the opening ceremony for the All Japan High School Soccer Tournament at the National Stadium in Tokyo. They wanted to report on their participation as representatives of western Tokyo, the Tokyo B block.

A pleasant, energetic young man, he said: “In the remaining games, I’ll do my best for all of you as well.”

It was another drama of youth.

Cheers of Victory 62

Shin’ichi took a photo with the soccer team members. Knowing this was the school’s first national tournament, he told them: “Just play like you always do and have fun!”

The players’ tension seemed to melt away.

Shin’ichi said to those gathered around them: “When they lose a match, please smile brightly and encourage them. When they win, cry with joy!”

On January 2, Shin’ichi’s 54th birthday, the Soka High School team played its first-round tournament game against a high school from Oita Prefecture [in Kyushu].

The team had vowed to win this first match and make it their birthday present to their school’s founder. They played better than ever and displayed excellent teamwork.

The goalkeeper had injured a ligament in his left knee in a practice game just before the end of the year. But he still played, knee taped up, and defended the goal with all his might, at one point even suffering a bloody nose. It was a close-fought game, and as time ran out the teams remained tied 0-0. In the penalty shootout, the Soka High School team outscored their opponents to win the game. With their invincible spirit, they had achieved a brilliant victory.

The game was televised, and the jubilant players were seen proudly singing their school dormitory song, “Kusaki wa Moyuru” (The Trees and Grasses Are Blooming).1

On January 4, they played their second-round game against a Hokkaido high school. After a tight match, they lost 0-1. Though this was their first national championship, they had given their all, showing admirable fighting spirit.

The forward for the Hokkaido team was a Soka Gakkai member. He went over to the Soka High School coach after the game, bowed and thanked him, and introduced himself. The two shook hands firmly, and applause broke out.

A pleasant, energetic young man, he said: “In the remaining games, I’ll do my best for all of you as well.”

It was another drama of youth.

Cheers of Victory 63

On January 1, Shin’ichi attended New Year’s gongyo sessions in the morning and afternoon at the Kanagawa Culture Center. He then traveled to Shizuoka Prefecture where, on January 2, he participated in a number of events at the head temple, Taiseki-ji.

On January 3, he encouraged leaders from throughout Shizuoka Prefecture at the Shizuoka Training Center [in Atami]. On January 4 and 5, he led a New Year’s training session there for Soka Gakkai Education Department members.

He was starting the New Year at full speed, like an airplane taking off.

On January 9, he attended a Tokyo Metropolitan Area high school division gongyo session with President Eisuke Akizuki in the Mentor-Disciple Hall at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters.

He prayed deeply with everyone in front of the Soka Gakkai Joju Gohonzon. Inscribed at the request of Josei Toda to realize the Soka Gakkai’s vow for worldwide kosen-rufu, this Gohonzon bears the inscription “For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law.”

As Shin’ichi chanted, he vividly recalled the time in October 1965, more than 16 years earlier, when, in this very same hall, he had presented the newly designed high school division flag to the division’s leaders from each area.

Most of the high school students at that event were now actively involved in kosen-rufu as core youth division leaders. He felt exhilarated when he thought that the young people there today would become the pillars supporting the Soka Gakkai in the 21st century.

“The Soka Gakkai is fostering a steady stream of young lions who will carry on our work. The future is secure”—this conviction was the source of Shin’ichi’s courage. He was determined to make even greater efforts to foster the members of the youth division, student division, high school division, junior high school division, and the boys and girls division.

After gongyo, Shin’ichi took group photos with the participants, wholeheartedly celebrating the future of these bright young people. After the meeting, he also took photos with members of the boys and girls division.

He then went to the Meguro Peace Center2 for an informal meeting with representatives of Meguro and Shinagawa wards. A temple in Meguro served as a base for the Shoshin-kai, and members had been fighting hard to defend the organization from these ill-intentioned priests.

From the start of the New Year, driven by his wish to encourage members striving earnestly amid significant obstacles, Shin’ichi lost no time in visiting this embattled area.

Cheers of Victory 64

At the gathering at the Meguro Peace Center, Shin’ichi listened to various reports from the participants.

The Meguro members had suffered terribly from the Shoshin-kai’s arrogant and vicious attacks. The priests’ reprehensible actions, motivated by envy of the Soka Gakkai’s growth, undermined kosen-rufu.

Shin’ichi said to the Meguro leaders: “Now is the time to launch a fresh effort in earnest. Action is key. No matter how difficult the situation, action will move things in a new direction.”

“If your resolve changes, especially for you as leaders, you’ll be able to open the way forward, however challenging the circumstances.”

Afterward, Shin’ichi led a gongyo session for Meguro members and gave his all to encouraging them.

“What is correct faith? It is to believe in the Gohonzon as long as you live, whatever may happen. It is also important to clearly explain the truth to those confused about what is right and wrong, good and evil. That requires courage. I hope that you, our Meguro members, will actively engage in Buddhist dialogue with just such courage, not worrying about what others think or say about you.”

“What life wants from us is courage,”3 said the Brazilian author João Guimarães Rosa (1908–67).

Shin’ichi was scheduled to leave Tokyo the following day for a guidance tour of Akita Prefecture [in the northern Tohoku region of Japan]. Though he still had to prepare for his trip, he continued encouraging the members as long as he could. The members in Meguro had suffered more intensely at the hands of anti-Soka Gakkai priests than any other area in Tokyo. Yet, they had remained steadfast and persevered on the noble path of Soka. He therefore wanted them to have a breakthrough and achieve fresh victories.

That evening Shin’ichi wrote in his diary: “The abominable actions of the priests have made our members weep bitter tears. That is truly unacceptable. When I think of the many who suffered, I am deeply anguished. The wisdom of the Buddha and the validity of our faith will be proven, without a doubt.”

The Meguro members rose to action with unwavering faith. They refused to condone the priests’ malicious attempts to disrupt the movement for kosen-rufu. Confident that Buddhism means being victorious, they were determined to win and demonstrate the integrity of the Soka Gakkai for all to see.

The courageous members of Meguro would go on to achieve the top propagation results in the country that year by introducing 1,115 new households.

Cheers of Victory 65

Viewed from the air, Akita was a beautiful silvery snowscape. Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s plane landed at the Akita Airport shortly after 2:00 p.m. on January 10, 1982, after an hour’s flight from Tokyo.

Shin’ichi had refused to be dissuaded from traveling to this region in the middle of winter, deciding to go ahead with his first guidance tour of Akita in close to a decade. This was because here, too, the Shoshin-kai priests had relentlessly attacked and harassed the members, as severely as they had done in Kyushu’s Oita Prefecture. That is why he had flown to snowy Akita as soon as he possibly could after the New Year holiday period.

Shin’ichi greeted the Akita prefectural leaders who met him at the airport and went outside with them. The icy wind stung his face. About 70 or 80 members were waiting at the curbside. Shin’ichi would have liked to rush over to them, shake each person’s hand, and praise them for their courageous efforts. But since he didn’t want to inconvenience other travelers, he called out to them: “Let’s meet again soon!”

Shin’ichi then got into the waiting car and headed to the Akita Culture Center4 in Sanno-numata-machi. The building had just been completed at the end of the previous year. From the car window, he saw snow-blanketed fields glistening in the sunlight that peeked between the clouds. Heavy snow had fallen the previous day from before dawn through the morning.

After driving a short distance, he saw about 40 people standing in front of a gas station. Soka Gakkai vice president Susumu Aota, who was in charge of the Tohoku region, said to Shin’ichi: “Those are Soka Gakkai members. All of them have worked really hard.”

Nodding silently, Shin’ichi asked the driver to stop the car. He got out and walked over to them. Water from the melting snow seeped into his leather shoes, but knowing they had been waiting in the cold wind, he couldn’t just pass by.

“Thank you all for waiting, despite the cold!”

The members cheered. Their faces shone with earnest resolve and their unbounded joy that this day had finally come.

The firewood of hardship makes the flames of joy burn brighter.

Cheers of Victory 66

There were men clad in padded jackets with trousers tucked into their boots; women in boots and woolen caps; and, since it was Sunday, rosy-cheeked children with their parents.

Taking care not to slip in the snow, Shin’ichi raised a hand in greeting and, with a warm, embracing smile, walked over to the group.

“Thank you, everyone! How are you? I am sorry for the trouble you’ve endured. I will continue to support and protect you. I hope you will all live long and be happy. Today marks a fresh start. Let’s do our best!”

Shin’ichi patted the children on the head and shook hands with the men. Some reported on their work or health. It became an outdoor discussion meeting.

Before leaving, Shin’ichi took a group photo with everyone.

The car drove off, and after a short while, they came upon another group of members standing by the road. Shin’ichi had the car stop again. He got out, offered encouragement, and then posed for photos with them. The Seikyo Shimbun photographer was busy snapping his shutter.

It happened several more times. Near the intersection at Ushijima-nishi-ni-chome, a group of 70 or 80 members peered at each passing car. They had all chanted for fine weather and the success of the upcoming events.

“Sensei is certain to take this road,” they thought. “Let’s go out and welcome him!” So they waited.

Shin’ichi stopped the car and quickly stepped out, surprising everyone. Their faces lit up with joy.

“I’ve come here to see you all! To commemorate this day, let’s take a picture! I want to celebrate your victory after the suffering you’ve endured. You are always in my heart. I am chanting for you, and I know you are all chanting for me. This is the spirit of mentor and disciple. Though we may not meet every day, our hearts are connected.”

One woman said: “Sensei! We’re fine. Nothing anyone says can shake our conviction in faith. We are your disciples. We are lions!”

Cheers of Victory 67

Shin’ichi and his party drove on, and just a few hundred meters away, another group was waiting in front of an auto factory. Shin’ichi got out of the car again and began another outdoor discussion meeting.

Among the group were local leaders who had worked hard to protect and encourage their fellow members as malicious priests tried to get them to quit the Soka Gakkai.

Shin’ichi shook their hands firmly and praised their efforts.

“I have received detailed reports about your all-out efforts to protect the members. The Soka Gakkai is strong because of people like you who share my spirit and fight hard on my behalf. That is the unity of ‘many in body, one in mind.’

“When troubles arise, some will always be easily swayed, have doubts about faith, and criticize the Soka Gakkai. That will cause them great regret someday.”

A passage from “The Opening of the Eyes” rose to his mind:

“Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples morning and evening, and yet they begin to harbor doubts and abandon their faith. Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes.” (WND-1, 283)

Shin’ichi continued: “You refused to be defeated. At the crucial moment, you fought your hardest and won. Your valiant struggle will shine brilliantly in the history of kosen-rufu.”

Everyone smiled brightly.

On his way to the Akita Culture Center, Shin’ichi stopped nine times to speak with and encourage members.

Tohoku Region leader Akio Yamanaka, who had observed Shin’ichi’s actions up close while accompanying him and Soka Gakkai vice president Susumu Aota, reflected deeply: “Sensei wholeheartedly encourages the members. He wishes to infuse the spirit of a lion into each person he meets. This is Sensei’s spirit and the Soka Gakkai spirit. I will also treasure and encourage members with all my heart!”

Words alone are not enough to pass on a spirit; it requires embodying that spirit, teaching it to others through one’s actions.

Cheers of Victory 68

Many members awaited Shin’ichi at the Akita Culture Center. In the center’s garden, preparations had been made for the unveiling of a monument engraved with the words “Akita Cherry Blossoms” in Shin’ichi’s calligraphy, followed by a tree-planting ceremony.

Shin’ichi arrived and, as sunlight poured down between the clouds, he conducted the two ceremonies and joined the members in commemorative photographs.

Afterward, Shin’ichi was shown around inside the center by prefecture leader Toshihisa Komatsuda, who then asked him to name the plaza in front of the entrance.

“I believe it snowed yesterday, but today the skies have cleared,” Shin’ichi said. “How about Sunny Skies Plaza? Even though there may be storms and blizzards, they always come to an end and sunny days return. And our Buddhist practice is about ensuring that this is what happens in our lives.”

Komatsuda beamed in delight. “‘Sunny Skies’ is our vow!”

Ten years earlier, in July 1972, destructive rains had fallen throughout Japan. By the time Shin’ichi visited Sendai on July 9 as part of his Tohoku Region guidance tour, landslides and mudslides in Kyushu and Shikoku had resulted in nearly 200 dead or missing. Akita also experienced heavy rains, and in the northern part of the prefecture, rivers overflowed and caused extensive flooding.

Shin’ichi had been scheduled to participate in group photo sessions in Akita on July 12, but these were canceled because of the rain. Nevertheless, after finishing group photo sessions in Yamagata Prefecture, Shin’ichi had left for Akita, arriving there on July 11.

“Everyone must be feeling down because of the flooding,” Shin’ichi had thought. “Therefore, I’ll let nothing stop me from going to Akita and encouraging those suffering the most.”

He had visited the Soka Gakkai Akita Community Center and asked in detail about the rain damage throughout the prefecture. He swiftly took steps, including dispatching leaders to the afflicted areas and sending messages of support and small gifts of encouragement to members who were affected. He also had attended a meeting at the center and stressed that the power of faith in the Mystic Law would enable them to change poison into medicine.

The rain had stopped by then, and a beautiful sunset filled the sky. Since that time, sunny skies and sunsets had become symbols of overcoming the ordeal of destructive rains for the Akita members.

Cheers of Victory 69

Having overcome the storms of troubles caused by Shoshin-kai priests, the Akita members now welcomed Shin’ichi with the sunny skies of joy.

And so Komatsuda and the others couldn’t conceal their delight at the name Sunny Skies Plaza.

On the evening that Shin’ichi arrived in Akita, a conference of Tohoku representatives took place at a venue in Akita City. A detailed report described the cruel and indefensible way Shoshin-kai priests had treated Soka Gakkai members in Omagari and Noshiro and other areas in Akita.

At one temple, when a family asked the chief priest to conduct a memorial service, he seized on the opportunity, saying he would only do so on the condition that they quit the Soka Gakkai. The family refused to bow to this ultimatum. Their local Soka Gakkai block (present-day district) leader led the ceremony instead. The Soka Gakkai members recited the sutra and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together with solemn dignity, ignoring the ex-members who had shown up primarily to mock them [for daring to hold a ceremony without a priest].

At another temple, a priest told a woman grieving over the untimely death of a loved one that it served her right because she was a Soka Gakkai member. This was an unbelievably cruel remark from someone whose profession was supposedly dedicated to people’s spiritual well-being.

At the conference, it was decided which leaders would be dispatched to Omagari and Noshiro to encourage the members there.

Feeling great respect for the members who had fought so hard, Shin’ichi said: “It tears me apart to hear what you’ve been through. You have shown incredible fortitude. The Daishonin would praise you most highly for your unwavering commitment to truth and justice for the sake of kosen-rufu.

“I hope those of you who are leaders will warmly embrace everyone and do your best to support and protect them. In that effort, being considerate is very important. People can easily fall sway to emotions, and thoughtless offhand remarks can be hurtful. In the realm of faith, we must never be the cause of members quitting because our words and actions have been careless or our language abusive. Treating members with the same respect we would show a Buddha is fundamental.

“I’d like you to be deeply aware that the Soka Gakkai is a realm in which we respect each individual, exercise good sense, and help one another become better people.”

Cheers of Victory 70

After the Tohoku conference, Shin’ichi returned to the Akita Culture Center, where he did gongyo with event staff and took group photographs with youth division members. That day, he had encouraged close to a thousand people.

When Shin’ichi learned that many members were chanting at home for the success of the various events, he chanted daimoku for them in deep appreciation. Years later, Shin’ichi bestowed the name Snowy Akita Guidance Tour Glory Group on these members.

The following day, January 11, dawned to blue skies. The sunlight was dazzlingly bright.

Just before noon, Shin’ichi and leaders from Akita and the Tohoku region took a Soka Gakkai Headquarters bus to the Akita Community Center. It had served as the local organization’s main center until the Akita Culture Center was completed at the end of the previous year. For a month from January 1, an exhibition highlighting Shin’ichi’s efforts to promote world peace was being held there.

He made this visit expressly to meet and convey his appreciation to those youth who had worked over the New Year holidays to prepare and run the exhibition.

“Thank you! You have worked very hard.”

Shin’ichi spoke with the young people in charge and those acting as guides. He also took the time to view the exhibition.

Afterward, Shin’ichi talked with representatives over lunch. He then visited the family of a pioneer member—the late Koji Sato, the first leader of Akita Chapter, which came to be known as the “champion of Japan’s northwestern coast.”

Sato joined the Soka Gakkai at the age of 39, in 1953. His youngest brother, who lived in Tokyo, started practicing first, and he shared Nichiren Buddhism with his five siblings. Four of them joined the Soka Gakkai in 1952—all except Koji, the eldest.

However, observing the organization, Koji Sato thought: “The Soka Gakkai is attracting so many young people. I would really like to meet its president and talk with him.”

He set off to visit Josei Toda. After they had talked at length, Toda looked at him intently and said: “I entrust Akita to you!”

Struck by Toda’s energy and character, Sato said instinctively: “Yes! I will do my best in Akita.”

Life-to-life communication moves the human heart.

  • *1At the time, “Kusaki wa Moyuru” was the song of the Tokyo Soka Junior and Senior High Schools’ young men’s dormitory. It became the official school song in September 1983.
  • *2The center was later renamed the Meguro International Culture Center.
  • *3Translated from Portuguese. João Guimarães Rosa, Grande Sertão: Veredas (Rio de Janeiro: Livraria José Olympio Editôra, 1958), p. 301.
  • *4Later named the Akita Central Culture Center.