Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 31: The Great Path to World Peace [31.19]

31.19 Bringing the World Together through Culture

President Ikeda founded the Min-On Concert Association—Min-On literally meaning “the people’s music”—in October 1963. In this excerpt, he shares what inspired him to do so and the institution’s achievements in bringing people closer together through music and other performing arts.

Music speaks to the heart, striking universal inner chords to create a harmony of empathy and friendship. It can rouse our courage, inspire a prayer for peace, and awaken our sense of pride and dignity. Such are the beneficial powers of music.

From my youth, I dreamed of uniting people through music and creating a beautiful melody of culture and peace throughout the world.


This October [2003], the Min-On Concert Association celebrated its 40th anniversary. Since its establishment, it has sponsored more than 60,000 performances across a wide range of genres—from orchestral and chamber music, opera and ballet, to pop music, tango, and folk dance.


Whether it be literature or music, my mentor, Josei Toda, always encouraged us to try to experience the best the arts have to offer.

Listening to the masterworks of Beethoven on a hand-cranked gramophone in my youth was a source of incredible encouragement. It infused me with the strength I needed to get through those extremely trying times.

Even in 1960, when I became Soka Gakkai president, classical music concerts and stage performances in general were beyond the reach of most ordinary people. They seemed unconnected to people’s lives. But it was not right for the arts to remain closed off and accessible only to a privileged few—this was an age where ordinary people were increasingly taking center stage.

I wanted to make the great music that was a treasure of humankind available to all. That was my motivation in establishing Min-On. I worked very hard and overcame many difficulties to make it a reality.

When I founded Min-On, one of my dreams was to invite to Japan the Teatro alla Scala (La Scala), the leading Italian opera company. Many scoffed at the idea, ridiculing it and dismissing it as impossible. But eventually—after 16 years of negotiations—we succeeded, and in 1981, La Scala gave a magnificent series of performances for the Japanese public. Carlo Maria Badini, La Scala’s superintendent at the time, describing the scope of this tour, said that the troupe had brought everything but the building itself to Japan.


Ordinary people are the foundation of the world. When the music of peace reverberates among people far and wide, the light of goodness and beauty will envelop society and, indeed, the entire world.

In 1966, three years after its founding, Min-On invited the Soviet National Academy Novosibirsk Ballet to perform as the first in its World Ballet Series. It was the height of the Cold War, when attention was focused on that polarized political conflict. Fear of the Soviet Union was widespread. Yet even in that climate, the arrival in Japan of such beautiful cultural goodwill ambassadors stirred a warm response and brought flowers of friendship to blossom. Cultural exchange is a bridge to mutual understanding and a forerunner of peace.

Tensions between China and the Soviet Union resulted in a round of particularly challenging negotiations over the 1985 “Road towards Peace from Afar” tour. This was the fourth concert in the series “A Musical Voyage Along the Silk Road,” which ultimately brought together performing artists from China, Turkey, Uzbekistan [then part of the Soviet Union], and Japan. The Min-On staff had firm faith that culture could overcome political differences and pressed on tenaciously in their negotiations. This was based on the conviction that, because all countries consist of the people who live there, there is no reason they couldn’t understand one another as fellow human beings. When that passionate commitment to cultural exchange was communicated, both China and the Soviet Union gave the go-ahead.

The tour, consisting of 30 performances in 26 cities, was a great success. After it ended, I greeted the artists at the Seikyo Shimbun building in Shinanomachi, Tokyo. The leaders of each country’s delegation of performers were unanimous in the belief that the tour would broaden the way to future peace and friendship. To me, their words resounded as a tribute to the victory of culture. Four years later, China and the Soviet Union had a dramatic reconciliation.

Music knows no barriers. It transcends national borders, languages, cultures, and ethnicity, bringing hearts together in a symphony of peace. This is the reason the Min-On Concert Association has succeeded in cultural exchanges with 90 countries and territories. To me, this great road of cultural exchange uniting people is a Silk Road of the spirit.


I’m sure I am not alone in feeling that this magnificent spiritual Silk Road will continue to open ever more widely in tandem with the development of Min-On, which is committed to bringing the world together through culture.

From an essay series “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, December 24, 2003.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.