Feature

1961: 100,000 Young Men Gathered for Peace

On Nov. 5, Young Men’s Division Day, 100,000 young men gathered at the National Sports Stadium in Tokyo.


On November 5, 1961, the 10th Soka Gakkai Young Men’s Division General Meeting was held at the National Sports Stadium in Tokyo with 100,000 young men in attendance. The inspiration for this gathering was based on their determination to become the pillars of the country, for the happiness of the people of Japan and around the world.

Leading up to the meeting, President Ikeda said to the young men’s leaders:

It is the mission of youth to clearly perceive the nature of the times—to create the time . . . I want to make this meeting a fresh beginning, a departure for the youth in their efforts to build a new era leading to the 21st century. History has always been shaped by the power of youth. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, p. 156)

The National Sports Stadium in Tokyo, filled with 100,000 victorious young men, November 5, 1961.
The National Sports Stadium in Tokyo, filled with 100,000 victorious young men, November 5, 1961. Photos by Seikyo Press.

From this gathering emerged many dedicated leaders of the Soka Gakkai and capable individuals who greatly contributed to the betterment of society. November 5 came to be known as Young Men’s Division Day.

“Youth, Be Patriotic!”

The origins of these events can be traced back to the fall of 1954, when President Toda penned “Youth, Be Patriotic.” In this essay, he expressed the importance of raising multitudes of capable, united young people who will stand up to transform society for the better. He states:

Youth, just one of you stand! A second and then a third will definitely follow. Once 100,000 patriots gather in this way, then clearer than light, it will be possible to bring happiness to the suffering masses. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, p. 176)

At the same time, President Toda redefined what it meant to be a “patriot.” In Japan during World War II, a patriot was someone who was willing to unquestioningly die for the glory of the nation. President Toda, however, defined a patriot as a person dedicated to helping the people of their country attain supreme happiness.

On August 24, 1947, when 19-year-old Daisaku Ikeda first met President Toda, one of his questions was, “What is a true patriot?”

To this, Mr. Toda responded: “A true patriot is none other than one who believes in the Mystic Law. The reason is that a believer in Nichiren Buddhism can help people lead lives of happiness for eternity and be the driving force for reconstructing an unhappy nation; they can create the foundation for a happy, peaceful society” (The Human Revolution, pp. 229–30).

The 10th Young Men’s Division General Meeting commences with a procession of 13,000 young men marching in unison.
The 10th Young Men’s Division General Meeting commences with a procession of 13,000 young men marching in unison.

In the midst of the economic and spiritual devastation following World War II, Mr. Toda wrote in “Youth, Be Patriotic!”:

Misery! Where have you come from and where are you going? Look up and how many of our citizens do you see who care about the welfare of their country and the people? Either none exist or all are absorbed in their own pursuits. Out of my concern for this situation I cannot help but cry out with Nichiren Daishonin’s lionlike pledge: “I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” (WND-1, 280–81). (The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, p. 176)

Mr. Toda’s determination to wage an all-out battle against misery, reveals the heart of the Soka Gakkai’s movement for human happiness. President Toda courageously vowed to change the direction of Japan and the world by developing a core of 100,000 youth who, based on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism, could stand up for the dignity of life.

SGI President Ikeda delivering his speech to conclude the 10th Young Men’s Division General Meeting.
SGI President Ikeda delivering his speech to conclude the 10th Young Men’s Division General Meeting.

When “Youth, Be Patriotic!” was written, the young Daisaku Ikeda had just been appointed the Soka Gakkai’s youth chief of staff, taking full responsibility for all organizational matters. Reading President Toda’s call to gather 100,000 patriots, he determined to accomplish this dream of his mentor—even if he had to do it alone.

In 1954, only 10,000 young men belonged to the Soka Gakkai. In the following years, however, Daisaku made historic breakthroughs in expanding Soka Gakkai membership in places throughout Japan, such as Bunkyo, Sapporo, Kansai and Yamaguchi. As a result, by the end of 1957, the young men’s division had expanded to 78,000 members.

In January 1958, President Toda had fallen very ill. One day while visiting Mr. Toda, Daisaku promised that he would reach the goal of 100,000 young men’s division members. President Ikeda writes about their exchange in The New Human Revolution:

“That’s wonderful!” Mr. Toda replied . . . “When 100,000 young men are united, they can achieve anything. The dawn of a new age for the people is coming.”

“Yes,” Shin’ichi agreed, “once we reach our goal, we will celebrate by gathering ‘100,000 patriots.’ I really want you to see it.”

“Yes, I’d like that, I’d like that very much,” Mr. Toda replied, nodding several times. (vol. 5, p. 162)

On April 2, 1958, President Toda passed away before the dream he cherished of gathering 100,000 young men was realized. The young Daisaku Ikeda, while deeply saddened, did not waver in his determination to make his mentor’s vision a reality.

A Gathering of 100,000 Young Men Is Announced

With his mentor’s guidance and spirit firmly in his heart, Daisaku Ikeda continued to strive to expand the young men’s division and by the end of 1958, the Soka Gakkai achieved a membership of 100,000 young men. In May 1961, having reached a membership of 250,000, it was announced that there would be a gathering of 100,000 victorious young men in November.

Deeply inspired, young men’s division members across the country began valiantly introducing Nichiren Buddhism to others. As a result, in only six months, the young men’s division membership surged from 250,000 to 350,000!

“Victory”

Leading up to the meeting, several young men constructed a large banner with the word “Victory” emblazoned on it. In addition to the historic achievement of gathering 100,000 young men, President Ikeda also wanted the event to be a catalyst for each participant to create a great victory in their lives.

Many of the attendees made determinations toward the meeting. By the day of the meeting, for example, one young man had introduced five or six friends to Buddhism while another had become the top salesperson in his company. As a result of achieving these goals before attending the meeting, each participant felt the banner adorned with the word “victory” represented their victorious lives as youth devoted to achieving kosen-rufu.

100,000 Determined Patriots Gather for Peace

By 8:30 a.m. on November 5, 90 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, 100,000 young men filled the stands. Because of the precise preparations by the young men’s division leaders and support staff, all were seated within 30 minutes of the doors opening.

Most attendees wore dark suits, which made the event seem somewhat somber. To create a more dynamic atmosphere, the young men’s leaders discussed the issue and decided to ask all participants sitting in the bottom half of the stadium to take off their coats. The stands quickly became a sea of blue and white, which provided an electric backdrop to the day’s event.

The event began 15 minutes early with the entrance of President Ikeda and the young men’s leaders. The young men’s brass band played as a group of 13,000 young men marched with them in perfect unison.

These 13,000 young men had rehearsed their marching for weeks leading up to the event on the banks of the nearby Arakawa River. They decided that if they were to march on behalf of the young men of the Soka Gakkai, they would be the best marchers in Japan. They practiced and practiced until their legs and arms ached. In perfecting their march, each developed confidence that he could master anything in life.

Now, on the day of the event, they marched with faultless precision, taking almost half an hour for the entire group of 13,000 to enter the stadium.

Seeing the 100,000 young men gather, President Ikeda felt he had finally achieved the final promise he made to his mentor when he became the youth division chief of staff.

The event ended with 100,000 young men singing the Soka Gakkai song “Song of the Dawn,” which includes the lyrics:

Young blood surges with passion
Now dawn has come
To save the destitute masses . . .

Soon after this finale, all 100,000 in attendance let out a courageous roar that shook the nearby Meiji Outer Shrine.

President Ikeda Calls on Youth
to Be the Hope for Humankind

The following excerpt highlights President Ikeda’s words given at the November 5 young men’s division gathering:

President Ikeda enters the stadium and greets the 100,000 patriots who gathered with the same vow as their mentor.
President Ikeda enters the stadium and greets the 100,000 patriots who gathered with the same vow as their mentor.

“I share your joy in holding this 10th Young Men’s Division General Meeting with 100,000 representatives in attendance,” he began. “For the last few minutes, I have been quite overcome with the thought of how happy Mr. Toda would be if only he were here with us today.”

The world’s major powers, Shin’ichi continued, those nations that ought to have been leading the world in a positive direction, were instead plunging humankind into the depths of fear and anxiety with their deployment of nuclear weapons. Even in Japan, leaders whose primary responsibility should have been to protect people’s rights had become intoxicated by power.

Shin’ichi then addressed the cause of this state of affairs: “Why is there no end to the misery and unhappiness that plague Japan and the rest of the world? The answer to this question becomes clear when we examine it in light of Nichiren Buddhism: Neither society’s leaders nor the people who make up and support society possess any solid guiding principles or philosophy. Or, if they do have a philosophy, it is not a great philosophy rooted in life itself, not one capable of making happiness a reality for oneself and others.

“In contrast, we of the Soka Gakkai embrace Nichiren Daishonin’s perfect, faultless philosophy of life, by which we can achieve human revolution and create peace in society and the world. Let us therefore continue to proclaim boldly that this magnificent philosophy is the highest guiding principle for human happiness.”

A loud roar of applause arose from the audience, expressing approval and commitment. Shin’ichi waited for the applause to die down before continuing: “My dearest wish is that each of you will become a victor in life who, for the sake of all people’s happiness and for kosen-rufu will prove in your unique situation and circumstances the validity of Nichiren Buddhism. I am praying solely for your growth and unyielding efforts as young people who are the treasure of the Soka Gakkai and the hope of humankind.

“That is all I wish to say today. Thank you very much for your great efforts.” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, pp. 182–83)

 

(pp. 16–21)