The Dragon King’s Daughter

How contributing financially to kosen-rufu taught Toki Masubuchi to persevere in building the restaurant—and life—of her dreams.

Photo: Dez Thompkins.

World Tribune: Thank you for sharing your experience with us. We understand you run a successful restaurant business in Louisville, Kentucky.

Toki Masubuchi: Yes, I opened my current restaurant in 2009, but only after my first one had not been as successful as I had hoped. The restaurant business can be tough—and starting a second one was risky—but when I thought back to why I wanted to open a restaurant in the first place, I remembered my original dream had been to run a successful restaurant and support the SGI-USA financially in a way that matched my vow for kosen-rufu. This meant I needed to dream as big as SGI President Ikeda. I couldn’t give up on my dreams.

WT: What did you do in response?

Toki: With a fresh determination, I decided to call my second venture, an Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant, the Dragon King’s Daughter. In the Lotus Sutra, the 8-year-old dragon girl declares before those assembled to hear the Buddha’s teaching—“Watch me attain Buddhahood!” (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 227)—and she attains Buddhahood in her present form.

For women’s division members today, Sensei says this means sharing our experiences, “in the spirit of declaring: ‘Watch me achieve human revolution!’ and create ripples of unsurpassed joy through their warmhearted dialogues with friends” (See Oct. 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 2). I began to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a steadfast spirit to contribute to world peace, just as I am.

WT: How did you get started in the restaurant business?

Toki: I had moved to Louisville in 1995 as a college student and began waiting tables at a Japanese restaurant to make ends meet. I saved my tips in a big jar so that I would be able to financially contribute to American kosen-rufu. Sometimes I couldn’t afford electricity, but I would chant to the Gohonzon in the dark and press forward. Giving to the organization when I had little was my way of deciding that my struggles were temporary.

WT: When did you open your first restaurant?

Toki: In 2004. I had no culinary experience, but what I had were the Gohonzon, Nichiren’s writings and President Ikeda’s encouragement. A senior in faith encouraged me to read The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin from cover to cover, which I did seven years in a row. This was how I improved my language skills while also studying Buddhism. I was struck by this passage in particular: “I am praying that, no matter how troubled the times may become, the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters will protect all of you, praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground” (“Rebuking Slander of the Law,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 444). With unwavering prayer, I threw myself into SGI activities and home visits as much as I could.

Refreshing my vow in front of the Gohonzon,
I determined to spread kosen-rufu through
cooking, by creating a restaurant where
everyone could be happy.

All these causes gave me the strength to continue, especially as I faced many painful personal difficulties. I was struggling with my marriage and eventually divorced. At the same time, at work, I had to send the entire staff home on several occasions and do everything myself, just to stay open. I began to doubt myself, thinking: “I’m no good at this”; and “Other people are better than I am, are smarter than I am.” During those times, I would recall the Daishonin’s words: “Spur yourself to muster the power of faith. Regard your survival as wondrous. Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1001).

Refreshing my vow in front of the Gohonzon, I determined to spread kosen-rufu through cooking, by creating a restaurant where everyone could be happy. And I started over again.

WT: When you opened your second restaurant, what approach did you take to spreading kosen-rufu through your cooking?

Toki: I tried to create the happiest environment and prepare my food with care. Even now, I come to work every day smiling, and I share this spirit with my staff. I ask servers to stay positive and to be proud of what they do—that they are building something in the neighborhood and bringing happiness to the community.

I believe that everything has a Buddha nature, even the food we eat, and the best way to make the food taste good is to chant for its highest potential to come through. So while I wash the rice, I chant, and when I open the rice cooker, I call my staff over and say, “Look at how happy the rice is today!” I chant for the fish as I prepare it, and I chant for the vegetables as I stir them. Spreading happiness into my community with the happy food I create in my kitchen—that is my mission.

WT: What is your life like today?

Toki: My life has become really joyful. I am now remarried, and my husband, Yoni, and I have a 6-year-old daughter. I’ve opened a second Dragon King’s Daughter restaurant in Indiana, and I own a bar as well. I have a steady clientele and a good reputation as a chef and restaurateur.

I also save every year for the May Contribution activity, but now instead of a jar, I use a special bank account just for my kosen-rufu funds. I set a goal and put the money aside. I get so much benefit and joy from practicing, and I want to show my appreciation for the great good fortune of being an SGI member. When I meet my goal, I can look at the Gohonzon and say: “I did it again this year! Thank you so much!”