Feature

The Kansai Festival in the Rain, 1966

Soka Gakkai Culture Festivals

Photo by Seikyo Press.


Ten years after the Osaka Campaign of 1956,[1]Osaka Campaign of 1956: The 28-year-old Daisaku Ikeda, determined to fulfill his mentor’s vow to rid the world of suffering, led intensive efforts to introduce others to Buddhism, culminating in 11,111 families joining the Soka Gakkai in Osaka Chapter in May 1956. Even today, this achievement remains unprecedented in the annals of kosen-rufu and serves as the blueprint in faith for making the impossible possible. the Kansai members decided to hold a culture festival on September 18, 1966, at the Hanshin Koshien Baseball Stadium in Osaka, to commemorate the anniversary of that historic achievement, which formed the basis of Ever-Victorious Kansai. In the days leading up to the festival, however, a typhoon descended on the Kansai Region, triggering torrential downpours and threatening to cancel the event.

By the day of the festival, the typhoon had passed, but rain continued to fall. When Soka Gakkai President Daisaku Ikeda arrived in Osaka, he discussed with the local leaders whether to proceed with the festival. Just as they were about to cancel the event, the rain stopped. The local leaders decided to begin the festival 15 minutes early, at 3:15 p.m. During the festival, the performers remained undeterred, carrying out each act steeped in mud. As President Ikeda watched them proudly performing, unfazed by the inclement weather, he proclaimed: “This is the Kansai Spirit!” In fact, the term “Kansai Spirit” was born from the Kansai Festival in the Rain.

A New Beginning for Ever-Victorious Kansai

SGI President Ikeda writes about the Kansai Festival in the Rain in volume 11 of The New Human Revolution, pp. 228–29. He appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

“Today’s culture festival was really wonderful. I’d give it a score of 100—no, 120. The Tokyo Culture Festival two years ago was very good, but Kansai made today’s festival a success despite the pouring rain. They transformed these terrible conditions into a dramatic, inspiring event, and they won. That is the Kansai spirit.
“Ever-victorious is a distinction bestowed upon those who continually triumph over adverse circumstances. Let’s make today a new beginning for Ever-Victorious Kansai.”

■  ■  ■

“As the years go by, this culture festival in the rain will shine with ever more brilliance as one of Kansai’s golden achievements. Those mud-splattered costumes will become the participants’ greatest treasures.”

Steve Arie with his wife, Kay. Steve was a member of the young men’s gymnastics team that performed in the 1966 Kansai Culture Festival, when he vowed to President Ikeda to never be defeated by life’s trials. Photo by Debra Williams.

A Promise to My Mentor

Steve Arie
Los Angeles

Living Buddhism: How did you start practicing Buddhism?

Steve Arie: When I was 19, a high school friend came to my home to tell me about Nichiren Buddhism. He had recently started practicing himself, and I was shocked to see how happy he had become. I attended a Soka Gakkai meeting with him and received the Gohonzon immediately. Later, I learned that he had actually planned to talk to another friend that day, but his friend wasn’t home so he visited me. I noticed a change in my life, when my father started controlling his temper.

We understand that your turning point in faith came during the Kansai Festival in the Rain.
Can you share your experience?

Steve: A senior in faith encouraged me to join the young men’s gymnastics team. We trained for six months in a dirt field close to Osaka Castle, doing a lot of running and calisthenics to develop our endurance and core muscles. When 2,400 of us did our exercises, we kicked up so much dust that we could barely see what was in front of us! It was a grueling schedule on top of the summer heat, but no one complained. All we knew was that we wanted to reply with victory to our mentor, SGI President Ikeda, who was scheduled to attend the festival.

What was it like performing in the rain?

Steve: We built human towers while steeped in 1 to 2 inches of mud. By the middle of the performance, we were covered in mud from head to toe. It may sound strange, but I really enjoyed performing in the rain. It was in that moment that I determined to Sensei to never be defeated by anything in life.

Later, I learned the phrase “Kansai Spirit,” which means to make the impossible possible, derived from this festival.

How has this experience been a source of courage in your life?

Steve: I have had many moments where I was on the verge of giving up on my goals and dreams, but each time when I remembered the promise I made to Sensei at that festival, I would continue fighting. In 2003, my wife passed away after 26 years of marriage. I fell into a depression, often thinking, My life is not worth living anymore. Due to President Ikeda’s encouragement and the many members who visited and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with me, I was able to stand up again and persevere in faith. Fourteen years ago, I married my wonderful wife, Kay. We have incredible children, who are all attending the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, along with their spouses! During that festival 52 years ago, I had no idea that it would help me construct an indestructible foundation for a victorious life. I am so happy and will share Nichiren Buddhism until I die!

 

(pp. 12-13)

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. Osaka Campaign of 1956: The 28-year-old Daisaku Ikeda, determined to fulfill his mentor’s vow to rid the world of suffering, led intensive efforts to introduce others to Buddhism, culminating in 11,111 families joining the Soka Gakkai in Osaka Chapter in May 1956. Even today, this achievement remains unprecedented in the annals of kosen-rufu and serves as the blueprint in faith for making the impossible possible.