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A Kindhearted Stranger

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Illustrations by Kenichiro Uchida


“The severe food shortage [after World War II] in Japan had made many people’s hearts grow callous. Consequently, this woman’s simple kindness left a deep impression on Shin’ichi.[1]The New Human Revolution, vol. 2, p. 165.,[2]Shin’ichi Yamamoto is the pen name for SGI President Ikeda. SGI President Ikeda

Daisaku Ikeda was 17 years old when World War II ended, leaving Japan in ruins. Tokyo, in particular, had been subjected to nearly one year of carpet-bombing leaving some neighborhoods without a single standing building. Poverty and illness consumed the people, including the Ikeda family. Daisaku was the only son at home, as they awaited the return of his four brothers from the battlefield.

The illustration above depicts the 17-year-old Daisaku Ikeda on a trip to Chiba Prefecture, on Tokyo’s outskirts, to buy food for his family. He struggled to find people willing to sell him food, when he encountered a kindhearted woman who generously sold him sweet potatoes. SGI President Ikeda recalls this scene in volume 2 of The New Human Revolution (see p. 22). He appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto stood where he was, taking in the rural scenery surrounding him. He found it soothing after the blackened and desolate ruins of many parts of Tokyo.

After a while, the woman glanced in Shin’ichi’s direction and said in a rough yet warm voice, “Where’ve you come from?”
He was younger than the customers who normally came here to buy food, and she seemed concerned.

“Kamata, in Tokyo.” “I see. You look awfully pale.

Are you tired?”

“I have consumption.”[3]Consumption is an old and once common term for the wasting away of the body, particularly from pulmonary tuberculosis. “My goodness. Come and rest a while at my place!”

She led Shin’ichi to an old, ramshackle house . . .

“Do you have any brothers and sisters?” she asked him.

“Yes. I’m the fifth of eight children. My older brothers haven’t come back from the war yet.”

“So, then, that’s why you’ve come out to buy food?”

“Yes.”

The woman asked Shin’ichi how his family had fared. He responded to her questions straightforwardly, relating that they had been forced to evacuate their home. It had been torn down along with others nearby to clear a tract of land that would prevent fires caused by air raids from spreading uncontrollably throughout the densely populated city.

The woman thought for a moment; then she stood up and said, “We don’t really have anything to spare right now, except for some sweet potatoes; you can have some of those.”

“Is it really okay?”

“Of course. Things are rough for you too; please do your best!”[4]NHR-2, 164–65.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The New Human Revolution, vol. 2, p. 165.
2. Shin’ichi Yamamoto is the pen name for SGI President Ikeda.
3. Consumption is an old and once common term for the wasting away of the body, particularly from pulmonary tuberculosis.
4. NHR-2, 164–65.