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Encouragement

Memories of the Nihon University Auditorium

ALTON / WIKI MEDIA COMMONS

This year, SGI members worldwide are earnestly studying SGI President Ikeda’s The New Human Revolution. To that end, the World Tribune has begun reprinting essays from “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution.” This installment was adapted from the Jan. 12, 1998, Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. President Ikeda appears in the novel under his pseudonym, Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto was inaugurated the Soka Gakkai’s third president on May 3, 1960. The event took place at the Nihon University Auditorium in Ryogoku, Tokyo.

The sky was clear and bright. The rousing strains of Soka Gakkai songs echoed under the great metal dome of the hall. I remember that momentous meeting as if it were yesterday, the feeling of determination that surged through my heart as I walked into the hall and gazed up at the portrait high above of my beloved mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda.

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Many know that the Nihon University Auditorium was originally a sumo wrestling stadium, but what not so many know is that, during World War II, the stadium had been requisitioned by the Japanese military authorities and turned into a factory for the production of balloon bombs.

The old balloon bomb factory became a launching base for peace and happiness. Does this not demonstrate the principle of purifying and transforming the land expounded in the Lotus Sutra?

Balloon bombs were a special kind of weapon in which a small explosive or incendiary device was attached to a balloon made of Japanese paper about 33 feet in diameter. It was also rigged with a timer, so that the bombs could be dropped automatically. The balloons were then launched on the prevailing westerly winds, the idea being that they would drift across the Pacific to the United States and then explode.

Toward the end of the war, some 9,000 balloon bombs were released, but only around 10 percent ever reached the vicinity of the United States. The bombs were deemed ineffective, and the release of further balloons was halted.

A battle between balloon bombs and nuclear weapons—this indeed is an example of one of the many idiocies that make up that most idiotic of human actions, war.

Daisaku Ikeda was inaugurated the Soka Gakkai’s third president at the Nihon University Auditorium in Ryogoku, Tokyo, May 3, 1960. That day, President Ikeda vowed under his mentor’s portrait: “From this I will take leadership as a representative of President Toda’s disciples and advance with you another step toward the substantive realization of kosen-rufu.” Photo by Seikyo Press.

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After the war, the stadium-turned-weapons-factory was appropriated by the occupation forces. It was renamed Memorial Hall and became a place for popular entertainment. In 1952, it was returned to its original owner, but the bowl-shaped sports arena had been paved over in concrete and was no longer really suitable for sumo wrestling. The facility was therefore renamed International Stadium and, until its purchase by Nihon University for use as a university auditorium in 1958, was rented out as a public hall.

The Soka Gakkai used the hall for the first time on the occasion of its 10th General Meeting on May 3, 1954. The meeting lasted four hours from its opening at noon until the closing ceremonies.

During his speech, President Toda cried out to our members, “Let us return to the time of Nichiren Daishonin!” It was a rousing call for all to rise up and work for the happiness of humanity.

Shin’ichi was responsible for the organization and smooth running of the day’s meeting. In his diary, he recorded his great appreciation for the efforts of the young people who worked so hard to clean the hall after the meeting: “I am determined, as long as I live, never to forget the spirit of those who work hard behind the scenes.”

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From that day on, until 1977, when Nihon University stopped renting the hall for public use, some 280 Soka Gakkai meetings—headquarters leaders meetings, headquarters general meetings and divisional general meetings—were held at the Nihon University Auditorium.

It was also there that Shin’ichi announced his vision for the future based on the concept of “Seven Bells”[1] after President Toda’s death. He announced plans to establish Soka University as a fortress for peace and made his landmark call for the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China at the 11th Student Division General Meeting, 30 years ago this year [1998].

From there, how many young people awoke to their mission of kosen-rufu and set out into the wide world to fulfill it? The old balloon bomb factory became a launching base for peace and happiness. Does this not demonstrate the principle of purifying and transforming the land expounded in the Lotus Sutra?

It was also [at the Nihon University Auditorium] that Shin’ichi announced his vision for the future based on the concept of “Seven Bells” after President Toda’s death. He announced plans to establish Soka University as a fortress for peace and made his landmark call for the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China at the 11th Student Division General Meeting, 30 years ago this year [1998].

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Today the Nihon University Auditorium has been torn down, and offices and homes rise on the site in its place. When notice of the building’s demolition was posted, some of our local members made a search for the original speaker’s podium. They found it after great effort, were told they could have it, and presented it as a gift to the Soka Gakkai.

It was their wish, they said, that the podium be preserved as a lasting memorial to the powerful spirit and determination of Shin’ichi on the day he became Soka Gakkai President—a spirit that they had tried to make their own. I was deeply touched by their sincerity.

Where the original spirit flows strong, magnificent dramas of mission unfold, and eternal development and prosperity are assured.

That day, Shin’ichi vowed under his mentor’s portrait: “From this day I will take leadership as a representative of President Toda’s disciples and advance with you another step toward the substantive realization of kosen-rufu.”

I believe I have kept my vow and indeed made kosen-rufu a reality as I promised—fearlessly, dauntlessly, with the Soka Gakkai spirit in my heart. WT

References

  1. The first series of Seven Bells refers to the seven consecutive seven year
    periods in the Soka Gakkai’s development from its founding in 1930 through 1979. On May 3, 1958, shortly after second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s death (on April 2), Daisaku Ikeda, then Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, introduced this idea and announced targets for subsequent seven-year periods. On May 3, 1966, Soka Gakkai President Ikeda spoke of a new series of Seven Bells that he envisaged unfolding in the 21st century. Also, in 1978, just before the end of the first series of Seven Bells, he elaborated further on this second series of Seven Bells, stating that it would begin from May 3, 2001, and continue through 2050. ↩︎

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