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Our History

Young Phoenixes, Soar Into the Future

Installment 1


Deeply committed to the education and development of children and youth, SGI President Ikeda, as the third Soka Gakkai president, established the high school division in June 1964, the junior high school division in January 1965, and the boys and girls division in September 1965—which together comprise the future division.

The present generation of future division members will be the key protagonists of the kosen-rufu movement when the Soka Gakkai celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2030. With this recognition, the Soka Gakkai monthly study journal Daibyakurenge (starting from its November 2010 issue) launched a series chronicling President Ikeda’s efforts to foster the future division members, along with division graduates’ personal accounts and recollections of meetings and interactions with President Ikeda in their youth.

Living Buddhism is reprinting this series in commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the future division’s founding.

A new age of Soka has begun. Having reached one long-sought milestone—the Soka Gakkai’s 80th anniversary (on November 18, 2010)—we now turn our sights 20 years hence to its 100th anniversary in 2030.

At this most significant time, SGI President Ikeda has revised the lyrics of the future division song “Runner for Justice” so that they are more relevant to the present.[1] A line changed in the first verse now reads, “A new age lies in the distance before me”:

Now, determined to carry on the baton,
I await my time with a gallant heart.
A new age lies in the distance before me,
the stage on which I will take vibrant action.
Now, I will study hard and give my all,
as I walk the path of justice.

Why is it a new age? President Ikeda has said: “This year (2010) marks the Soka Gakkai’s 80th anniversary. Now is the time we can achieve even greater growth and development than ever before … The age is in urgent need of the principles of Nichiren Buddhism. Let’s once again make a further concerted effort to dynamically expand our movement and create a youthful Soka Gakkai!”[2]

In his writings, Nichiren Daishonin quotes the Lotus Sutra passage: “You must spread it [the Lotus Sutra] abroad widely throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] and never allow it to be cut off” (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 398). And elsewhere, he states, “It is certain that widespread propagation of the Law [kosen-rufu] will eventually be achieved throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world]” (Gosho zenshu, p. 816).[3]

Kosen-rufu is the central focus of Nichiren Buddhism. It is also the great vow of President Ikeda.

He has also said, “Together, let’s resolve to open the way for the boundless and everlasting development of kosen-rufu, our sights set on the glorious goal of the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding (in 2030).”[4]

Genuine disciples are successors who make the vow of their mentor their own.

•   •   •

After his inauguration as second Soka Gakkai president, Josei Toda established the young men’s and young women’s divisions (in July 1951), entrusting the future of kosen-rufu to the youth.

And after his own inauguration, President Ikeda—Mr. Toda’s disciple and successor—went on to establish the three divisions that would collectively come to be known as the future division, also with a view of entrusting the future of kosen-rufu to the youth.

Entrusting the future to the youth—this is the formula for kosen-rufu that President Toda and President Ikeda, mentor and disciple, set forth for posterity.

The high school division was founded in June 1964, followed by the junior high school division in January 1965. President Ikeda’s novel The Human Revolution also began to be serialized in 1965, in the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s newspaper. It was a year of fresh starts—the beginning of full-fledged efforts to lay a solid foundation for kosen-rufu.

On August 10 and 11, 1965, 3,000 members of the high school division, junior high school division and the Fuji Kibo-kai (Fuji Hope Group)—the forerunner of the boys and girls division—from throughout Japan participated in a summer training course for the first time.

Masaichi Ueda (Soka Gakkai senior adviser; former Soka Gakkai high school division leader and Soka Gakkai young men’s leader): I was appointed the national high school division leader one month before the future division summer training course. [The appointment was made at the 8th Student Division General Meeting in July 1965.]

From that point on, I personally witnessed the tremendous energy with which President Ikeda took action. He said to me: “Do whatever you think needs to be done for the high school division. Go right ahead and don’t hesitate. Who will carry on our movement for kosen-rufu and transmit the Soka Gakkai spirit in the 21st century? We have to entrust this responsibility to the present members of the high school and junior high school divisions.”

At that time, he was already taking action with a view to the future of the Soka Gakkai in the 21st century.

•   •   •

During the two-day training course, there was a meeting for high school division members as well as a guidance meeting for junior high school division members. There were also a total of 12 group photo sessions with President Ikeda, who personally encouraged the members at each session. Everyone was overjoyed and responded enthusiastically to his remarks.

In the interval between each session, President Ikeda rested in a tent nearby. At one point, a group of high school division members from Kansai ran over to the tent, seeking to shake his hand. Staff members and other leaders tried to stop them, but President Ikeda invited them in and shook hands with each one.

Smiling, he said to the other leaders present: “These young people have the true Soka Gakkai spirit,” and “The high school division is very important. The future belongs to them.”

•   •   •

Shigeru Asami (Soka Gakkai vice president; former Soka Gakkai youth division leader):

I will never forget the summer training course I attended as a high school student. The group photo was especially memorable. It was my first time to see President Ikeda in person. I was extremely nervous as I waited for my group’s turn, but I was immediately put at ease by President Ikeda’s warmth and friendliness. He kept saying to us: “Welcome! Thank you for coming!” And he said, “I hope to see you all here again next year.” He clearly had the highest hopes for the high school division.

Kimiyo Muto (Soka Gakkai women’s division ward vice leader): My father died when I was in the first grade, so my mother raised me alone. Throughout, she always maintained a very active Buddhist practice.

Our relatives, however, were adamantly opposed to our faith. When I was in the third year of junior high, I told a young women’s division leader that I was afraid I couldn’t withstand their opposition much longer and might have to quit.

Two years later (in 1965), in my second year of high school, I finally met President Ikeda at one of the group photo sessions during the summer training course. He waved warmly to us all and offered good wishes for our health. I was overcome with tears at having been able to meet him at last.

Without thinking, I called out: “Sensei, I’ll do my best!” He nodded deeply in response.

Something shifted in my heart, and I began to live my life with a sense of genuine happiness and joy.

•   •   •

On August 11, the second day of the training course, President Ikeda engaged in a conversation with 10 young men and women of the high school division who were working behind the scenes as event staff for the course. Six were from Tokyo and four were from Kansai. They were all nervous to meet him, but President Ikeda greeted them with a warm smile and thanked them for coming.

They each introduced themselves. One of the members from Kansai stood up. He was among the group that had shaken hands with President Ikeda at the tent the previous day.

Wataru Takahashi (Soka Gakkai academic and science division region vice leader and university professor): I had intruded on President Ikeda while he was resting in between photo sessions. Having the chance to meet him again with the other event staff, I apologized for having disturbed him the day before. President Ikeda replied: “Not to worry, not to worry. I completely understand. But it would be unfair to just shake hands with Kansai high school division members, so I’d better shake hands with everyone!”

Yasunori Ushida (Soka Gakkai ward leader and Seikyo Shimbun photography department adviser): When President Ikeda said he would shake everyone’s hand, there were gasps of joy and surprise. He truly understood how those of us from Tokyo felt at not having had the opportunity to shake his hand, too. His words “It would be unfair” touched me deeply. No one is a fairer leader than he is, I thought. I was overjoyed and very moved.

With the words, “I’d better shake hands with everyone!” the tense expressions on the 10 high school division members’ faces instantly melted away.

Starting with the Tokyo members, President Ikeda shook hands with each of them in turn. They each introduced themselves, reported on their lives and asked questions. Next, it was the turn of the four Kansai members.

Ayako Takahashi (Soka Gakkai education department zone vice leader and junior high school teacher): When it finally came to my turn, I asked President Ikeda when the first volume of his novel The Human Revolution would be published in book form.

The Seikyo Shimbun had started carrying installments of the novel’s first chapter “Dawn,” in January 1965, and we high school division members had been studying it.

My question drew good-natured laughter from the leaders accompanying President Ikeda. It turned out that the lead story of that day’s Seikyo Shimbun announced the book’s scheduled publication later that year.

President Ikeda explained kindly, “It’s already been announced.”

The Seikyo Shimbun wasn’t delivered to our lodgings at the training course, so I hadn’t read the article.

I’ll never forget what President Ikeda said after he’d finished shaking everyone’s hand: “Please attentively read and study The Human Revolution.”

Wataru Takahashi (Soka Gakkai academic and science division region vice leader and university professor): When it was my turn, I asked somewhat boldly how the novel would end.

As President Ikeda shared his thoughts on the book’s conclusion with us, his voice grew more impassioned. I was determined not to miss a single word, so that I could share what he said with the other Kansai high school division members. I strove with all my might to keep a mental record of his remarks, and later the four of us from Kansai wrote them down so that we wouldn’t forget them.

Keiko Yatagai (Soka Gakkai women’s region vice leader and women’s prefecture executive leader): The four Kansai members rushed back excitedly to meet with the rest of us Kansai high school division members at the training course, and said breathlessly: “We just met with President Ikeda and he gave us some important guidance.” They then shared it with us.

I was from Kyoto, and I, along with everyone else, earnestly wrote down President Ikeda’s words in my notebook.

He had said: “The conclusion of The Human Revolution, which starts with the chapter ‘Dawn,’ will ultimately return to the theme of a new dawn. The novel starts with a new dawn and will end with a new dawn.

“Mr. Toda ushered in the dawn of the Soka Gakkai before the end of World War II. I don’t wish to end the novel as a tragedy, with the death of its hero. Rather, it will end with the dawning of a new age.

“In other words, after Mr. Toda, there is a new dawn with me in the lead, and then after me, you, the high school division members, will create another new dawn.

“The dawn I am ushering is even brighter than that ushered in by Mr. Toda. As a result, society will also prosper and develop. This is the working of the Buddhist Law from time without beginning; it is a function of the mystic principle of True Cause.

“After me, you must be the ones who create a new dawn.”

These words from President Ikeda still deeply stir and inspire me when I read them today.

And, some 28 years later (in 1993), the 12-volume series The Human Revolution concluded with the chapter “New Dawn,” just as President Ikeda shared with us.

•   •   •

President Ikeda continued his conversation with the high school division members, offering many suggestions for the division’s future.

“Next year, let’s make this training course three days and two nights, like the youth division course, to give you more time.”

“Let’s make a flag and badges for the high school division.”

As they listened, the high school division members’ faces lit up with excitement.

Then, President Ikeda said, “Let’s make next year the ‘Year of the High School Division.’ ”[5]

The high school division members were stunned for an instant and then burst into applause and exclamations of delight.

President Ikeda’s hopes and good wishes for the development of the high school division members, the future leaders of the Soka Gakkai, knew no bounds.

Masaichi Ueda (Soka Gakkai senior adviser; former national high school division leader and national young men’s division leader): President Ikeda cared deeply about the high school division. As a high school division leader, I was astonished by the huge hopes he had for these young members.

He designated 1966 the “Year of the High School Division.” I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility as the division’s leader.

President Ikeda was staking the future of the entire Soka Gakkai on the high school division and other future division members, viewing them as the protagonists who would usher in a new dawn.

•   •   •

How will kosen-rufu be achieved? How will the future of the Soka movement be secured? President Ikeda had a grand vision.

At the end of his conversation with the 10 high school division members, he said: “I plan to establish a university for the sake of those who will come after you. It will be called Soka University.”

They were all astonished at hearing the words “Soka University” for the first time, and they realized just how great the future of the Soka movement would be.

Atsuko Kurai (Soka Gakkai women’s chapter vice leader): I was really surprised when I heard President Ikeda speak of starting a university. It was beyond anything any of us had ever imagined. My first thought was that I wanted to go there.

He said to us: “It’s a major undertaking that will take several years to bring to fruition. Please be patient. You are all still young.”

I decided at that moment that I would continue studying past high school. Even though my family wasn’t in a financial position to send me to university, I was able to attend a vocational college.

•   •   •

That autumn, the Soka University Establishment Steering Committee was set up and concrete preparations got under way.

When the committee was formed, President Ikeda expressed his thoughts: “We will foster the leaders of Japan and the world who will be active 20, 50 years from now, the leaders who will bring world peace. At the same time, I want to offer an education that puts the educational theories of President Makiguchi into practice in society.”

It was a declaration that he would fulfill the vow he made to the first and second Soka Gakkai presidents, Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda—a vow of mentor and disciple.

•   •   •

The first summer training course for the high school division and junior high school division was a deeply significant occasion where President Ikeda entrusted the youth with the Soka Gakkai’s development in the 21st century.

Several announcements that marked the true, full-fledged start of the high school division were made. First, the high school division, which organizationally had been part of the student division up until then, would be made into a separate division. It was also decided to appoint high school division leaders on a region, chapter, group and unit level throughout Japan. Further, a meeting for high school division representatives would be held at the beginning of the following year, 1966. In addition, it was announced that a boys and girls division would be established the following month (September 1965).

President Ikeda took the lead in all of these initiatives.

At last, the three-tiered structure of the future division was complete.

President Ikeda was earnestly committed to the success of the future division. A top leader at that time recalled: “President Ikeda said at a gathering of divisional leaders around that period: ‘I am determined to achieve kosen-rufu in Japan, and I am laying the foundations for that purpose now. From the time I started working alongside Mr. Toda, there has never been an easy or simple challenge. I never relied on abstract theorizing; I simply gave myself wholeheartedly to achieving the task at hand.’ The intensity of his dedication was palpable.”

President Ikeda also wrote an important piece of guidance for the high school division members, which was published under the title, “Young Phoenixes, Soar into the Future!” in his editorial for the November 1965 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai study journal. The full text of this guidance, which was first published in the November 1965 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s study journal, will appear in the next installment of this series./ref] In it, he wrote: “The time when you have all grown splendidly and stand up together as one will signal the time of the realization of the great vow for kosen-rufu.”

The “Year of the High School Division” in 1966 saw the start of a series of lectures by President Ikeda on Nichiren Daishonin’s writings for the high school division members, and the establishment (in June) of a training group for the high school division members who attended that lecture series.

“The time when you … stand up together as one will signal the time of the realization of the great vow for kosen-rufu,” says President Ikeda. That time will truly mark the start of a new age.

Translated from the November 2010 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. In July 2010, “Runner for Justice,” which was originally the Soka Gakkai high school division song, became the song of the Soka Gakkai future division as a whole. For this new development, SGI President Ikeda revised two lines of the song, namely: “A new century lies in the distance before me” was changed to “A new age lies in the distance before me” (verse 1); and “Burning with enthusiasm, you, too, are a runner of the Seven Bells” has been changed to “Burning with passion, you, too, are a runner carrying the banner of victory” (verse 3). ↩︎
  2. From President Ikeda’s message to a Soka Gakkai divisional representatives conference in Tokyo on August 24, 2010. Not translated into English. ↩︎
  3. “Oko kikigaki” (The Recorded Lectures); not included in WND, vols. 1 and 2. ↩︎
  4. President Ikeda’s message to the 42nd Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting and the 6th Nationwide Youth Division Leaders Meeting on September 4, 2010. (Oct. 2, 2010, World Tribune, p. 1.) ↩︎
  5. This designation was in addition to the Soka Gakkai theme for 1966, which was “Year of Dawn.” ↩︎

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