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Our History

Young Phoenixes, Soar Into the Future

Installment 5


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) has launched a series chronicling President Ikeda’s efforts to foster the future division members, along with graduates’ personal accounts and recollections of meetings and interactions with President Ikeda in their youth.

The year of the high school division, 1966, arrived. It had been designated as the Soka Gakkai’s “Year of Dawn.”

On New Year’s Day, President Ikeda delivered a speech in which he said:

Society’s future is bleak. It is difficult to see through the darkness to what lies ahead. At such a time, we need to bring forth the fresh, hopeful vigor of dawn. Herein lies the strength of the Soka Gakkai. This darkness envelops not only Japan but the entire world, which is why we have decided to name this the “Year of Dawn.”

Because there is darkness, we can bring light. Because there is deadlock, we can achieve breakthroughs.

President Ikeda, who clearly saw the reality of the times, believed that “dawn” represented the original, or true, cause. In other words, naming this the “Year of Dawn” was making a cause to change the course of society from that moment forward. The “struggle of the true cause” had begun.

With the arrival of the year of the high school division, President Ikeda said: “My greatest endeavor is fostering the high school division, junior high school division, and boys and girls division.”

That year, President Ikeda celebrated his 38th birthday. Incidentally, Nichiren Daishonin was also 38 years old when he composed his important treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.” President Ikeda embarked on this “greatest endeavor,” upon which the fate of the Soka Gakkai rested, with tremendous energy and focus.

•   •   •

An article featuring a discussion kicking off the year of the high school division was published on pages 4 and 5 of the 1966 New Year’s Day edition of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. It was an unprecedented event, with high school division members as the discussion participants.

One of the participants recalls, “It seemed unthinkable that we high school division members, without any personal achievements, would be the main focus of an article appearing on New Year’s Day.”

President Ikeda composed a poem in honor of the year of the high school division. For a poet, every effort, every struggle, is poetry. The title of the poem was “Dawn.”

is a young person’s heart.
It is the hope of youth.

Beyond the horizon,
in the darkened sky,
a single ray of light shines forth.
The sun rises,
painting a masterpiece
of sublime beauty.

•   •   •

always rise with the sun.
always study your hardest, with the sun in your

The poem depicted a brilliant sun of successors rising into the future of Soka.

Masaichi Ueda (Soka Gakkai senior advisor; former national high school division leader and national young men’s division leader): Why was 1966 designated the “Year of Dawn”? President Ikeda explained: “As for why this is the ‘Year of Dawn,’ it is because this is the year that I will personally foster the members of the high school division and ensure their great growth and development.”

President Ikeda exhibited remarkable commitment to raising the youth of the next generation.

Ichiko Yamashita (Soka Gakkai Kansai region women’s division leader): I welcomed the year of the high school division brimming with excitement. President Ikeda had said that he intended to foster the high school division members as “true Ikeda disciples.”

It was thanks to President Ikeda’s encouragement that I was able to attend the high school of my choice in spite of my grades not really being up to par.

When President Ikeda visited Osaka, a Kansai leader reported my experience to him. President Ikeda then sent me the following message: “Through the daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] you are chanting now, you are overcoming the negative karma in your life that would otherwise have manifested in the future. No daimoku is ever wasted. Please chant earnestly and study hard.”

Grateful for this encouragement, I vowed to repay my debt of gratitude through the way I live my life.

Shigeru Asami (Soka Gakkai vice president; former national youth division leader): From the end of 1965 through the beginning of 1966, President Ikeda continued to focus his attention on the high school division.

It was his suggestion that the discussion between high school division members be a feature in the New Year’s edition of the Seikyo Shimbun. I happened to be one of the participants.

Why did he place so much emphasis on the high school division in the “Year of Dawn”? Only when I look back do I fully appreciate its significance. President Ikeda wished to foster a group of young people to whom he could entrust the future.

•   •   •

On January 3, the first pilgrimage to the head temple by high school division, junior high school division, and boys and girls division members was held.

At the New Year’s gongyo meeting, which took place at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, President Ikeda spoke of his hopes for the New Year, saying:

This is the year for us to pour great energy into fostering the high school division members, who will shoulder the future of the Soka Gakkai and put the finishing touches on the foundation of kosen-rufu.

The young phoenixes will soar into the future. There is no greater source of hope for the Soka Gakkai. I am overjoyed that this will truly be a “Year of Dawn.”

That January 3, representative future division members from throughout Japan gathered enthusiastically in the early morning mist at the foot of Mount Fuji. Draped in a cloak of white snow, the majestic mountain rose beautifully against the backdrop of a clear blue sky. The high school division members were suns illuminating the future of kosen-rufu.

At 1 p.m., the 3,300 future division participants lined up in front of the Grand Reception Hall for commemorative photographs. No one spoke. It was so quiet that the sound of trickling water could be heard from the little fountain in the courtyard.

Just then, President Ikeda arrived and broke the silence with his vigor. “Thank you for coming. Thank you!” The crowd greeted President Ikeda in unison.

Kosaku Eto (Soka Gakkai vice president): I had traveled from Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu. I took the Special Night Express “Fuji,” leaving Miyazaki on the afternoon of January 2. The trip took more than 20 hours.

When I was asked by the event staff members where I was from, I replied, “Miyazaki in Kyushu.” Everyone applauded for me. I felt that this was an expression of President Ikeda’s sincere spirit of consideration for those who had traveled from afar.

I think those of us who came from Kyushu were among the last to arrive. As soon as we dropped our luggage off at our lodgings, we went to take part in the commemorative photo session.

When President Ikeda saw us, he said warmly, “Thank you for coming all the way from Kyushu.” I was deeply touched.

Masaaki Gono (Soka Gakkai vice ward leader): Three members of my family participated: me, a high school division member; my younger sister, a junior high school division member; and my younger brother, a boys and girls division member.

The commemorative photo session was a profound experience for me. Members of the junior high school and boys and girls divisions rushed up shouting happily when they saw President Ikeda. He greeted them all with a friendly smile. I’ll never forget his tremendous efforts to encourage us young phoenixes.

•   •   •

In order to take photographs of all 3,300 participants, everyone was divided into nine groups consisting of approximately 350 students each. President Ikeda continued to address the high school division members throughout the sessions, encouraging them sincerely, thanking them and asking them to do their best.

He wrote of this in his essay series, “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution”:

I sat for commemorative photographs with the future division members in the spirit of pledging to live and work for kosen-rufu together throughout our lives, and for all eternity.

In “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren Daishonin quotes from the Contemplation on the Mind-Ground Sutra: “If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 279). Mount Fuji, shining in its armor of white snow, looked down on the young trees of mission that were planted that day for the sake of the 21st century.[1]

Shigeru Hosokawa (Soka Gakkai vice headquarters leader): I had traveled from Toyama Prefecture to participate. When my group’s photo session was finished, President Ikeda turned to us and said, “I’m here to listen to you all, so please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to share with me.”

We were all so surprised by his offer that none of us could think of anything to say, and we looked at each other in puzzlement. President Ikeda said something to one of the staff members, and then it was time for the next group’s photo session.

When we returned to our lodgings, the staff member brought us some memo paper and asked us to write down any thoughts we wanted to share with President Ikeda. Most members wrote personal determinations, but I wrote down that I would like to receive a piece of his calligraphy.

After the pilgrimage, when I had returned home, I received from President Ikeda the gift of his handwritten calligraphy of the word Eiko (Glory), together with a copy of the commemorative photograph I had taken with him. I never expected that he would actually send me something. It was a complete surprise. I felt as if a strong bond had been formed between us and firmly resolved that in turn, I would fulfill the vow I had made to him.

•   •   •

After the photo sessions were over, President Ikeda moved on to a tree-planting ceremony with 260 representatives of the high school, junior high school, and boys and girls divisions.

“Let’s get planting!” President Ikeda said as he picked up a shovel and carefully placed earth around the roots of three Himalayan cedars.

As the name indicates, these trees come from the Himalayan region, where they grow as tall as 164 feet. The crown of this grand and graceful tree is cone-shaped.

Looking at the Himalayan cedars, President Ikeda said: “These trees will grow big and tall. They will continue to grow toward and into the 21st century. I want you to grow magnificently like these trees.”

He then suggested that the trees be measured every January 3 and the results be announced to all high school division members. “Growing with the Himalayan cedars” became the high school division motto.

Shigetoshi Nomura (Soka Gakkai vice president; Hokkaido region leader): The trees were about seven feet tall with slender trunks. The tallest was named for the high school division, the second tallest for the junior high school division and the smallest for the boys and girls division.

President Ikeda passed us the shovel and said, “Everybody, please do the same.” We all took turns placing soil around the trees’ roots. By doing this, President Ikeda enabled us to create a fond memory together.

He told us, “Each time you come here, check and see which is growing faster, you or the tree.” His sincere wish for the development of all high school division members was very clear.

After that, whenever I saw how tall the tree had grown, I resolved to take on fresh challenges so as not to be left in its shade.

Koji Tamura (Soka Gakkai Doctor’s Division vice region leader): It was thanks to President Ikeda that I was able to take part in the tree-planting ceremony.

Around lunchtime that day, three of us high school division members from Hokkaido had set off for the Sessen-bo Lodging Hall where President Ikeda was staying. We were hoping to see him, even if just a glance. When we reached the lodging, President Ikeda was just leaving from the entryway. It was the first time I ever saw him in person.

He waved us toward him, and we hurried over. We introduced ourselves, and I said I was from Asahikawa, Hokkaido.

“You’ve come all the way from Asahikawa!” he exclaimed. “You must be the high school division members who traveled from the farthest point north in Japan to be here. We will be planting Himalayan cedars today. Please join us.”

President Ikeda always remembered our encounter that day, and whenever he came to Hokkaido after that, he encouraged me. Realizing how much he looked forward to the growth of each of us, I continuously renewed my vow.

Mitsuru Goroube (Soka Gakkai vice ward leader): I was one of the members from Asahikawa who was able to meet President Ikeda when we went to the Sessen-bo lodging.

I told him that when I was in elementary school, my father’s business failed and he disappeared, leaving my mother to raise my three siblings and me on her own. He gripped my hand firmly and encouraged me, saying: “Never quit your Buddhist practice. Make your mother happy.”

Later, my father returned to us, and we were able to create a harmonious family. I really feel it was thanks to President Ikeda’s encouragement. I am deeply grateful.

•   •   •

After the commemorative photo sessions with 3,300 participants, the tree-planting ceremony and other activities, President Ikeda had one more event to attend. He rested in a reception tent while he waited for it to begin.

Fumiaki Kato (Soka Gakkai Education Department zone secretary): When I walked past the reception tent set up in front of the Grand Reception Hall, I saw President Ikeda for the first time. The friends who were with me suggested we go say hello, so I got up my courage and walked toward the tent.

Seeing us, a Soka Gakkai director held up his hands and said, “There’s an important ceremony about to start, so I’m very sorry, but you can’t see President Ikeda now.”

Then President Ikeda’s voice came from behind the director, saying: “It’s all right. Come here,” and he invited us into the tent.

“We’re high school division members from Fukushima Prefecture,” was all we could manage to say.

President Ikeda looked at us kindly and gave each of us a firm handshake.“I understand your struggles. Please do your best.” I’ll never forget the warmth of his hand as he shook mine.

Several days later, I received a piece of calligraphy from President Ikeda.
He went to so much trouble and strove so hard to encourage a single high school student. To me, there is no greater mentor in the world.

•   •   •

After the tree-planting ceremony, just past 2:30 p.m., a commemorative photo session was held for representatives of a group of high school students who were studying at the head temple to be Nichiren Shoshu priests, as well as some representative high school division members.

The Seikyo Shimbun wrote at the time, “This event was conducted based on President Ikeda’s profound wish to encourage the young priests.”

Ken’ichi Takeuchi (Soka Gakkai Hokkaido vice region leader): I took part in the commemorative photo session as a representative of Hokkaido. There were 28 of us in all—“Just like the 28 chapters of the Lotus Sutra,” President Ikeda said.

He was already thinking deeply and taking steps for the sake of the future.

Shigeru Asami (Soka Gakkai vice president; former national youth division leader): I also took part in the photo session and was asked to deliver a speech on behalf of my fellow high school division members. President Ikeda warmly watched over all of us.

Unfortunately, the person who spoke as a representative of the young priests ultimately forgot his debt of gratitude to President Ikeda, later joining the ranks of corrupt priests who attacked the Soka Gakkai. I can never forgive their heartless treatment of President Ikeda, who showed the priests such kindness.

Ichiko Yamashita (Soka Gakkai women’s division Kansai region leader): President Ikeda had more hopes for kosen-rufu than anyone else.

In the years that followed, he continued to send various gifts to encourage the young priests in particular. I once heard a rumor, however, that they never even looked at the gifts. I didn’t believe it, but it turned out to be the truth. The priests also cut down the Himalayan cedars that represented the hopes for our future growth.

People with any normal human feelings appreciate the sincerity and goodwill of others, but the priests trampled on our feelings. I will continue to denounce the corrupt actions of the priesthood trying to sever the noble bonds of mentor and disciple.


  1. From “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution,” No. 190, which appeared in the January 15, 2001, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun. ↩︎

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