Skip to main content

Experience

Learning the Most Profound Way to Live

“Tohoku you are the sun!” This and other handwritten messages are sent from throughout the world following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.
“Tohoku you are the sun!” This and other handwritten messages are sent from throughout the world following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. Photos by Seikyo Press.

The following is a summary of Yoshiki Ohkabe’s experience given on Feb. 28, 2021, in Tokyo, at the Second Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting Toward Our Centennial, held in conjunction with the Nationwide Men’s Division Leaders Meeting. His full experience appears in the March 9 issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

Headshot of Yoshiki Ohkabe

After graduating from high school, I left Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture.

Despite enjoying some success at work and earning more money, my life started to unravel. Over time, I began to look down on others and often had trouble with people around me. I stopped attending SGI meetings and eventually lost a series of jobs and my marriage. Still, I kept going out and partying.

By my 60s, I had lost everything—my finances, my family and the trust of my peers. I reluctantly moved back to Onagawa. This was three months before the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami hit the area.

Junya Abe, the local chapter leader, supported me after I returned, and, for the first time in 30 years, I began participating in Soka Gakkai activities.

When the earthquake hit, I was with Mr. Abe and Takayuki Kunimoto, a vice district leader. We took shelter at a nearby evacuation center. The area around Onagawa Station was devastated by the tsunami, and evacuation centers were short on food and supplies.

The very next day, we looked for a car to get to nearby Ishinomaki City. A friend’s car survived the tsunami but wouldn’t start. Mr. Abe got behind the wheel while Mr. Kunimoto and I pushed the car, and we push-started the engine.

We carefully drove on damaged roads and finally reached the Ishinomaki Peace Center, where members had delivered handmade rice balls and we could load our car with relief supplies. We push-started the car and headed back.

We traveled every day to Ishinomaki, bringing back relief goods to evacuation centers throughout Onagawa. Because the car always needed a push-start, the three of us had to go everywhere together. People began calling us “The Onagawa Trio.”

On March 15, 2011, we bumped into a zone leader, who was visiting evacuation centers to encourage members.

He had supported me when I was in high school, and, with tears in his eyes, he said, “Nothing makes me happier than to see you working hard for the sake of others.” Despite having lost everything and betrayed those close to me, I was humbled that I could still make someone smile. Later, I heard that his home had been washed away by the tsunami.

Mr. Abe had also lost everything—his inn and business. Mr. Kunimoto, too, had lost four of his eight children to the tsunami. Even so, they continued giving their all to help others.

Deeply moved, I resolved to dedicate the rest of my life to the people of Onagawa as Ikeda Sensei’s disciple.

After a month, we discovered that by turning the ignition key all the way, the engine could start. Wondering why we hadn’t figured this out sooner, I realized that those days fighting all out as “The Onagawa Trio” had become a foundational point in my faith.

On the evening of March 19, 2011, Soka Gakkai members in Kesennuma were meeting to discuss relief activities when a leader took out a large sheet of paper with the lyrics of the Soka Gakkai future division song “Be Brave With a Lion’s Heart.” The lyrics were found miraculously undamaged at the local Soka Gakkai community center following the tsunami. The survivors had their lives upended, with no sense of what the future would bring. But the phrase, repeated four times in the song—“Be brave!/ Burning with an undefeatable spirit”—inspired them to promise one another to move forward and never let anything defeat them.
On the evening of March 19, 2011, Soka Gakkai members in Kesennuma were meeting to discuss relief activities when a leader took out a large sheet of paper with the lyrics of the Soka Gakkai future division song “Be Brave With a Lion’s Heart.” The lyrics were found miraculously undamaged at the local Soka Gakkai community center following the tsunami. The survivors had their lives upended, with no sense of what the future would bring. But the phrase, repeated four times in the song—“Be brave!/ Burning with an undefeatable spirit”—inspired them to promise one another to move forward and never let anything defeat them.

I later married a fellow member who had lost her elderly mother to the tsunami. My wife vowed to work alongside me for kosen-rufu in Onagawa, a place filled with her mother’s daimoku.

A year after the earthquake, Mr. Abe suddenly passed away from cancer. Although diagnosed before the quake, he had kept it to himself. He always said, “I want to report to Sensei how Onagawa has gotten back on its feet.” I made this resolve my own.

A classmate from my school days, who runs a local business, had been observing my efforts. Being a small town, everyone knew about my self-destructive past. He said: “I’ve been watching you this past year. You’ve changed so much! What happened?”

I replied: “The disaster made me realize that basing myself on the philosophy of Soka is the most profound way to live. I resolved to follow this path for the rest of my life.”

He invited me to work for him and agreed to my request for three days off every week, including Mondays when I have SGI planning meetings. I’m so fortunate to work in such a supportive environment.

At the temporary housing facility I moved to, I strove to help the residents and chaired the residents’ association. And at our current post-disaster housing, I was nominated to serve as neighborhood captain.

In my SGI activities, I have devoted my time to visiting members. Even when members are reluctant to come out, I understand how they feel, because it took me 30 years to get back to doing activities. By persisting to meet with members, one by one, we have expanded the ranks of capable people in our town.

Since the earthquake, Onagawa’s population fell by 40%, but we have more than doubled the Soka Gakkai membership in Onagawa Hope Chapter! Sensei encourages us in The New Human Revolution, “Light of Happiness” chapter, writing: “Spring is here! The spring of rebirth is here!” (vol. 25, p. 1).

Our efforts to create the “light of happiness” and to bring spring to Onagawa begin now! Aiming for the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, we will absolutely win again in these next 10 years!

This Is the Happiest Time of My Life

Uncovering the Limitless Value of My Life