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Fostering Young Phoenixes

This white paper, published by the Japanese government that March, showed that youth crime was rising sharply by the year. It also noted an increase in crimes by younger children; in particular, the number of crimes committed by fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds was up by 35% compared to the previous year. In addition, there was a rise in delinquency among children from middle-class homes. 

The top youth leaders listened seriously as Shin’ichi spoke: “The white paper’s argument that the increasing urbanization of Japan is directly correlated with juvenile delinquency left a deep impression on me. The report says that when young people go to the popular hangouts in the big cities, they feel lost amid all the people there. Gradually, their sense of self becomes diminished, which in turn leads to a weakening of their sense of responsibility. This trend may ultimately result in criminal behavior, it conjectures. 

“The white paper also pointed out that youth crime today isn’t motivated by poverty as it once was. Rather, it is being committed by young people who are leading relatively normal lives. I think this is an important point. Japan has completely overcome the poverty that plagued it in the aftermath of World War II. It has become a rather wealthy nation. The number of people attending high school and college has increased. The face of our cities has changed as well. Especially with the Tokyo Olympics coming up this fall, we have seen a vast improvement in Tokyo’s infrastructure. 

“Yet juvenile crime is on the rise, and the trend toward juvenile delinquency is growing stronger. Why do you think this is happening?” 

A young woman replied: “I think it’s because children don’t have anything to devote their energies to and are therefore trapped in a widening spiritual vacuum. They are told that all that matters is passing school entrance examinations, and as a result they can’t conceive of life having any other purpose.” 

A young man said: “It seems to me that, as the white paper states, more and more young people are losing touch with their sense of self. They cannot find their place in life and think that they are insignificant. I’m convinced that such uncertainty and anxiety are finding expression in acts of juvenile delinquency.” 

“In other words, youth are losing sight of the fundamental worth of their being as well as that of life itself,” Shin’ichi said. “They cannot see the purpose of living. The government has put a lot of energy into education with the goal of ‘developing people.’ But our present education system is still a long way from teaching children anything about their mission in life or how to create value. Nor has it been able to teach about good and evil and the importance of righting wrongs. 

“The bottom line is that Japan’s education system lacks a humanistic philosophy, so it cannot foster people of genuine humanity.” 

Shin’ichi continued in a soft voice: “When we think of the future of Japan and the world, it becomes clear just how crucial is the way in which we educate our junior high and high school students. It is the mission of the Soka Gakkai to offer a model, and it will be one of the roles we play in society. If you all agree, I’d like to establish both a high school division and a junior high division.”  

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