JJRS > Volume 48 Issue 2 “We Alone Can Save Japan”: Soka Gakkai’s Wartime Antecedents and Its Postwar Conversion Campaign

Jacqueline I. Stone

Download PDF

Between 1945 and 1951, the Nichiren Buddhist lay organization Soka Gakkai, which had disbanded during the Pacific War, regrouped and burgeoned in a massive proselytizing campaign led by its second president, Toda Jōsei. This effort intertwined three aims: to spread faith in the Lotus Sūtra as the basis for Japan’s postwar reconstruction; to establish an ideal government based on Buddhist principles; and to build a national ordination platform as Japan’s sacred center. Driving it was Toda’s conviction, inherited from his teacher, Makiguchi Tsunesaburō, that Japan was suffering a profound malaise and could only be saved by embracing Nichiren’s teaching. That message formed a powerful link between wartime and postwar Soka Gakkai organizations. It drew Makiguchi into conflict with wartime ideology, leading to his arrest; amid postwar hardships, it found eager reception and shaped what would become Japan’s largest religious movement.