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

Jacqueline I. Stone

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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.