In Japan, there are towns with religious affiliations. The most famous town is Shinanomachi, known as Soka Gakkai town.
Shinanomachi Station is located in the center of Tokyo, only 5 minutes from Shinjuku Station on the JR Sobu Line. In Shinanomachi, there is the Keio University Hopital, which is famous for consulting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the dying singer of ZARD, Izumi Sakai. When you go out of Shinanomachi Station, you can also find some things with a tricolor.
This tricolor of blue, yellow, and red is the symbol of Soka Gakkai, not the flag of Romania. Soka Gakkai is the largest new religious organization of Japan based on Nichiren Buddhism. Believers revere the Lotus Sutra and chant “Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō” called odaimoku (お題目). It is said there are about 5,000,000 – 10,000,000 people who follow Soka Gakkai in Japan.
Soka Gakkai was found by educators Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda in 1930. It has been spread and has become the largest new religious group because of the work of Daisaku Ikeda (池田大作) after WWII. It is not a just religious group, but has education institutions including universities, junior-high and high schools, and elementary schools. It also has a political party, called Komeito (公明党), which is in the present Japanese ruling coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP, 自民党). There are also international branches, called SGI (Soka Gakkai International). There is criticism because of aggressive proselytizing or election fraud, and it is taboo to talk about Soka Gakkai in Japan. Soka Gaggai is designated as a cult or sect by the French government. Famous Soka Gakkai believers are British actor Orlando Bloom, American singer Tina Turner, Italian soccer player Roberto Baggio, and Japanese comedian Masami Hisamoto.
First of all, let’s step into a bookstore called Hakubundo Shoten (博文堂) in front of the station. There are many books written by Daisaku Ikeda. Yes, these are Bibles of Soka Gakkai. This bookstore has a stairway to the basement where Buddhist altars for Soka Gakkai are sold.
When you turn left from this building, there is a shop called Hakubun Eikou Do (博文栄光堂). In this shop, you can buy things related Soka Gakkai.
The picture above is of Shinanomachi Mint Candy, labeled with the tricolor and the Soka Gakkai building.
When you buy something, you will be given other Soka Gakkai goods, for example a Soka Gakkai calendar.
Near Hakubun Eikou Do, there is a shop called Kongo Do (金剛堂). This shop not only sells Buddhist altars for Soka Gakkai, but also shows Soka Gakkai videos and offers free coffee.
Next to Kongo Do, there is a large building and it is the headquarters of Soka Gakkai. This building’s name is Kosen Rufu Daiseido (広宣流布大誓堂). Soka Gakkai worshipers gather there and chant odaimoku.
Around this building, there are many Soka-Gakkai-related buildings, like the office of Seikyo Shimbun (the Soka Gakkai newspaper). If you walk around this area, you will understand that it is rare to see other things other than Soka Gakkai.
These are Komeito posters. The face on these posters is Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of Komeito.
The Komeito headquarters are also south of Shinanomachi Station.
The shops in Shinanomachi belong to a shopping street organization, called Shinanomachi Shoten Shinkokai (信濃町商店振興会). This organization’s flag also has the tricolor.
Shinanomachi has so many buildings and believers of Soka Gakkai, so Shinamomachi is called Gakkai Village, Soka Gakkai Town, or Soka Kingdom. You can feel the big power and influence of Soka Gakkai.
Soka Gakkai (創価学会) : The largest new religious organization of Japan based on Nichiren Buddhism. This group also has education institutions and a political party called Komeito.
tricolor flag (三色旗) : Tricolor flags of blue, yellow, and red are the symbol of Soka Gakkai. Blue means peace, yellow means glory, and red means victory. When these flags are raised, it means the shop owner follows Soka Gakkai.
Daisaku Ikeda (池田大作) : The third leader of Soka Gakkai. He is said to have contributed by making Soka Gakkai big. His most well-known publication is the series of The Human Revolution (Ningen Kakumei, 人間革命).
Komeito (公明党) : A political party founded and supported by members of Soka Gakkai. Natsuo Yamaguchi is the present leader of Komeito. Komeito is in the present Japanese ruling coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP, 自民党).
Seikyo Shimbun (聖教新聞) : Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. It is said that its circulation is about 5.5 million, and it is Japan’s third-largest daily. Most of its contents are about Soka Gakkai activities, like Daisaku Ikeda or members of Soka Gakkai who are given prizes. Most Soka Gakkai members buy this newspaper, and some of them give away papers freely.
[How to go] Near Shinanomachi Station (信濃町駅) on the JR Sobu Line (総武線)
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