Japan Times infiltrated by Soka Gakkai?

Weekly Friday printed an article in their July 21 issue taking a look at the controversy surrounding Soka Gakkai leader Daisaku Ikeda’s recent series of op-eds in the Japan Times, the “only independent English-language newspaper in Japan.” Let’s have a look:

FRIDAY, 2006.07.21

Indicting Reportage: Internal conflict arises at Japan Times over “Daisaku Ikeda” columns

Field reporters lodge fierce protests, claiming “promotional articles for giant religious group Soka Gakkai”

In our last article, we reported the behind-the-scenes power struggle that is ripping Soka Gakkai apart, but a “Soka scandal” has also embroiled the Japan Times, the English-language newspaper boasting the longest history in Japan (founded 1897).

It all started when the paper started running a serial column by Daisaku Ikeda (78), honorary chairman of Soka Gakkai. This column runs on the 2nd Thursday of each month, with 12 columns planned in total. But Japan Times emloyees have fiercely protested and it has reached a state where they have requested that the upper management cancel the series. A Japan Times employees explains:

“Soka Gakkai has been dubbed a cult in France, and it is united with a specific political group (New Komeito). It is absurd for us to let the leader of a religious group with these kinds of issues to write promotional articles and on top of that give him our serial space. Even from the perspective of journalistic impartiality, it isn’t to be permitted.”

At the end of May, employees opposed to the column wrote a petition, signed “Volunteer Association to Oppose Daisaku Ikeda’s Column” to company president Yukiko Ogasawara demanding cancellation of the series. The Association was an anonymous group, but it reverberated deeply and reportedly gained the support of more than half of the approximately 260 JT employees. In fact, the upper management was left with no choice but to make a response in intracompany e-mail due to the strength of those in opposition, but Ogasawara’s explanation only went as far as this:

“Regarding Daisaku Ikeda’s column, I have ordered the senior staff of our editorial and sales departments to print other opinion leaders’ columns in order to maintain journalistic impartiality.”

She ended up not even bringing up the merits of the serial column in question. What’s more, since the problem would not be resolved by printing other authors, the Association considered it a meaningless response. The JT employee quoted above had this to say:

“This serial column was apparently proposed to Soka Gakkai from within my company, and an executive who is a Soka sympathizer brokered it.” This executive is in charge of both the editorial and advertising departments, and his opinions carry a lot of weight. Therefore, there are even people who wonder if ‘we won’t soon be bought out by Soka Gakkai.'”

The employees’ concerns are not unfounded. JT has a history revealing its tight relationship with Soka Gakkai. In the past, JT has been contracted to print Soka Gakkai’s English-language newspaper and in 1994 the company printed a large article-style advertisement from Soka Gakkai International. In addition, the paper has printed one-shot op-eds from Ikeda four times in the past few years.

After translating and examining the columns in question, Ikeda’s self-serving stances stand out. For example, the first column, which ran on May 11, 2006, contains the following passage:

“As a member of the generation that endured on a global scale the absolute evil of war, I feel a personal sense of responsibility to do all I can, working with my contemporaries and with the members of the rising generations to eliminate the scourge of violence and war.”*

Also, in the 2nd column (June 8), Ikeda writes the following about Soka Gakkai’s second president, Josei Toda:

“Toda had resisted the militarist regime that stripped the Japanese people of their rights and freedoms, plunging the country into a war of invasion. As a result, he had endured persecutions and a two-year imprisonment. The words of a person who had suffered imprisonment for his convictions carried a special weight. I felt intuitively that I could trust him.”

However, journalist Masao Otsukotsu had this to say:

“In his address commemorating the Jan 26, 2003 ‘SGI Day.’ Ikeda wrote on the situation in Iraq, where war was about to begin: ‘To totally deny military force may be all right as sentimental ethics of an individual person, but in the realm of politics that it not necessarily realistic as an option.’ In other words, he revealed a stance of permitting the use of force. Also, Josei Toda was not arrested because he opposed the war, but because he incurred the wrath of the Hideki Tojo administration when he denied the Ofuda (talisman) at Ise Shrine and criticized the use of State Shinto as a guiding principle. [Ikeda] probably made these things up to try and emphasize that Soka Gakkai is a ‘pacifist’ organization and that Ikeda himself is a ‘disciple of peace.'”

JT can’t avoid being called on letting Ikeda voice some conveniently-remembered remarks, can it?

This is how the company responded when we went there seeking comment:

“It is a fact that Ikeda’s column sparked debate, but as a journalistic institution that champions the freedom of speech, we see it as healthy that there are various opinions within the company. In the future, we will continue to request opinion leaders in diverse positions to write for us.”

It doesn’t look like the Japan Times intends to cancel the series. Where has its pride as a journalistic institution gone?

Comment: Take a look at some of these columns. They are all propaganda for his organization like the latest one for instance:

Now, more than ever, we need to develop the qualities of strength, wisdom and hope as we forge expanding networks of mutual support.

In the end, the key to living in a stress-filled society lies in feeling the suffering of others as our own — in unleashing the universal human capacity for empathy. There is no need to carry the burden of a heavy heart alone.

Ick. Something fishy is going on here.

(Article found on marxy‘s site)
*Quotes copy-pasted from original article.

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30 thoughts on “Japan Times infiltrated by Soka Gakkai?”

  1. This is an OUTRAGE! How DARE they publish op-ed articles calling for empathy, strength, wisdom, hope and a stress free society. This is INTOLERABLE.

  2. That’s not the issue. It’s that a group of sympathizers at a major media institution is allowing the leader of a controversial religious movement with a political agenda a direct outlet for their views. There’s nothing newsworthy about Ikeda’s plan for a “stress free society” – he doesn’t even pretend to connect his ideas to current events a lot of the time – so what is the point of this column? Look at the top opinion pieces on the site right now:

    Time-warp fantasies about Nicaragua
    Vatican places state of limbo in limbo
    Climate change to test our adaptability (by Kofi Annan)
    Engaging India to contain it
    Clues to living in a stress-filled society (by Ikeda)

    One of these things is not like the others!

  3. I never took the JT seriously anyway really. It always seemed more to me to be a ‘living’ source of material for English studies. Yomiuri and Asahi produce very good English language media, so people looking for information in/about Japan should be well covered no matter which way they swing..

  4. I don’t want to sound too kooky, so I’ll lay out an experience I had before I state my conclusion. Man, I am glad I write this anonymously.

    When I was working at a (relatively prestigious) firm in Tokyo not too long ago, I noticed through casual conversations with the support staff that there were lots of graduates of Sokka University, SGI’s client institution of higher learning in Hachioji, Tokyo. I mentioned this in passing to my secretary, who had been with the company for more than 15 years, and let me in on what had, and was, happening: as much as 1/2 of the support staff were Sokka Gakkai members. The reason? The head of HR, appointed in 2003, was a member of SGI, and since taking the position had worked hard to surround herself only SGI members. This had come both at the expense of work quality, frustration among non-Sokka Gakkai members of the staff, and had resulted in many valued people leaving for other work. Indeed, the firm was (and is) facing a support staff shortage, and this is reportedly one of the reasons. What’s perhaps more amusing (or tragic), the Western heads of the organization are oblivious to this internal dynamic.

    My conclusion: Sokka Gakkai members _do_ join organizations and “infiltrate” them, trying their dardnest to work for SGI’s interests inside the organization. It’s insidious and darn-right creepy, and I’m glad that this Japan Times incident has been made public so people know that this kind of stuff is happening (especially foreigners who may not be aware of this cult-like entity, of which one in ten Japanese people are a member).

  5. Interesting anecdote, Curzon. I wish I could say I was surprised. It’s bad enough that the New Komeito, a partner (albeit a dwarfed one) in the ruling coalition in the Diet is rather directly linked to Soka Gakkai without the Japan Times helping to spread their message (even if it were only stress reduction, which it’s not.)

    Now that Internet use is widespread and we can all go directly to Kyodo, Jiji, AFP, AP, and Reuters, the only real purpose of the daily broadsheet is that it can be rolled up and stuck in one’s hip pocket. On the same token, the Japan Times is an English paper with a comparatively tiny circulation, primarily among foreigners, who can’t vote and are usually not very long-term residents. While I’m heartened by the paper’s stand for journalistic ethics and glad to see that so many people find such collusion between the paper and the cult disturbing, it really doesn’t matter much. It’s less disturbing than, say the Moonies’ ownership of the Washington Times.

  6. How can an anonymous group sign a petition? 田中一郎、田中二郎、田中三郎…?

    Anyway, interesting story (I’m a SG member, BTW, if you want to hold that against me…) but I disagree with Garrett about using the web for Japanese news, as Kyodo is remarkably bad! The other J papers also tend to republish extremely edited highlights on their web site. However, I don’t actually read a paper these days (used to be the Yomiuri), and avoid the JT web site as I can’t be bothered with the registration bit.

  7. @ Curzon: That’s a common theme in a lot of fields, I think. Media production companies and the central bureaucracy are places where a lot of SG members land jobs. If you pay attention to the famous faces appearing in Pumpkin and Ushio and so on (check your local train-car ads) you can then spot which TV shows feature those “talents” almost exclusively.

  8. I think I agree with Ken Y-N. While the Japan Times may not be optimum, it tends to run more comprehensive reporting on what’s going on in Japan than the other daily English dosages of information from Japanese newspapers. It also has the advantage that it doesn’t seem to harbour any fixed ideological perspective (although these op-eds may be the exception that proves the rule). It’s certainly considered a reliable source among scholars – particularly in political studies – who are writing on Japan, even those who clearly have access to Japanese sources(!) Still, nothing beats reading a few Japanese language newspapers every morning if you really want to be informed.

  9. Yawnz. Another smart-wannabe who is pretty good only in the capacity of ‘copy & paste’. Who can’t do it, btw?

    For all you know, and that include all the smart alecs above, let it be known that Japan has a long history of religion mixing up with media. Period.

    If u didn’t quite catch that, let me elaborate: religious figures apepar on TV every now and then, and propagate what they believe in and teach. Aum shinrikyo’s Asahara used this very tactic if expounding weird theories, thus attracting bright students and graduates to work for him. Probably if you’re there you’d be attracted to join in too, based on your smartness.

    Furthermore, instead of ‘copy’ what JT employee said, who doesn’t even has a name, go read through the several posts made by Dr.Daisaku Ikeda himself. If no, your ‘wisdom’ probably ends at where your cursor stops the ‘copying’ act.

    Thirdly, Josei Toda DID go against the military government, and he did it head-on. The government then had wanted the whole nation to take faith in Shintoism, which took the form of a talisman, and encouraging the Japanese people to give their very lives for Japan in WWII, which basing on it’s distorted theory, those who died with a ‘just’ cause would be salvaged in their next lives. This is political propaganda at its best, get it? Or perhaps you would encourage your lovely sons to die in the name of a senseless religious war too?

    Bottomline: Josei Toda fought with his life against the military government till the end. Period.

    Post-script: ‘infiltrate’, based on my American Heritage Dictionary, explains as ‘to enter or take up positions in gradually or surreptitiously’. Dr.Daisaku Ikeda submits one letter per month, and you call that ‘infiltrate’? Btw, he has till date 200 honorary degrees from higher institution from all around the world. He couldn’t care less to infiltrate one small printing firm if need to. You probably can call yourself ‘Mutant parrot’ since you like parroting and copying ungrounded reports from all over. Cheers!

  10. If you’re concerned that this article is a fabrication of some sort, you’re free to dig up some information yourself. As it stands, the article notes that JT itself has confirmed that Ikeda’s columns sparked an internal debate. Why don’t you give them a call instead of slinging insults? Your attempts to shoot the messenger and deflect the issue are extremely offensive.

  11. Adamu, don’t give me a chance to call you a moron.

    Let me enlighten you with one simple theory: there’s a distinct difference a FACT and the TRUTH.

    Don’t get it? Then read this: the sun rises from the East. It’s a fact. The truth? It’s the Earth revolving around the sun.

    Incidentally, it’s one that cost pioneer like Copernicus and Galilleo their lives, simply because there were smart-wannabes who think they’re in power, and thus able to twist everything around to their favour.

    Coming back, it is, or maybe, a fact that there is an internal debate. So what? There’re tonnes of debate for Daisaku Ikeda and SGI, generated by morons all over Japan.

    Truth? Daisaku Ikeda & SGI has no intention of this so-called ‘infiltration’ into this small-time printing firm. For your information, SGI has its own printing organ which circulate the third largest newspaper in Japan. Infiltrate JT? Use your brain to *think, if you have one.

    And oh, for that ‘calling JT’ thing you suggested, I won’t even want to know how it goes up to your head.

    “Open your eyes, you wretched mortals.” so says Leonardo da Vinci.

    Mortals, some sort of low-IQ beings who are engrossed with the street gossips of hear-says and parroting reoprts. Yawz.

  12. And oh, I MUST add this – the ‘simple’ theory of ‘fact mixing up with truth’ as mentioned above was one of the three major mistakes Josei Toda realised of humanity in the 20th century.

    This caused humanity to suffer and resulted in the two world wars.

    Yes, it’s Josei Toda, the one character in the report intentionally chose and parroted by you, made by one journalist over Dr.Daisaku Ikeda’s description for his mentor.

    The fact (and truth) of you intending to highlight the journalist’s foolish and lop-sided remark over Dr.Daisaku’s shows of your hidden (and exposed) agenda.

    Too bad. Josei Toda’s visions and eyesights was always on and for ‘humanity’, something much larger than a petty, slimy and shallow self like yours. Frankly, he really hadn’t much time to be bothered by it if he’s still alive. Same goes for Dr.Daisaku Ikeda. You can probably parrot and parrot on the tons of reoprts about SGI till the cows come home. They are just the few enlightened ones who won’t even fudge the slightest. Cheers.

  13. Stormrider, I must say that you sound like a lunatic, and if you are trying to make the case that Soka Gakkai is NOT a cult you are doing about as piss poor a job as could possibly be imagined.

  14. In the 1950s, Soka Gakkai was famous for holding gatherings outside of the homes of non-believers and making noise to bully them to join. I think that we are getting a 2006 internet version of that here.

    I’ll just call myself a parrot right now and save Stormrider the trouble.

  15. Mutant Parrot, if I can drop by here and leave my notes down, I won’t even be bothered by what you smart alec say.

    Btw, I laid down my facts and truths. You Mutant Parrot? Trying hard to be a moron like M-Bone and loves the thrill of the copying reports and publish them unashamedly, classifying under the banner of ‘news’? Good for you.

    1950s? Where the hell were you, M-Bone? Still swimming with your bros and sis I guess? Another hear-say which you take it the ‘ gospel truth’ I suppose. Don’t insult the parrot by joining yourself with them. I’ve called you a moron, is it not?

    Next time, if you wanna write something about SGI, use your brain to *thinnk first. Oh I must add: IF you ever have one. The responses and replies don’t always come from morons who ‘hooray’ with you; sometimes they get quite firey and torching. Can’t handle that? Then learn from M-Bone and take a good hard look at your own self. Just that, don’t heighten your status by calling yourself a parrot. It’s a world of moron out there. Yawnz.

  16. Stormrider, please feel free to leave comments here. I’m sure they are as enjoyable for everyone else as they are for me.

  17. I’ll second that.

    Stormrider – I’ve looked into Sokka by reading some of Ikeda Daisaku’s stuff. I thought that it was a bunch of platitudes. Not parroting anyone, there are just only so many ways to say “Peace and goodwill. Now give me money.”

    As for facts and truths — I read about Sokka activities in Asahi Shimbun articles from the 1950s. I guess they made it all up. Maybe I am parroting that stuff, but where I come from, we call that “research” or “using primary sources”. At least it proves one thing — mainstream news sources were painting Sokka members as a bunch of crackpots back in the day and your posts are proving that very little has changed. Just try passing your facts and truths (and grammar) by a university or an academic journal and see what happens.

  18. Mutant, I’ve expressed whatever ‘freeness’ there is here, without You being so hospitable in the first place.

    So don’t try and act cool here, after my firey hotshots at you. Probably this is the only dumb-founded reaction you have, after being so smart and tongue-waggling with lengthy accusations on SGI, yeah?

    ‘Peace and goodwill’, yes. ‘Give me money’? Haha…from WHOM he was asking money from? Harvard? Oxford? UN? Or YOUR parents? Haha…don’t try and act brilliant here, if you don’t have first hand resources. You only make matters worse by insulting the already low-level IQ of the morons out there.

  19. To continue on the above, let me just tell you in your Cauasian face that if you haven’t read well enough, shut your mouth up and keep quiet.

    Japan is well-known for being a quiet and courteous country. This is reflected in many of their traditions and customs. In case you do Not know, the tea ceremony, which is almost perfomed in total silence.

    M-Bone, You were right to say that in the early stages of the Soka Gakkai, there was a history of inadequate activities carried by out the members and local leaders. So? For every little thing that happened, probably including one Soka member littering, you want to push the blame on Daisaku?

    It’s vividly clear where you’re coming from, M-Bone. Just because your name consists of the word ‘bone’, don’t ‘try and pick a bone out of an egg’, so goes the Chinese saying. Soka Gakkai members did something, it’s probably Daisaku; Daisaku did something, it’s probably the SGI’s fault.

    Let me just say once: if you’re do so damn righteous about everything that happened under the sun (and moon), you won’t even be here in the first place. The very next stop you should be at is the front yard of White House, where you demand from George bush the retreat of his armies in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is much more rewarding for your righteousness than to spend time here discussing the (hidden) motives and consipracies of Daisaku and SGI, where you can’t even forward a good piece of evidence.

    Btw, if there’s nothing else, don’t try and pick any bones by ‘passing my facts and truths (and grammar) to a university or an academic journal’. Facts and truths have been verified by 200 higher institutions of learning. They awarded Daisaku Ikeda with 200 honorary degrees. My grammar? You can’t keep counting how many errors I’ve made. This probably will come to satisfy your small, little ego you still have in your Caucasian brain.

  20. Stormrider — So I was right about the SGI activities in the 1950s (which I did not attribute to Ikeda)? I thought that I was just parroting? Or are you parroting what I was parroting? My Caucasian brain hurts.

    BTW, I am anti-Iraq war.

    As for the money thing, SGI does take dues from members, right? Pretty much like a tithe. I think that people give becuase they want to give in most cases, but let’s face it, Ikeda is not living in poverty to help the masses. He got rich.

  21. Weird co-incidence, but there is a SGI temple around two blocks from where I live in the South Loop of Chicago. My girlfriend visited as part of a class on religion. The ‘congregation’ here is very segregated, including a couple of multi-genrational families (i.e. with children born into the group), which is interesting. Part of the service was a video featuring Daisaku (and in the video he extolled himself, mentioning all the honorary degrees he’s paid for…I’m mean earned). Many of the local adherent professed love (both platonic and romantic) for Daisaku. She got the impression that they expect a lot out of their followers, but many religions do.
    I saw part of a show about them once and the temple that they built (and which was subsequently destroyed) was cool.

    Stormrider, wouldn’t your racial taunts go against your principles?

  22. let me just tell you in your Cauasian face that if you haven’t read well enough, shut your mouth up and keep quiet.

    Japan is well-known for being a quiet and courteous country.

    Hilarious!

  23. Soka Gakkai is a CULT using Buddhism and world peace as a tool.
    They collect massive money yet they do not disclose the financial breakdown. Moreover, they make the members vote for their own political party, and severely manipulate the political arena in Japan.
    Now, Soka Gakkai International is infecting USA and the world.
    Watch out for the CULT!!!
    Read the article by Forbes Magazine
    http://www.rickross.com/reference/gakkai/gakkai26.html

  24. I’m a Soka Gakkai member in France.
    French Government has designated Soka Gakkai as a CULT.
    The organization morbidly revolves around The president, Daisaku Ikeda’s guidance, and
    The religious feud between Soka Gakkai and it’s parent temple, Nichiren Shoshu, which excommunicated Soka Gakkai in 1992.
    Very little about actual Buddhism is discussed.
    However, they insist that Soka Gakkai is the only true Buddhist organization and Daisaku Ikeda is the only person truly dedicated to spreading Buddhism.
    If you criticize him, you will be condemned and marginalized.
    Also, Soka Gakkai is notorious for accusing other Buddhist sects as an evil.
    I’m considering leaving the group. It surely is a CULT!!!

  25. “sure sgi may be a cult, but what of hinduism, buddhism, and christianity?”

    Hinduism: Hare Krishna Consciousness

    Buddhism: Soka Gakkai, New Kadampa Tradition

    Christianity: Unification Church/Family Federation of World Peace, Legion(aires) of Christ, your run-of-the-mill televangelists

  26. ikeda is a clever n cunning man he says he is the last president of this organisation called sgi y bcoz he doesnt want to loose the power even after his death.he has greedy for fame n one day he knows he can create himself a god.but ultimately what goes up has to come down.

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