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On Writing Children's Stories

In the words of the English poet John Milton, "The childhood shews the man, as morning shews the day."

If one were to compare one's entire life to a single day, childhood would correspond to daybreak. The kind of light we shine on an individual, what seeds of life we plant in people–such factors play a decisive role in the quality of life one leads.

Pondering these evocative words of Milton, I set about writing children's stories with the hope of imparting courage and hope to children, and thus contributing in some way to planting "seeds of the heart" that teach the importance of cherishing friendship and trust.

I was 21 when I joined Mr. Toda's publishing company, and one of my first tasks was editing a boys' magazine. I often spoke with writers and illustrators about creating a magazine that would bring hope and inspiration to children.

At that time, there was a very popular children's story writer named Sohachi Yamaoka. I realized what a busy man he was, but I eagerly asked him to write a novel for our magazine. "Children are the messengers of the future," I said. "We want to give them courage and nurture their sense of justice, of right and wrong." He smiled and nodded in agreement, saying, "I'll do it. You've won me over with your enthusiasm."

Ever since I wrote my first children's book, The Cherry Tree, in 1974, I have continued to write original children's stories, each being set in varying time periods and countries.

In Japan, the cherry blossom is a flower that signals the arrival of spring. The story in The Cherry Tree comes one of my actual boyhood memories in which a certain cherry tree instilled hope in my life. Other works have been inspired by my meetings with various people in countries across the world.

For example, a conversation that I once had with Mr. Toda became the inspiration for The Prince and the White Horse. He said to me, "Daisaku, I would like to ride on horseback across the Mongolian plains with you!" I think he was expressing his fervent hopes for the peace of Asia and the world. The subsequent tale became a crystallization of his words in the form of a children's story.

The great grass plains of Mongolia stretch out forever under endless skies. I, too, want to gallop across those grand open spaces with our children, the emissaries of the future. I want to send breezes of courage and hope into the blue sky of the human spirit. With those thoughts in mind, I set out to write The Prince and the White Horse.

It is my earnest wish that my works not only serve to create in children the awareness that their lives are infinitely precious, but that the stories also act as a springboard to enable them to cultivate "wings of courage and hope" with which they can soar into the skies of their mission.

[From an interview of Daisaku Ikeda carried in the December 11, 2009, issue of Kwong Wah Daily, a leading Chinese newspaper published in Malaysia]