Josei Toda

An educator, publisher and entrepreneur, Josei Toda revived the Soka Gakkai as its second president in the early postwar years, building it into a dynamic, popular movement.

Toda met Tsunesaburo Makiguchi when he took up a teaching post at a school where Makiguchi was the principal. Impressed by Makiguchi's educational ideals and applications, he became his protege. In 1928, he followed Makiguchi in his decision to practice Nichiren Buddhism, and in 1930, the two co-founded the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, an association of reformist educators and forerunner of the Soka Gakkai.

As Japan's militarist government tightened control over society and suppressed dissent, Toda and Makiguchi were arrested and imprisoned in 1943 for opposing the regime's wartime policies. In prison, Toda devoted himself to the practice and study of Nichiren Buddhism, gaining a profound grasp of its principles.

Released from prison in July 1945, just six weeks before Japan's capitulation to the Allies, Toda set out to rebuild the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, which he renamed the Soka Gakkai. His message of individual empowerment and social reform through Buddhist practice resonated powerfully among the many people suffering from poverty, illness and other challenges in the chaos of postwar Japan. By the time of his death at the age of 58, Toda had built an organization comprising nearly one million members.

Toda is also remembered for his uncompromising stance against nuclear weapons, which he termed "an absolute evil" that threatened people's inalienable right to life. This stance, which he declared in 1957, is considered the inspiration for the Soka Gakkai peace movement.