The Soka Kyoiku Gakkai and Religious Oppression during World War II

The Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value-Creating Education Society) was founded by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda in 1930. It was originally a small group of educators dedicated to educational reform. However, the group gradually developed into an organization with a broader membership that promoted Nichiren Buddhism as a means to reform not only education but society as a whole. This brought the group into direct conflict with the militarist government of the time that saw education as a means of molding people into servants of the state and imposed the State Shinto ideology as a way of justifying its wartime aggression. During the late 1930s and throughout the war, members of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai were subject to increased police surveillance and harassment. Due to government oppression, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai was effectively crushed. Both Makiguchi and Toda were arrested as "thought criminals" in 1943, and Makiguchi died in prison in 1944. Toda was released from prison in 1945 and reformed the organization as today’s Soka Gakkai.