Buddhist Politics: Japan's Clean Government Party

On November 17,1964, a new and rather unique political organization was inaugurated in Japan. This organization was called Komeito or the Clean Government Party. ! The mother organization was the lay Buddhist group, Soka Gakkai 2 or Value Creation Society. It had previously been engaged in some political activities, but the establish- ment of the party was an indication of serious intent to become even more involved in Japanese political affairs. The rather militant posture of Soka Gakkai and its phenomenal success in converting literally millions of Japanese to the Nichiren Buddhist religion was somewhat disconcerting for observers, both Japanese and foreign. Because of its political activism, many persons viewed the organization as similar to the pre-World War II ultra-nationalist movement, while others ap- plauded Soka Gakkai for giving new life and hope to a large segment of Japanese society that was only receiving a marginal share of Japan's increasing prosperity. Any mass movement may appear rather ominous to some people and a rapidly expanding and aggressive movement is bound to be perceived as a threat to society. Soka Gakkai is no exception, and therefore has been the subject of much debate and controversy in both Japan and abroad. As is often the case with controversial matters, a new perspective will help to clarify some of the more contentious issues of this movement.