Soka Gakkai uses celebrities for its 'secret revolution'

Japan Today/March 23, 2005

TV variety shows sometimes seem to be an endless parade of "talents," but what most viewers probably don't realize is to what extent the religious organization Soka Gakkai is involved in the entertainment industry.

Many of the talents are used as part of a strategy by Soka Gakkai chairman Daisaku Ikeda. For example, popular talents such as Masami Hisamoto, who has ranked in the top group of NHK's "favorite talent" research for three years in a row, actress Satomi Ishihara, who plays a heroine in the drama based on the historical novel "Yoshitsune," comedians Hidekazu Nagai and Hanawa are members of Soka Gakkai. They belong to the arts department of the Soka Gakkai Culture Headquarters.

In the old days, celebrities like actress like Tamaki Sawa, singers Izumi Yukimura and Linda Yamamoto used to perform at big Soka Gakkai meetings attracting 1,000-2,000 people. However, times have changed. TV is a much better medium for reaching a lot more people.

"As long as it has these celebrities on TV everyday, Soka Gakkai does not need to hold big rallies anymore," says former Soka Gakkai chief secretary Hiroshi Kotani who left the organization in 1987. "Members of Soka Gakkai tell everyone outside the group that this talent or that talent is from Soka Gakkai, and just by doing that, they chip away at the negative image that some people have of Soka Gakkai."

The prevalence of comedy is lifting the image of Soka Gakkai. "Even more so than an A class singer or actress, friendly comedians have a stronger effect," says journalist Masao Otsukotsu. "Soka Gakkai appointed Masami Hisamoto as a deputy manager of its arts department in 2001. That shows how much they are expecting from him."

Recently, Soka Gakkai-controlled media are also using outside celebrities as well. That's also part of their strategy, says a source within the group. "The managers of today's young talents do not know the dark age of Soka Gakkai. As long as the guarantee fee meets their needs, they have no problem with their talents appearing on Soka Gakkai media as well. Putting a celebrity on the cover of one of its magazines is another way for the organization to improve its image."

On the other hand, a number of celebrities have quit the group, among them Cha Kato, Akira Hirao and Kaoru Sugita. Afraid of reprisals, they do not say much about Soka Gakkai, but they are refusing to appear in Soka Gakkai media or publications.

Otsukotsu said, "What we are seeing is that as more young people join the movement, more veteran believers are leaving. Soka Gakkai would like to carry on a 'revolution.' It would like to take over important functions of government and control society. Using talents for its 'face' is just part of their strategy. I think older and more experienced talents realize this and that's why they are leaving."

Soka Gakkai is into far more than just the entertainment world, though. Graduates from Soka Gakkai University have found their way into the Justice, Foreign and other ministries. Soka Gakkai also has a huge network connection with mass media, the IT industry and many big companies.

A Soka Gakkai spokesperson refutes talk of a revolution. "We don't order companies to do anything."

However, Kotani says, "Soka Gakkai is a group that cannot tolerate dissenting views and thoughts and will try its hardest to eliminate competition. If their revolution actually succeeded, society would lose a lot of freedoms. I wonder how many celebrities are aware of this possible impact. If they are only thinking of how popular they can become, then their thinking is pretty shallow."

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