Tsunesaburō Makiguchi

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Tsunesaburō Makiguchi
1st President of Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai
In office
18 November 1930 - 18 November 1944
Succeeded by Jōsei Toda (removed Kyōiku from the organization's name)
Personal details
Born 1871
Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Died 18 November 1944 (aged 73)
Sugamo Prison (present-day Tokyo Detention House), Toshima, Tokyo, Japan
Alma mater
Religion Buddhism

Tsunesaburō Makiguchi (牧口 常三郎, Makiguchi Tsunesaburō 1871–1944) was a Japanese educator who founded and became the president of Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai (Value-Creating Education Society).

Early career[edit]

Makiguchi was born the small village of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, Japan, in 1871. Adopted by the Makiguchi family, he moved to Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, at the age of 14. Working his way through school, he graduated from Sapporo Normal School (today's Hokkaido University of Education). First employed as an assistant teacher at a primary school affiliated with his alma mater, he later taught high school and served as a dormitory superintendent.

Although he was recognized as an able teacher, Makiguchi’s uncompromising attitude toward authorities created problems. His clashes with officials of the Ministry of Education, school inspectors, ward assemblymen, city councilmen, and top officials of the city of Tokyo were frequent and resulted in his frequent transfers from one school to another.[1] After moving to Tokyo, he served as principal in a succession of six primary schools, from 1913 to 1932.

During those years, he devoted much consideration to the relationship between life and education, developing his theories on sōka or the creation of value, the happiness of the individual, the prosperity of society at large, and their interrelationships in practice.

Educational reformer[edit]

Typical of his work is his first book, Jinsei Chirigaku ('A Geography of Human Life'), published in 1903. In it, he developed unique and progressive ideas on the relationship between people's lives and their geographic location. Makiguchi’s work on geography was remarkable in that he was interested primarily in the relationship between nature and man. Japanese geographers of the time were chiefly concerned with describing the physical features of the earth.[2] In Makiguchi’s words, “it is through our spiritual interaction with the earth that the characteristics that we think of as human are ignited and nurtured within us.”[3] In this work, Makiguchi also formulated the concept of humanitarian competition as an approach to international relations, writing that: “The important thing is the setting of a goal of well being and protection of all people, including oneself but not at the increase of self-interest alone. In other words, the aim is the betterment of others and in doing so, one chooses ways that will yield personal benefit as well as benefits to others. It is a conscious effort to create a more harmonious community life.”[4]

In response to problems throughout the education system that resulted from the Meiji government’s adoption of the Imperial Rescript, Makiguchi published the first volume of Sōka Kyōikugaku Taikei (The System of Value-Creation Pedagogy) together with his close friend and disciple Jōsei Toda on November 18, 1930.[5] The date was later adopted as the Founding Day of Sōka Gakkai. The four-volume work, published over a period of five years, sets forth his thoughts on education and proposals for systemic reform. Rather than education serving the state, as embodied in the Imperial Rescript on Education, Makiguchi proposed a student-centered education with the purpose of ensuring the happiness of the learner.[6]

He also proposed the creation of an educational system comprising a partnership of school, home and community. In this system, a child would spend half a day in school and the other half in apprenticeships and other types of work activities at home and in the community befitting the nature and needs of the child. Makiguchi felt that implementing such a system would change bored, apathetic learners into eager, self-directed students.

"Makiguchi developed a theory of value that combined the idea of happiness as the goal of life with that of value as something that can be created. ... In value-creating pedagogy the main point of education is to aim for a happy life and develop the ability and attitude required to create value."[7]

Nichiren Buddhism[edit]

In 1928, Makiguchi and Jōsei Toda, converted to Nichiren Buddhism. Makiguchi's encounter with this school of Buddhist thought took his life into an even deeper and broader dimension, resulting in the establishment of the Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai (Value-Creation Education Society), the predecessor to today's Soka Gakkai. It can be said that Makiguchi created and developed a grassroots movement as the foundation of a lasting peace, an objective he perceived at the very heart of Nichiren Buddhism. Since Makiguchi attended "a number of lectures by Tanaka Chigaku (1861-1939), founder of the ultranationalist Nichiren-based organization Kokuchūkai. Makiguchi never became a member of Kokuchūkai, and neither his philosophies nor his religious beliefs appear to be the product of Kokuchūkai influence”,but “his recent exposure to the Nichiren-based lay society Kokuchūkai may have been a source of inspiration for his own group“.[8][9]

Wartime arrest[edit]

During World War II, he opposed Japan's military government's attempts to impose the doctrine of State Shintō through strict control of religions and thoughts inimical to its war effort. While there is some debate as to whether Makiguchi’s actions were in direct opposition to the war, it is clear that “his outspoken criticism of the prevailing belief system represents an implicit and explicit protest against an extreme abuse of the educational process for militarist purposes.”[10]

In 1943, due to his refusal to accept the talisman and support the war, he was arrested and imprisoned as a "thought criminal" together with Josei Toda and 20 senior leaders of Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai for violating the Peace Preservation Law revised in 1941 and under which tens of thousands were arrested. Yet, in spite of being subjected to harsh interrogations, he never retreated from his beliefs; the 72-year-old former principal continued to assert the value of freedom of religion as a fundamental human right. On November 18, 1944, he died in prison of extreme malnutrition.


Makiguchi is remembered by members of Soka Gakkai International to this day. During morning and evening gongyō members take a moment to remember the first three presidents of Soka Gakkai: Tsunesaburō Makiguchi (President from 1930 to 1944), Jōsei Toda (1951–1958), and Daisaku Ikeda (1960–present).

A system of Soka schools in Japan, several independent secondary schools elsewhere in the world, as well as two universities (Soka University of Japan and Soka University of America) have been established based on Makiguchi's pedagogy.

His value-creating system of education has attracted the attention of educators outside Japan as well. The Sōka Kyōikugaku Taikei has been translated now into English, Portuguese, French and Vietnamese. In Brazil, Makiguchi’s theory of education based on value-creation has been sponsored in 55 schools and introduced in 1,103 classrooms to more than 340,000 students.[11]

The exact burial place of Makiguchi seems to be unknown – no information on that could be retrieved.

Other viewpoints[edit]

There are views that question whether Makiguchi's opposition to the Japanese regime was religiously rather than politically motivated.[12]


  • Education for Creative Living: Ideas and Proposals of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Iowa State University Press, 1989
  • A Geography of Human Life, Caddo Gap Pr, 2002
  • Philosophy of Value, Seikyo Press, 1964

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Murata, Kiyoaki. Japan’s New Buddhism: An Objective Account of Soka Gakkai. New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1969. pp. 73-74
  2. ^ Murata, p72
  3. ^ Makiguchi, Tsunesaburo. A Geography of Human Life. Ed. by Dayle M. Bethel. Caddo Gap Press, 2002, p25
  4. ^ Makiguchi. A Geography of Human Life. p.286
  5. ^ Kumagaki, Kazunori. “Value-Creating Pedagogy and Japanese Education in the Modern Era,” The Journal of Oriental Studies, vol. 10 (2000) Special Issue, p31
  6. ^ Kumagai, pp32-34
  7. ^ Kumagai, p41
  8. ^ Levi McLaughlin, Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions, Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion, ISBN 978 90 04 23435 2, page 281
  9. ^ Inken Prohl and John Nelson, Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions, Brill Academic Pub (3. September 2012), ISBN 978-9004234352, Page 281 [1], p. 281, at Google Books
  10. ^ Ito, Takao. "Reading Resistance: The Record of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s Interrogation by Wartime Japan’s ‘Thought Police’". Educational Studies 45 (2): 133–145. doi:10.1080/00131940902762169. 
  11. ^ de Melo Silva, Dilma, “Makiguchi Project in Action—Enhancing Education for Peace,” The Journal of Oriental Studies, vol. 10 (2000), p62
  12. ^ Brian Daizen Victoria, Senior Lecturer Centre for Asian Studies, University of Adelaide, Engaged Buddhism: A Skeleton in the Closet?


Ikeda, Daisaku. "John Dewey and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi: Confluences of Thought and Action." 2001. In Soka Education: For the Happiness of the Individual, 1-32. Santa Monica, CA: Middleway Press, 2010.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
new office
1st President of Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai
11 November 1930 – 11 November 1944
Succeeded by
Jōsei Toda