Tsunesaburō Makiguchi

Tsunesaburō Makiguchi bigraphy, stories - Educators

Tsunesaburō Makiguchi : biography

1871 – 1944

Tsunesaburō Makiguchi (牧口 常三郎, Makiguchi Tsunesaburō 1871–1944) was a Japanese educator who founded and became the first president of Soka Gakkai.

He was born in Kashiwazaki, a small village in Niigata Prefecture, Japan, on June 6, 1871. Adopted by the Makiguchi family, he moved to Hokkaidō, Japan’s northernmost island, at the age of 14. Working his way through school, he graduated from Sapporo Normal School (today’s Hokkaidō 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 the 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.Murata, Kiyoaki. Japan’s New Buddhism: An Objective Account of Soka Gakkai. New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1969. pp. 73-74 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.

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.Murata, p72 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.”Makiguchi, Tsunesaburo. A Geography of Human Life. Ed. by Dayle M. Bethel. Caddo Gap Press, 2002, p25 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.”Makiguchi. A Geography of Human Life. p.286

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.Kumagaki, Kazunori. “Value-Creating Pedagogy and Japanese Education in the Modern Era,” The Journal of Oriental Studies, vol. 10 (2000) Special Issue, p31 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.Kumagai, pp32-34

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.