Ex-New Komeito chief lashes out at Soka Gakkai

by Masami Ito

Former New Komeito leader Junya Yano said Wednesday that Soka Gakkai, Japan’s largest lay Buddhist organization, has been violating his human rights by threatening him and obstructing his freedom of speech.

According to Yano, Soka Gakkai forced him to abandon his activities as a political commentator, published libelous statements about him in the group’s Seikyo Shimbun newspaper, and has attempted to force him into selling his house to make a ¥200 million to ¥300 million donation to the group over the last several years.

Yano, who had been a member of Soka Gakkai for more than 50 years, also said he and members of his family have been under surveillance and shadowed by strangers on a daily basis.

“Soka Gakkai is not what it used to be. It has changed,” Yano said during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. Soka Gakkai “is taking antisocial action here and there, and I feel righteous indignation as a citizen.”

After he and his family left the group, Yano filed a damages suit against Soka Gakkai on May 12. He was then countersued by an executive member of the influential group, which effectively serves as New Komeito’s base.

“As someone who was a lawmaker for a long time, I felt I was abandoning my social responsibility by keeping my mouth shut” about Soka Gakkai, Yano said. “Also, I felt it wouldn’t do any good to the members of Soka Gakkai themselves, who took care of me, if I endured (the threats) in bitter silence.”

Yano is also in the middle of another suit involving three ex-New Komeito lawmakers. Yano claimed the three, who are all in Soka Gakkai, took documents and notebooks filled with 30 years of his “observations and behind-the-scenes details” in the political world.

Last December, however, the Tokyo District Court ruled that Yano gave the notebooks willingly to the ex-lawmakers. Yano appealed, and the case is in the hands of the high court.

Yano headed New Komeito from 1986 to 1989. The party, now the Liberal Democratic Party’s junior member in the ruling bloc, gets much of its clout from Soka Gakkai’s huge vote-generating power.

Soka Gakkai “is a massive religious organization that has strong political influence . . . I cannot overlook its antisocial behavior anymore,” Yano said.