A growing number of members at Soka Gakkai, Japan’s largest lay Buddhist group and the main supporter of ruling coalition member Komeito, are publicly criticizing the party for supporting controversial security legislation that will allow the Self-Defense Forces to help an ally under attack.
Last month, Tatsushi Amano, 51, launched an online campaign to gather signatures opposing the bills after they were rammed through the Lower House.
“It is ‘war legislation’ that will threaten human lives, drastically change Japan’s history to not engage in war and goes against the policy that pacifist Komeito was founded on,” Amano wrote under the name “one Soka Gakkai member.”
Amano plans to submit signatures gathered by the end of this month to Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi in early September.
Amano began harboring a sense of incongruity against Komeito when the party supported the decision by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet in July 2014 to allow the SDF to engage in collective self-defense.
But Komeito members argued that they prevented the Abe administration from going too far by having it accept three conditions for the use of force based on whether the attack poses a clear danger to Japan’s survival and its citizens’ rights to life, liberty and happiness; there is no other way of repelling the attack; and the use of force is limited to the minimum necessary.
Trusting this, Amano voted for Komeito in the December Lower House election.
But his doubts were reignited in June when constitutional scholars told a Lower House committee that the security bills are unconstitutional.
“The more I hear explanations from the government side in Diet deliberations, the more I feel arrogance. The idea of increasing deterrence by use of force is against the peaceful philosophy of Soka Gakkai,” Amano said, adding that he is undecided which party he will vote for in next year’s Upper House election.
Other Soka Gakkai members are joining in.
A woman in her 50s, a Soka Gakkai member living in Hachioji, west Tokyo, took part in a gathering organized by the youth group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) last Friday opposing the security bills.
“Honestly speaking, I think Komeito is pitiful. But then again, if it weren’t for Komeito, the legislation might have cleared the Diet earlier,” she said.
At Soka University and Soka Women’s College, which were founded by Soka Gakkai Honorary Chairman Daisaku Ikeda, students and teachers formed a group earlier this month opposing the security bills.
Junichiro Sano, 50, a lecturer at Soka University, also created a website to attract supporters, with more than 800 people signing up in four days.
“I felt a sense of crisis when the bills were forced through the Lower House,” Sano said. “I don’t think we should leave it up to Komeito lawmakers. I hope we, Soka University (members), raising our voices will prevent the security bills from being enacted.”