A Royal Visit To Kansai Soka Schools

Unbeknownst to us, the Kansai Soka Schools’ leaders had planned an exceptional experience, one befit for royalty. Although we arrived 30 minutes early, we were immediately welcomed by the Kansai Soka School’s Principal, President, and English-Japanese translator / teacher. After taking the customary photos with the magnificent building and burly lion statue, we received an extensive tour of the school’s museum.

Inside the Kansai Soka Schools Library with students studying for the difficult English proficiency exam!

A stunning campus with over 1,700 students, the school’s rich history came to light through President Daisaku Ikeda’s personal letters to graduating students. In short haikus, Ikeda conveyed his heart. One in particular to a young woman, made me teary-eyed, as I could feel his warmth and care for this one individual.

The fans in SGI colors of red, yellow, and blue!

In a series of photos, we saw how Ikeda encouraged the young baseball team members to dream beyond their wildest dreams, and achieve the unthinkable. After several years of hard work, the Soka baseball team successfully made it to the National Finals — an incredible feat for such a young team at such a young school in a highly competitive area. It was heretofore, unimaginable. Yet, the team played with their heart and soul, and made the goal a reality through Ikeda’s sincere encouragement.

Red, yellow, and blue fans for the winning baseball team!

Another fun fact is that most top-tier schools emphasize the importance of baseball, so the team members spend ~85% of the their time, focusing on improving their skills. Instead of following the norm, Soka students spend only 2 hours per day, playing baseball. On weekends, they may spend a bit more time, but Soka emphasizes well-rounded and highly educated students — not baseball stars.

Our beautifully prepared schedule with a nice pencil and notebook, both of which I am still using.

Tour Schedule for April 30, 2016

  • 11:00 Arrival, Campus Tour
  • 11:45 Lunch
  • 13:00 Lecture to Learning Cluster Students
  • 14:00 View Club Activities
  • 15:00 Depart

We enjoyed a beautiful, hexagonal, pink bento (a lunchbox, but Japanese style) box made by a Kansai Soka School mother along with deliciously strong Japanese green tea. While eating, all of us were encouraged to share more about who we were and why we there.

Isn’t this a stunning bento? I give it an A+.

In our 5 ½ hour tour, we experienced the amazing beauty and heart of young Soka students — all of whom were brimming with hope. For example, after Mr. MacDonald presented to an English-speaking class, a young woman asked how she could pursue her dream of becoming a world citizen. And he answered by sharing that she was already 99% of the way there by thinking and chanting towards this goal. In essence, she was already a world citizen, and farther along in her journey than she realizes / believes. As she develops her passions and career, she will inevitably help make the world a better place.

When I shared my ~5-minute experience in both Japanese and English about why I started believing full-heartedly in the power of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, I could see their eyes light up with empathy and a genuine understanding of what I was trying to share! Through sharing my experience, my goal was to encourage every single student to dream big — even bigger than they could have imagined. After speaking, I knew that I had conveyed my message.

Our memorable group photo with two traditional koto instruments!

One of my favorite parts was visiting a few clubs. Not only were we treated to a phenomenal chorus group, but we also listened to classical koto (a traditional Japanese stringed instrument) ­­ — an experience that most foreigners do not have the pleasure of enjoying. The group of about 20 played exceptionally well. And it makes sense, as they are one of the best in the entire nation. And guess what? They only practice 2 hours a day, as they focus mostly on their overall education.

An emotionally-powerful chorus group, and one of the best I have EVER heard!

The chorus of ~25 young men and women sang so beautifully, that I cried. Since I was sitting in the front row, while they sang “Haha Yo,” they could clearly see my tears. And it even sparked empathetic tears from a young woman singing in the front row. Since I miss my mother, it was such a heart-warming, emotionally powerful song that spoke to me. And even now, as I listen to this song, it still brings tears to my eyes.

Group photo with fantastic Taiko drummers.

We ended our club activities tour with Taiko — an ancient Japanese form of percussion using large drums. The powerful reverberations of the drums filled an entire gymnasium, and ignited our passionate responses of delight.

A memorable collage with one tiny error: I should have written “そか” instead of “ソーカ.” No pasa nada. I live & I learn even more Japanese!

To say the least, this tour was exceptional! I am so honored to have partaken in such a refreshing and encouraging experience. All of us were deeply moved, impressed, and eager to fight harder for kosen-rufu.

This blog was originally published on juliegramlich.org. Thank you very much for reading it!