Tsunesaburo Makiguchi
Value-Creating Education

Rather than provide knowledge itself, we must encourage the joy and excitement that arise from learning.

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Tsunesaburo Makiguchi
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Letters from Prison

At his home, winter 1942

During his detainment, Makiguchi was permitted to write one postcard every ten days. These letters reveal Makiguchi as a man of deep faith who employed the Buddhist teaching of karma to frame and give meaning to his ordeal. But at no point did this religious interpretation lead him to disengage from reality. In fact, despite the extreme limitations on his ability to communicate with the outside world, to the last he remained intensely engaged in the realities of his family, and the community of Buddhist believers that was the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai.

In 1939, Makiguchi's third (and last surviving) son, Yozo, had married Sadako Inaba; Yozo was drafted in 1942 so at the time of Makiguchi's detention the household consisted of Makiguchi's wife, Kuma, their daughter-in-law, Sadako, and granddaughter Yoko, aged 3. Sadako is the principal recipient of the letters and through her Makiguchi seeks to obtain information regarding the legal status of his case, the welfare of friends and family, the growth of his granddaughter, etc. He also consistently assures her that no concern for his welfare is necessary and encourages her to understand their difficulties in the light of Buddhism.

Sadako, today I received the seven items, including bedding, blankets and nightclothes, which you sent me here. Thank you, I know it must have been a great deal of trouble. Happily, these arrived just as I was thinking that the difficulties I've been having with my stomach must come from the cold of the nights here, so I am delighted to have received them. I heard from one of the prosecutors that the letter I sent you on the 11th of this month had not yet been sent out. Because I had written in it that he had been kind enough to understand my theory of value, it was sent around to the censors, who made an exception and passed it through. Their sympathy and understanding is something I am very grateful for. I will continue to be careful not to catch cold and with what I eat, and will do my best to heal this illness.

Life here is quite different from at the police headquarters. Each of us lives in a three-mat [6 sq. meters] apartment. I can read books. It is comfortable and I lack for nothing. Please don't worry about me but take care of everyone at home. ... In this time of emergency let us all be particularly careful with regard to eating properly and dressing to stay warm. Lately, it has grown suddenly cold. If one of you catches cold as usually happens this time of year, don't forget to use a hot-water bottle and cure it quickly. Is Yoko alright? I haven't seen her for three months and can just imagine how she has grown. Please take good care of her.

In a solitary cell, one can think about things, which makes it actually a better place to be. In addition to morning and evening gongyo [sutra recitation] I have started to offer special prayers and am keeping this up without pause. Yozo must find it very suspicious that I don't write him directly. Please assure him I am well and tell him that I am, as usual, busy traveling. Most of the subjects [of thought crime cases] are sent here. Because of the large numbers, the interrogations are time-consuming and I will have to reside here for the time being. Please wait for me patiently.

For all of us, faith is the most important thing. We may consider this a great misfortune, but it pales into insignificance when compared to what the Daishonin endured. It is important to understand this fact clearly and to strengthen your faith more than ever. We live lives of vast and immeasurable benefit and cannot possibly resent or regret a situation such as this one. From my experiences to date, I know clearly that, just as it states in the sutra and the gosho [the writings of Nichiren], "poison will be turned into medicine." 1

In the letters that follow, he repeatedly urges Sadako to include specific, concrete information in her replies and always to date them, in part so that he can determine how long the censors are taking to review their communications.

Did you go see Mr. Ishida of the Heiwa Foods Company, or not? I believe you are working for that company. If so, how is it? I mention these things because I think they can make your life easier. Read my letters carefully and respond to my questions and requests promptly. Why don't you send the books in the house, like Akaho gishi, which I asked for? If you can't send them to me, reply clearly to that effect. When did Koguri and Ohara pay you a visit? Are Ohara and his wife reconciled, or not? It isn't that I am scolding you. Nor do I need elaborate explanations. Don't put needless energy into writing a response, but reply simply and naturally, without getting emotional. Your food rations, the way Yoko is playing. I want to know about any changes in these things. Those at the front feel the same way. I don't need any of the commonplace formalities in your letters. I want concrete facts. 2

Sadako's replies to Makiguchi have been lost, but from February of 1944, phrases appear in his letters thanking her for providing the kind of concrete information he had been seeking.