Soka Gakkai (sō´kä gäk´kī) [Jap.,=Value Creation Society], Japan-based independent lay Buddhist movement. A theological offshoot of Nichiren Buddhism, it was founded (1930) as the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai [Value Creation Educational Society] by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, educator and follower of the Nichiren Sho sect, to promote his ideas for educational reform, but by 1940 the group concentrated on the propagation of Nichiren Buddhism. The government disbanded the group and arrested its leaders during World War II for its criticism of the Japanese involvement in the war.
In 1945 the group was reorganized and renamed the Soka Gakkai by Makiguchi's disciple, Josei Toda. The society's promises to help adherents achieve happiness and success appealed to millions of Japanese in the difficult years of the postwar era; the movement also stresses the need for world peace. Under its third leader, Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai experienced significant growth; it has now spread worldwide and has 1.69 million members outside Japan, including 330,000 in the United States; within Japan there are more than 10 million members. In 1975, Soka Gakkai International was established as the worldwide association for the movement; Ikeda became its president. Soka Gakkai has been criticized for its evangelism and exclusiveness, but by the early 1990s it had developed ties with many outside organizations and had become (1981) a nongovernmental organization member of the United Nations.
In 1964 the Soka Gakkai organized Komeito, an independent political party that became the second largest opposition party in the Diet. In 1993–94, Komeito was part of the multiparty government led by Morihiro Hosokawa. Komeito was dissolved in 1994 as part of a realignment among Japanese opposition parties, but the parties that arose from it reunited in 1998 to form New Komeito. New Komeito has been a junior partner in Liberal Democratic–led governments (1999–2009, 2012–).
See J. White, The Soka Gakkai and Mass Society (1970); D. A. Metraux, The History and Theology of Soka Gakkai (1988); P. E. Hammond, Soka Gakkai in America (1999).