Soka Gakkai International has an estimated 12 million adherents in 192 countries (Gebert 2017). There are SGI organisations in more than 30 European countries with a total membership of more than 135,000. SGI-UK has a membership of 14,000 spread across 630 local groups. In Japan, Soka Gakkai has more than eight million affiliated households (Baffelli 2011: 217).After the schism between Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu, SGI organisations were able to claim greater autonomy and adapt more flexibly to their national and local contexts. In Japan, the post-schism organisation of Soka Gakkai is dependent upon its links with its political party, New Komeito. Komeito enjoyed electoral successes since its founding in the 1960s, but gained unprecedented influence when it re-launched in 1998 as New Komeito and became the junior partner in a government coalition in 1999, led by the Liberal Democratic Party (Baffelli 2011: 224; McLaughlin 2015: 3).
Traditionally, New Komeito’s elected representatives have upheld Soka Gakkai’s principles when voting in the Diet (the national legislature of Japan, composed of the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives). This includes the Diet’s commitment to pacifism, which is also enshrined in Japan’s post-war constitution (Article 9). In 2014, however, the overwhelming majority of New Komeito parliamentarians said they supported Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal to amend the Constitution to allow for limited participation in ‘self defence’ (McLaughlin 2015: 8). They saw this not as a relinquishing of pacifism, however, but as a compromise through which other clauses on human rights, privacy and protection of the environment, might be added (Harding 2016).
The shift in attitudes amongst New Komeito’s Diet representatives sparked off major protests amongst Soka Gakkai members starting in 2015. The Soka Gakkai leadership has officially distanced itself from the protests (McLaughlin 2015: 9). Meanwhile, New Komeito politicians continue to enjoy high levels of support at the local government level. These political developments within Japan do not appear to have had a negative impact on the organisation of SGI organisations in other parts of the world.