Founding President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi first used the term Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value Creation Educational Society) in 1930 when he published his insightful book The Theory of Value-Creating Pedagogy. He asserted that the purpose of education should not be mere training for workers for Japan's growing industrial machine, but the development of the human ability to create "value" (i.e., gain, beauty and social good) in their daily lives. His humanistic, student-centered views and defense of religious freedom often brought him into conflict with authority. Arrested with other top Soka Gakkai leaders in 1943 as a "thought criminal" for his unyielding opposition to the militarist regime and its forced imposition of state-sponsored religion, Makiguchi died in prison at the age of 73 in November 1944.
Makiguchi's close disciple, Josei Toda, survived the ordeal and was released from a Tokyo prison just weeks before the world's first use of the atomic bomb in July 1945. Determined to rebuild the Soka Gakkai, Toda set about to develop its membership from less than 3,000 families when he assumed the presidency in 1951 to more than 750,000 before his death in 1958, thereby spreading the movement across Japan and throughout society. The Soka Gakkai's remarkable growth stemmed from its commitment to help people overcome their suffering in the postwar chaos.
On May 3, 1960, Daisaku Ikeda became the third president. Within six months, he established chapters in the United States and South American countries, followed a year later by organizations in nine European countries. He continues to provide leadership for the global SGI organization, which now includes members in more than 190 countries and territories. Ikeda has founded a number of educational and cultural institutions that seek to foster the values of peace, culture and education.