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Canada is My Land of Mission

November 24, 2022

By Kumiko Ina

District Young Women’s Leader

Riverdale District, Toronto

I was born into the practice and raised in the “Garden of Soka”[1] in Japan. One of my dreams was to live abroad. In 2010, I came to Vancouver to study English on a one-year working-holiday visa, in hopes of fulfilling my dream. I was full of excitement, and I was mentally prepared to tackle any hardships that might come my way. However, after a year, my visa expired and I had to return to Japan. After such an amazing time in Canada, I missed being there, so two months later, I decided to return to get a college degree in Vancouver. As well, I set a goal to get Canadian Permanent Residency (PR). After graduating, my employer offered to sponsor my application and I applied for PR status. During the process, I had to wait without working, so I contributed my time to SGI activities. 

Not too long after that, I got injured. I required a surgical procedure that would cost a lot, since I did not have insurance. While waiting for the PR, my legal status was complicated, and my best option was to go back to Japan for the surgery. Upon returning to Japan, I had to make an appointment at the hospital, a process that usually takes quite a while depending on the severity of the patient’s condition. However, much to my surprise, the hospital was able to squeeze an appointment into their schedule and I was offered a surgery date three days after my arrival in Japan. I saw this as a great benefit from my Buddhist practice, and I felt so protected. In addition, the surgical expenses were all covered by my insurance in Japan. 

But my challenge was far from over. One day before I was to leave Japan to return to Vancouver, my uncle, who had been fighting a long-term illness, passed away. The deep grief over the loss of a family member sank in my stomach. My mother told me that my injury had brought me back to Japan so that we could all be with my uncle and talk to him before he took his last breath. I couldn’t attend his funeral, but my mother said that my uncle looked as if he were resting, with a peaceful smile on his face. 

After returning to Vancouver, there was even more disappointing news from my lawyer. The processing time for my PR application had increased from the initial six month wait to 13 months, and I wasn’t allowed to work during that time. Then, after waiting for 13 months, I was surprised to find out that my application was declined. 

This was the time that I determined to contribute more toward kosen-rufu in Canada. I was filled with doubts about why this was happening to me while I was chanting, but I pushed myself to chant 10 hours of daimoku every day. I did a lot of research to find ways of staying in Canada that would enable me to re-apply for PR. I emailed my resume to 20-30 companies every day for a few months, but the reality was harsh—only two companies replied. It was extremely difficult and risky for employers to sponsor a person who didn’t have any work history with them. Despite this tough situation, I determined to make a good cause by attending SGI activities and chanting even more, and I also participated in the SGI Canada Buddhist study exam.

Kumiko with her parents Mikiko and Junji

Then one day, a company in New Zealand contacted me and offered to sponsor my work visa if I worked for them in New Zealand. I had bittersweet feelings about leaving Canada after living here for five years and making lots of connections, but there was a bright opportunity and hope in New Zealand. 

In 2016, I left Canada and flew to New Zealand. The company and I prepared all the legal documents for my work visa application. However, after much thought, I decided to turn down this opportunity because I felt that the job was not what I was looking for. After turning it down, I realized that I had to start everything all over again. Afterward, I received another offer from a different company, but I declined it for the same reason. In New Zealand, visitors can only stay in the country for three months, and by this time two months had passed. While chanting, my negativity weighed heavily on my mind. I was on the edge of giving up my goal of making a new life abroad, and instead just returning to Japan. But I kept chanting for the best outcome.

One day, I received a phone call saying that someone was interested in my resume, and that if I accepted their offer, they would sponsor my work visa application. I worked hard at the new job, and set a new goal of getting PR in New Zealand. But this victory was short-lived. The peaceful work environment was completely flipped after a few months. My mental health was badly affected. I was chanting to decide whether I should sacrifice my health and keep the job since I had set a goal to get my PR. SGI members in New Zealand supported me by encouraging me, and by staying in touch. I took my time to make up my mind, and ultimately I decided to resign from the job. Shortly after, I secured a new job with another company that I had once felt eager to work for. That job helped me so much in building my career. Moreover, I found out that one of my co-workers was an SGI member, which was a huge support. 

In search of even better job opportunities, I moved to Australia in 2017. I joined the SGI-Australia’s Jacaranda Group[2] and built connections with youth members in SGI Sydney. My challenges continued, and my visa issues started all over again. However, this time I determined that in the next place, I would find a sponsor for my visa—and that this would be my very last visa struggle. My chanting became stronger as I chanted to respond to my mentor in life, Ikeda Sensei, with a victory. Soon, I realized that Australia didn’t have many hospitality work opportunities for me. 

In 2018, after securing a job offer in Toronto where an employer would sponsor me, I moved back to Canada. This time, the never-give-up spirit to get my PR was engraved brightly in my heart. But as fate would have it, other problems surfaced. The workplace became toxic, and then the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. I didn’t have Ontario health insurance coverage, and then I suffered a temporary layoff from work. Things seemed hopeless. However, I welcomed these challenges optimistically, and SGI activities boosted my spirit. Being unemployed gave me ample time to collect documents from Japan, New Zealand and Australia so that I could apply for my PR again. Finally, all my documents were submitted smoothly in September 2020. 

On the day before Kosen-rufu Day, March 16, 2021, I was honoured to be given the opportunity to be a district young women’s leader. I accepted the position immediately with joy. Then I gave myself a target to chant one million daimoku toward May 3, Soka Gakkai Day, and to secure my PR status in Canada. On May 7, 2021, my PR was officially approved!

/>Kumiko (far right) with youth members from Riverdale District in Toronto

It has taken me 10 years to get my PR since I had first set up my goal, back in 2011. In this long journey, non-stop challenges broke my heart many times. It was not easy at all, but my Buddhist practice kept me centred. I never lost hope, and year after year, I overcame all my obstacles with a stronger spirit, no matter where I went. I will never forget this feeling of absolute victory. 

I’m very thankful to the visa consultant in Vancouver who fought on my behalf for five years to support my legal status multiple times in Canada. I have the deepest gratitude for all the friends I made in this journey—my family, all my employers, and the SGI members who supported me. Without a doubt, I lived the theme of 2021—“Year of Hope and Victory.” 

Responding to my mentor’s hopes for me, I wrote a letter to Ikeda Sensei to report my victory, and I received a wonderful personal message from him:

“Many congratulations. I am praying for your success and every happiness.”

This summer as I move to Vancouver—my new city of mission—I will strive even more for kosen-rufu in Canada as Sensei’s disciple, aiming toward the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai in 2030.


Published in July 2022 New Century    

[1] Garden of Soka is a phrase used in the Soka Gakkai to describe Future Division members (age 5-17) who grow up participating in SGI meetings and learning about Nichiren Buddhism. 

[2] Jacaranda Group: A behind the scenes training group for young women that is equivalent to SGI Canada’s Maple Leaf Group, where members offer support behind the scenes, ensuring the safety and success of meetings held at the culture centre.