TOKYO, February 18 /PRNewswire/ --

At a ceremony at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo, Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist association, was today conferred with the Order of Friendship on behalf of the Russian Federation by Ambassador Mikhail M. Bely.

Presenting the award in recognition of Mr. Ikeda's wide-ranging contributions to the development of Russo-Japanese relations and bilateral exchange for over 30 years, Ambassador Bely paid tribute to his efforts to strengthen people-to-people ties through cultural exchange, and his deep understanding of different philosophies and cultures.

In response, Mr. Ikeda determined to devote further energy to broadening and deepening exchanges of culture and education with Russia, focusing especially on youth.

On his first visit to the then Soviet Union in 1974, Mr. Ikeda was criticized for visiting a communist country. On that occasion he met premier Aleksey Kosygin to discuss prospects for peace at a time of great global tension.

Mr. Ikeda has visited the former USSR and Russia six times to meet and hold dialogues with leaders and cultural figures. He has promoted extensive educational and cultural exchanges through institutions he founded, including Soka University, the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, the Min-On Concert Association and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum. He also promoted the showing in Russia of exhibitions devoted to peace such as "Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World," hosted in Moscow in 1987.

Over one million people have been exposed to Russian culture through tours by over 40 dance and music groups invited to Japan by the Min-On Concert Association from 1966 onwards. Since Soka University Japan signed an exchange agreement with Moscow State University in 1975, over 500 students have participated in the two-way exchange.

An exhibition of 100 artworks from the State Russian Museum is currently showing at the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum in Hachioji.

The awarding of the Order of Friendship, recognizing those credited with strengthening friendship and cooperation with the Russian Federation in the areas of science, culture, economics and peace, was announced in a presidential decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin on January 9. Mr. Ikeda was nominated by former president Mikhail Gorbachev, Moscow State University Rector Dr. Victor Sadovnichy, former Russian cosmonaut Dr. Aleksander Serebrov and author Chingiz Aitmatov.

Contact: Joan Anderson Office of Public Information Soka Gakkai International Tel: +81-3-5360-9482 Fax: +81-3-5360-9885 URL:

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Joan Anderson, Office of Public Information of Soka Gakkai International, Tel: +81-3-5360-9482, Fax: +81-3-5360-9885