"Liberty Bells, giant chairs, this-n-that convention, world record flag marching numbers, world record rolling human pyramids" - Hitch
^ That's the summary of my years in Youth Division. I had only been a member a few months when I went on the bus trip to Philadelphia to march in the Liberty Bell parade. Want to know one of the things I remember most? Because I had marching band experience (from high school) and was more reliable than most of the others (the YWD from my HQ typically took it seriously and actually *marched*, while the other YWD from the Chicago Jt. Terr just *walked*) so I was put on the right side of the banner, the side closest to our byakuren guide, who would manage our distance from the group in front of us and tell us to speed up, slow down, whatever. Well, what I remember most is marching in our little short skirts with shorts underneath, and little boys diving for the gutter to look up and see what was under our skirts!
RE: Weed - there was a YMD, a nice looking fellow who worked as a sous-chef, who turned out to live just down the street from me. We dated briefly. At the time, he was having meetings in his apartment. That abruptly stopped, and he didn't understand why. I later heard that it was because the leaders had discovered that he was smoking *weed* - and that he'd smoked weed right before meetings!! *le horreur* Well, their decision to yank the meetings away from his apartment really hurt his feelings - it wasn't like they sat down with him and asked him to refrain from, you know, stinking up the place with weed smoke right before the members came over or anything. Truth be told, I *never* smelled weed smoke when I went over there - how could anyone, between the incense and the candles?? And I *know* what weed smoke smells like, let me tell YOU!!
"Local non-member Japanese are creeped out by the area and YouTube has many expose videos up with people going undercover to reveal what it's like to walk around or venture into some of the cult-catering shops (you can buy cult candies, snacks, cakes, flags, lapel pins, cell phone straps, stationary, bustudan and practicing accessories (all tri-colored and logo'ed), toys and stuffed chanting bears for the kids and, of course, a wide selection of Dear Leader literature and fan books). I kid you not. I'm not making one world of this up, either. "
This is true - seen it for myself. In April, 2006, I went to Japan with my family and another Gakkai member, who was my best friend at the time (and a Japanese ex-pat, so she made our trip SOOOO much easier!). One day, we went into Tokyo to visit the SGI HQ (or whatever it was). When we got there, we were told that we couldn't get guidance unless we arrived with a letter written to Sensei *eye roll* So we wandered around - Fuji Art Museum was closed, so we went into this little garden...it was nice...and we went into a Gakkai gift shop. When the workers heard that we were from the USA (pretty damn obvious - I'm 5'11" with golden brown hair, blue eyes, and fair skin with freckles), they were so happy and gave us some free stuff (can't remember what now - nothing valuable). Hey, wanna see the butsudan I eventually got?? My butsudan (currently in garage)
I put lamps like these in it - they were advertised as "temple lamps" but I really think they were hina (girls' day) display lamps: Cool looking lamps
They look really cool, though.
It's funny - the whole way through, I'd always wanted a really fancy shmancy butsudan with all the bells and whistles, and when I finally got it, I didn't really care about practicing any more!!