Gen was born in a poor area of Osaka’s Nishinari to a father who was a Korean illegal immigrant ,and a Korean mother whom he never knew.He was raised by a number of women ,subjected to school-yard bullying and his father’s violent whims on a daily basis and ran away from home.
In junior high school he became a delinquent ,was arrested five or six times,and worked several jobs to feed himself.These included running loan shark offices,small bars,a pub,a detective company,and a construction business.His companies walked a fine line between “illegal and legal activities”that “frequently cheated people”often resulting in brawls with yakuza.Despite this,he became a Rotary Club member as the success of his businesses grew.
Gen considers his first book,”Shinjuku Kabukicho Kakekomidera”his most important. “It is a reflection on my life and is easy to read.It has my personal history,and you can see what a total mess (my life)was.
“I probably have five times the amount of experience most people do,both in the regular sense and the underworld sense.I think this experience is the basis of my knowledge and it gives me the confidence to save anyone.”
Strangely enough ,at one point in his life Gen started commuting to Mount Hieizan and met with a famous Buddist monk ,Dai Ajari of the Tendai sect .At the age of 32,Gen became a monk under Dai Ajari’s training.
After the Great Hanshin Earthquake,Gen did volunteer work for half a year at a tent village for quake victims.It was during this time that he came to appreciate the benefits gained from helping others ,as well as the importance of life itself.
Despite his claim that his center(Kakekomidera) is entirely secular ,and that “you can’t help people with religion alone” ,Gen himself is Buddhist ,from his time as a monk.He says he learned that “there are no climinals or sinners.It’s a matter of destiny and situation. A person is in circumstances where they may do something bad ,like steling bread ,but if they are in a good situation,they may be the one giving the bread.”
In a year 2000,Gen had a scare that turned his life around.He misinterpreted a blood test result and thought he had contracted HIV.In actuality,he had contracted far less dangerous virus called HTLV-1.He handled the virus well and now beams with energy and a glow that disguises his 52 years. Still ,the scare caused Gen to become very aware of his own morality.He moved to Kabukicho and opened the center(Kakekomidera) in 2002.
※Topics written by Will Robb (Quated from “Japan times”)