The new religious movement Happy Science started a political party in May called the “Happiness Realization Party”, or HRP for short. Today the Japanese government announced figures which showed that Happiness fielded the most candidates of any party in the 2009 government elections. These figures are likely to be translated by American reporters sometime this evening or tomorrow. 2chan.us scoop! Must credit Shii/Kransom!
On this blog I previously covered the religious party New Komeito, managed by Nichirenist splinter group Soka Gakkai. New Komeito claims that it dissociated itself from Soka Gakkai in the early 1990s, although everyone knows this is not true. The HRP does not even attempt this sort of obfuscation. The party leader is Kyouko Ookawa, the wife of Happy Science founder Ryuuhou Ookawa, who is by the way not only the Cosmic Buddha but also God incarnate.
Happy Science is by far the funniest of Japan’s new religions.* Adherents believe that historical figures like Thomas Edison and Florence Nightingale, as well as Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda, were actually angels descended from Heaven to save humankind, a concept the equate with the bodhisattva. This theology is explained brilliantly in the anime The Laws of Eternity, in which four happiness-minded teenagers go on a journey through the seven extra dimensions of the universe and converse with these people as well as figures from Atlantis and Greek mythology. (The Laws of Eternity may or may not be posted to Tokyo Toshokan next month with English subtitles. I couldn’t possibly tell you whether it is being illegally fansubbed at this very moment.)Ryuuhou Ookawa believes himself not only to be God but also to have the ability to channel the spirits of Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Greek god Hermes, and even the founders of previous Japanese new religions, causing an interesting lawsuit over whether “channeling” the founders of existing religious corporations can be considered slanderous speech. In these “channeled” books Jesus and the others seem to display an abnormal interest in Japanese economic policy and the country’s political future. In other books, the future of Earth is described: in the 25th century, Ookawa predicts that Martin Luther and Nichiren will be reincarnated to start a powerful new religion together, and the United States will sink into the ocean and be replaced by Atlantis. Ookawa has also written economic texts with the fairly standard advice that Japan can become a superpower by imitating America. All in all over 100 books are available. These lengthy books, usually running 200-300 pages, are given away for free in Happy Science churches; they have also been translated into English.
While Happy Science has an English Wikipedia article describing it in bland, whitewashed terms, Rick Ross has not archived any English articles about it, which is surprising considering its size. In its 20-year history it is mainly notable for having a “religious war” against Aum Shinrikyo, the infamous cult behind the Tokyo sarin gas attacks. The week before the gas attacks Happy Science members took to the street protesting the cult. The HRP as of yet has no Wikipedia articles or neutral coverage in English.
The figures released today show that while the LDP and DPJ were only able to field 287 and 267 candidates, respectively, HRP produced an astonishing 298 candidates, putting an HRP candidate on the ballot in 99% of Japan’s 300 constituencies. These were likely not chosen from experienced politicians but volunteered from Happy Science’s eager member base. HRP also fielded 45 candidates for the proportional offices (the mainstay of smaller parties like New Komeito), as opposed to 23 from LDP. The reaction on 2ch was a mixture of disbelief and “we surrender to our overlord Ryuuhou Ookawa”.
A little background for the completely confused: Japan has been run by a one-party system for most of its postwar history. It was expected that the ruling LDP would completely dissolve during this fall’s upcoming elections due to three consecutive failed governments, but the established opposition party DPJ was hit by a corruption scandal that led to the resignation of the party leader. As New Komeito is roundly disliked by most Japanese and the Communist Party is too radical for some, this left an opening for a new political party.
I guess I should start a “shinshuukyou/new religions” category at this blog. I don’t watch much anime and I don’t go to cons but I follow Japanese religion very closely. Before you ask, I’m not going to start my own blog because attracting readers to a religion blog is mendoi.
* With the possible exception of the Pana Wave Laboratory. Those guys were NUTS.