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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happiness Realization Party


The Happiness Realization Party, founded in May 2009, is the political organ of the Happy Science religious movement. Happy Science is a sci-fi religion founded by Ryuho Okawa, a former high-flying trader turned charismatic religious leader who claims to be a reincarnation of the Buddha.

The Happy Science movement has been extremely successful. With a law degree from Tokyo University and a finance degree from the City University of New York,“Master Okawa” is obviously brainy; having set himself up as a literal demi-god, he is obviously ambitious; and, having attracted enough followers to have well over 200 centers in Japan and over 30 overseas, he is obviously charismatic and convincing.

The beliefs of Happy Science as outlined on its website are an untidy package of banal New Age platitudes: basically watered down Buddhism with plenty of sci-fi seasoning: “The ‘Real World’ is multi-dimensional. Human spirits exist from the 4th dimension to the 9th, with each having different qualities.” etc etc. (Incredibly, by the way, Tokyo’s free what’s-on magazine, Metropolis, published an article on July 9 about Happy Science that lauds the organization for its “heroic attempt to inject religious values back into modern society.” What other oddball cults has Metropolis magazine raved about in the past, we wonder?)

Happiness Realization mask

Little can then be expected then, of the Realization of Happiness Party, and little, indeed, does it deliver. I came across the Party campaigning in Ginza and, the next week, in Akihabara. “Doctor Nakamatsu” was the candidate for the proportional representational seats for which the elections were held last week. He paraded in absurd fairytale finery while a recording of him singing his election song in a quavery voice to the tune of “Doe, A Deer” played from his election van.

His young minions paraded behind him holding to their faces the paper masks of Doctor Nakamatsu that were the feature accoutrements of his campaign: a major platform of which is to ... lower taxes! The Party also milks the Japanese public's fear of China and North Korea for all it's worth by predicting a nuclear attack on, and the colonization of, Japan by either or both of these powers.

The dignity of Japanese politics got some respite in the first half of this decade with Junichiro Koizumi, but the lid is clearly back off. The encouraging thing is that “Doctor Nakamatsu” got only 30,000 votes. Er, did we just say “encouraging”?

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