I’ve been seeing posters and hearing speeches from the Happiness Realization Party (Kōfuku Jitsugen-tō) for some time now. Hardly surprising, when you consider that they have entered a candidate for every first-past-the-post constituency seat, as well as a number for the proportional seats.
What is really surprising, though, is the fact that the party was only founded this year, in May, in fact. The name sounds like a benign liberal hippy reincarnation. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Although the political party is new, the group from which it has sprung, Happy Science, is not, having been started in 1986 by a self-proclaimed Master, Ryuho Okawa, who has in him some of the elements of the Buddha, Hermes, Thoth, and others, who manifest themselves as El Cantare - from the 9th dimensional heavenly realm (you think I’m making this stuff up, don’t you? I assure you, it’s all there for you to find on the Internet).
So, when the Supreme God of the terrestrial spirit group (I’m quoting again) goes into politics, what does he want to happen? Hopefully something a little more specific than the rather vague spiritual platitudes that adorn the Happy Science Web site.
Well, again this is all spelled out in detail on the Web site for the party, and bits of it would indeed make a lot of people happy. For example, there is the aim of increasing Japan’s population to 300 million over the next 20 years. Since the population currently stands at 120 million, with a breeding population of (let’s be generous) one-third of that figure, that’s an awful lot of copulatory happiness to be spread around for the next two decades. If the Happiness Realization Party wins the election, I recommend purchasing stock in love hotels. High-speed maglev trains, improved housing and educational systems will make it easier to bring up children in the Happiness Japan. Not all of the population explosion will come from the bedroom efforts of Japanese couples, though - the encouragement of immigration is also on the party’s platform - through increased opportunities for them to learn Japanese(!), as well as providing easier naturalization procedures.
But this hardly makes the party a group of sunny internationalists, despite Happy Science’s international temples scattered around the globe. Since Master Okawa has direct contact with the Dear Leader’s guardian spirit, he is in a unique position to know that Kim Jong Il is planning a nuclear strike on the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The fact that China will be number one in Asia also gives him cause for concern. Therefore Japan must have the right to attack other countries in self-defense. Much of the manifesto, and the party platform generally, plays on the fear generated by North Korea’s temper tantrums and childish behavior (exaggerated into threats to Japan’s very existence).
The party proposes a reformed constitution, with a directly-elected President as head of state, but at the same time “respecting the Emperor system,” and on the face of it, such a constitution is not ridiculous. I even found myself agreeing with part of it. However, when I read phrases such as “Japan, as a super-power, will be able to fulfill its responsibilities of bringing peace and prosperity to the entire world”, alarm bells ring in my head. Where have I heard things like this before? Oh yes, the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” - the Japanese military’s euphemism for empire in the 1930s and 1940s. There’s more, including a detailed progress chart for the future, and in 2060 or so, plans for bases on Mars and the Moon will be in full progress (you think I’m joking again? I’m quoting from the manifesto of a political party with candidates for every seat in the world’s 2nd-largest economy).
Fiscally, the abolition of the consumption, inheritance and gift taxes will bring about 3 percent economic growth and drive the Nikkei average above 20,000 yen. I’m not an economist, but this sounds suspiciously like the failed Reagan/Thatcher trickle-down economic policies.
However, looking at the list of Happiness officers, there are a couple of ex-Bank of Japan employees, an ex-MITI bureaucrat, and a few from the commercial sector who may know more than I do about these things. And one other thing strikes me about the list of officers - many of them come from Tokyo University or Keio University. A friend of mine, knowledgeable in these matters, once told me that many of the gang-controlled corporations were nominally headed by graduates of these two institutions. Not that I am accusing the party or Happy Science of any such links, but... In addition, I generally find that anyone over 40 whose main claim to fame is that he or she graduated from a famous university has done precious little after that (disclaimer: I attended a world-famous university, but I try to keep it hidden). At least the Party’s Chief Culture Officer simply puts “Manga artist” on his bio.
The problem is, that although there is (to this reader at least) a thread of total unrealism and eccentricity running through the whole of the manifesto, there is just enough in the way of platitudes with which anyone can agree to make it plausible on a quick reading. There are also a number of points on which Okawa has pronounced that will appeal to a conservative base (e.g. the elimination of pubic hair from newspaper advertisements and in magazine photos).
In addition, he has a history of extrapolating from known facts and common-sense, and making predictions and warnings or claiming to be first with ideas and innovations. For example, the Web site claims that he was first with the idea of eliminating highway tolls, or that the Prime Minister should negotiate directly with North Korea, prior to Koizumi’s visit to Pyongyang.
Especially interesting are his warnings claimed to have been made before the Aum Shinrikyo group’s acts of terrorism. As the leader of another religious group, in competition with Aum Shinrikyo, it is perfectly possible to imagine insider knowledge passing between the organizations, through followers defecting between them. As it happens, the foreign press seems to have been well aware of Aum Shinrikyo, long before the Japanese press was allowed to release any news about them.
All in all, the Happiness Realization Party, though its name sounds like a joke, has a serious agenda with a very firmly held set of conservative beliefs along with a number of harmless platitudes, and what looks like a very rigid power structure at the top. Personally, I am carrying around large pinches of salt for when I come across these people or their supporters. You may want to do the same.
Other posts by Hugh Ashton: