Publication Date

Winter 2-1-2010

Journal

Culture and Politics [Kultura i Polityka], special edition on Religion and Politics [Religia i Polityka]

Volume

6

First Page

45

Last Page

64

Abstract

The decline of traditional religions in Japan in the past century, and especially since the end of World War Two, has led to an explosion of so-called “new religions” (shin shūkyō 新宗教), many of which have made forays into the political realm. The best known—and most controversial—example of a “political” new religion is Sōka Gakkai 創価学会, a lay Buddhist movement originally associated with the Nichiren sect that in the 1960s gave birth to a new political party, Komeitō 公明党 (lit., Clean Government Party), which in the past several decades has emerged as the third most popular party in Japan (as New Komeitō). Since the 1980s, Japan has also seen the emergence of so-called “new, new religions” (shin shin shūkyō 新新宗教), which tend to be more technologically savvy and less socially concerned (and, in the eyes of critics, more akin to “cults” than the earlier new religions). One new, new religion known as Kōfuku-no-Kagaku 幸福の科学 (lit., Institute for Research in Human Happiness or simply Happy Science), founded in 1986 by Ōkawa Ryūho 大川隆法, has very recently developed its own political party, Kōfuku Jitsugentō 幸福実現党 (The Realization of Happiness Party). This article will analyse the political ideals of Kōfuku Jitsugentō in relation to its religious teachings, in an attempt to situate the movement within the broader tradition of religio-political syncretism in Japan. In particular, it will examine the recent “manifesto” of Kōfuku Jitsugentō in relation to those of New Komeitō and “secular” political parties such as the Liberal Democratic Party (Jimintō 自民党) and the Democratic Party (Minshutō 民主党).