Journal

 

Thursday
Jan152015

Dubious Science

HRP's campaign poster for the 2014 general election features party president, Shaku Ryōko. The former party head used to be Ōkawa Kyōko, the wife of Happy Science founder Ōkawa Ryūhō. Seems they failed to realize their happiness together.The first time I heard of Happy Science was during the 2009 Lower House election that would had the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a well-deserved drubbing.

One day during the 12-day campaign period before the election,[1] a noisy political sound truck sped past me with the usual contingent of white gloved hands waving out of the windows and the improbable name Kōfuku Jitsugen Tō (幸福実現党, The Happiness Realization Party, HRP) plastered on the side of it.

“You gotta be kidding,” I said to myself as I waved back listlessly to the enthusiastic lackeys in the van.

In 2009, there was no shortage of minor political parties with silly names, including “The Essentials”, “The Freeway Club”, “Japan Smile Party” and “The Forest and Ocean Party”, none of which would gain any seats in the election. The Happies, however, would press on election after election.

Curiosity getting the better of me, I did a bit of research into the party when I got home that day and I learned that HRP was the political wing of Kōfuku no Kagaku (幸福の科学, Happy Science), a cult founded in 1986 by Ryūhō Ōkawa.

According to an article in The Japan Times, “the Happies have an eye-catching manifesto: multiply Japan’s population by 2 1/2 to 300 million and make it the world’s No. 1 economic power, and rapidly rearm for conflict with North Korea and China. If elected, the party’s lawmakers will invite millions of foreigners to work here, inject religion into all areas of life, and fight to overcome Japan’s ‘colonial’ mentality, which has ‘fettered’ the nation’s true claim to global leadership.”             

I don’t know about you, but it sounded to me as if the person who wrote the manifesto had been smoking meth.

Pipe dream or not, Kōfuku Jitsugen Tō fielded 345 candidates, or nearly one in each electoral district—more than the either the DPJ or Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)—in the 2009 election, yet failed to win any seats in the National Diet. Further bids in 2012 and 2014 with a similar number of candidates also yielded zero seats. At a cost of 3 million yen per individual electoral district and 6 million yen per proportional representation block, The Happies have squandered almost six billion yen (over $50 million at the current exchange rate) over the past three campaigns.

Or have they?

If the real aim of these hopeless election campaigns has been brand recognition rather than electoral victory, then The Happies must be very happy indeed. Six years ago, I had never heard of either the cult or its leader, but now I have. I’m sure it is no different with your average Tarō in Japan.

Still, fifty-plus million dollars ain’t chump change. By comparison, Mitt Romney spent $42 million of his own money in his failed attempt to win the Republican nomination for presidential candidate in 2007-08, the second most spent by a candidate self-financing his run. All of this got me thinking how The Happies were able to finance not only their election campaigns, but also their construction boom which has seen several gaudy new palaces dedicated to the ego of Ōkawa erected here in Fukuoka City over the past several years.

It’s hardly news that religions, old and new, are able to generate fabulous amounts of tax-free income, but to make money, they’ve got to have adherents to their faith.

According to Happy Science’s, the cult claims to have twelve million followers in ninety countries. I found this number to be highly dubious as it is the exact same figure claimed by Sōka Gakkai. Although considered a “new religion” in Japan, it has been around since 1930 and has its origins in Nichiren Buddhism, which itself dates back to the 13th century. Although, I do not know anyone who is a follower of Ryūhō Ōkawa, I have come across quite a few members of Sōka Gakkai over the years.

By comparison, the Mormons[2] have over 15 million followers and the Jehovah’s Witnesses have 8.2 million, thanks to both religions’ aggressive missionary work throughout the world and unfortunately at my doorstep.

The more I ruminated on it, Happy Science’s claim to have twelve million believers just didn’t add up.

Then it hit me. I know how to get a fairly accurate estimate of Happy Science’s followers in Japan: the results of the 2009 election!

In the proportional representation blocks, The Happiness Realization Party and Kōmeitō, the party closely tied to Sōka Gakkai, got the following number of votes:

Hokkaidō Block

20,276 votes for HRP vs. 354,886 for Kōmeitō

 

Tōhoku Block

36,295 vs. 516,688

 

Northern Kantō Block

46,867 vs. 855,134

 

Southern Kantō Block

44,162 vs. 862,427

 

Tōkyō Block

35,667 vs. 717,199

 

Hokuriku Block

32,312 vs. 333,084

 

Tōkai Block

57,222 vs. 891,158

 

Kinki Block

80,529 vs 1,449,170

 

Chūgoku Block

32,319 vs. 555,552

 

Shikoku Block

19,507 vs. 293,204

 

Kyūshū Block

54,231 vs. 1,225,505

 

The Happiness Realization Party garnered about 459,000 proportional representational votes, less than 6% of the 8,054,000 votes for the Kōmeitō, which suggests (to me, at least) that The Happies really have only around 720,000 followers. After watching this video of Ryūhō Ōkawa’s great psychic power, makes me wonder how he managed to even get that many.

Obviously, I'm in the wrong business.

 

 


[1] For more on elections in Japan, go here.

[2] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Sunday
Jan112015

Fresh Answers to Old Questions about an even Older Profession

"You know, long before we married, Haruka surprised me by saying that she would be able to overlook her husband visiting a soapland . . ."

"Pardon me?"

"Soaplands are a uniquely Japanese kind of brothel. Customers pay to take a bath with a woman who washes the man, massages him, and then depending on the customer’s needs and budget, either has sex with, or performs some kind of act on the man resulting in the man’s 'pipes' also getting 'cleaned'. Or so they say; I have never been to one myself."[1]

"Those enigmatic Japanese."

 

 


[1] Prostitution is illegal in Japan. Technically, that is. The definition of prostitution, however, is limited to coitus, meaning that pretty much everything else that one can image is allowed. Also, there is no stipulated penalty for those who are prostitutes or those who use them, so, if a prostitute does have coitus with a John, the act is considered to have been done privately between two consenting adults. (How convenient!) Although the laws regulating “businesses affecting public morals” (風俗法, fūzokuhō) have been amended over the years, prostitution is still going strong in Japan.

Case in point: a few months ago, I was approached by a pimp on a street corner in Nakasū, Fukuoka’s “adult-oriented” entertainment area. He asked me if I was interested in going to a “soapland”.

In my two decades in this country, it was the very first time that any of these black-suited panderers had ever approached me. It left me with the impression that either Japan has come a long way in accepting foreigners or the economy still hasn’t recovered completely, “Abenomics” notwithstanding. A buck is a buck, no matter the schmuck the girl fucks.

I had a minute or two before the traffic signal changed, so I asked the pimp how much a visit to his soapland cost. (No harm in asking, right?) He answered that there was a flat fee of fifteen thousand yen (about $160).

 “So cheap!” Surely there must be some catch, I thought, and asked him if that was just the price you paid to get into the joint, the so-called nyūyoku-ryō (入浴料).

“No. It’s fifteen thousand for sex.”

“Get outta here!”

I then asked if there was an extra charge, known as a shimei-ryō (指名), for choosing the girl, and he said, “No, you may have sex with any girl you like.”

“Really!”

While I didn’t take him up on his offer, I could see why many Japanese men do. When the light changed, I crossed the street and walked away, the modest price of a convenient “affair of the body” niggling at the back of my mind.

 

Saturday
Dec062014

The Future is . . . 

The past ten years or so have really seen remarkable advancements in technology when you think about it. Just off the top of my head, I came up with the following list of products and services which not only did not exist a decade ago, but are for the most part indispensible today.

 

2001 Wikipedia

2003 Skype

2003 IEEE 802.11g, a.k.a. Wi-Fi

2004 iMac G5 with 40 to 500GB. 500GB??? Who would ever need that much storage?

2004 Toyota Prius introduced to US market.

2005 Youtube

2005 Google Maps

2005 Sunnyvale, CA, became first city in the U.S. providing citywide Wi-Fi for free.

2006 Facebook available to the general public

2006 Twitter

2006 Nintendo Wii

2007 iPhone

2007 Google Street View

2010 Instagram

2010 iPad

2011 Siri

2011 Line application

2015 iWatch

 

Makes you wonder what the next ten years will hold. Jetpacks anyone?

Thursday
Dec042014

Pitter-Patter

Feels like Groundhog’s Day today.

 

3:30am

Liam wakes up, crying. We give him a half bottle, not too much because he’ll probably throw it all up. Ten minutes later, he’s asleep again. Figuring I might as well get up and get some work done, I go into the kitchen and make myself a cup of coffee.

 

4:00am

I’m at my desk. As I’m writing down my goals for December, one of which is to finish the current version of Rokuban once and for all, I hear the pitter-patter of Liam’s feet.

“What is it?”

“Mama. Mama.”

“Where’s Mama?”

“Mama ne-ne.”

“Mama’s sleeping?”

“Un.” (Yes.)

“Do you want to lie down with Daddy?”

“Un.”

I pick Liam up and take him back to the futon. He insists on lying to my right. That’s where Eoghan usually sleeps and in Liam’s mind it is a position of privilege. I scoot over so that Rieko is on my left, Liam on my right, and Eoghan beyond him.

Before long, Eoghan wakes up, finds his position being usurped by the upstart Liam and begins kicking and pushing. I put Liam back between me and Rieko. After a while, both boys calm down and fall back asleep.

Or so I think. As soon as I sit up, Liam opens his eyes and gives me a look as if to say, “Where the fuck you going?”

I lie back down and rub his back, run my fingers through his hair. Every now and again, he looks to see if I am still there. When he’s finally snoring, I head back to my office.

 

4:30am

My coffee is getting cold. I’m getting cold. The wind is still strong outside. The windows whistle with excitement. I hear the bedroom door slide open, then closed, the hallway door open, steps, then Liam’s voice, “Daddy. Daddy.”

I open the door and find Liam standing there, rubbing his eyes, his hair wild.

“Hold me.”

I pick him up and take him back to the futon. He’s asleep in no time.

 

5:00am

My coffee is cold. I’ve been up for an hour and a half and all I have written is: “Finish Rokuban.”

Pitter-patter.

Sighing, “At this rate, I won’t be finishing anything.”

I pick Liam up and feel his diaper. Full tank. I get a fresh diaper and carry my son back to the bedroom.

The nice thing about Liam is that he is meticulous. He closes doors behind himself, he puts the caps back on the pens when he’s finished, he returns his plates to the kitchen after eating, he throws his diapers in the garbage, he goes to the toilet himself, and when he’s done removes the potty trainer and puts it back in its place. Eoghan, on the other hand, has a habit of tossing everything onto the ground.

So, I change the boy’s diaper and lie down next to him one more time.

“Liam baby.”

That means Liam wants to lie down on Daddy’s chest. He crawls up on top of me, yawns, and falls asleep.

The boy is getting big. In the past few months, he grew about four or five centimeters. As he is lying on my chest, his toes touch my knees and the top of his head is only a few months of growth away from touching my chin. I give that mop of hair of his a kiss, then slowly lower him down.

 

5:30am

I make myself a fresh cup of coffee and head back down the hall.

We managed to get through the night without either of the boys vomiting. This is progress. Now to make some progress on my writing.

 

 

Monday
Dec012014

Bushy Brows

   About a year or so ago I was in the ladies cosmetics section of a department store chasing after my son who had escaped from me when I noticed that all of the models pictured in the large photos above the cosmetics sellers had bushy eyebrows. 

   Not long after that, the young women in my college classes started sporting the new look, for better or worse. 

   "What the hell is going on here," I asked a fashionable woman who works in the aparrel industry.

   She replied that, some people say that similar to the length of skirts, eyebrows are an indicator of the economy. The heavier the eyebrows, the better the economy.

   "Ah, eyebrow-nomics."

Monday
Dec012014

Yakuin-henge