In Japan, there are 12 million men and women who are known as the Happies. They are adherents to a growing movement called Happy Science, first conceived by a former finance student named Ryuho Okawa in 1981. As America's airwaves radiated with Journey's Don't Stop Believin', Okawa experienced a cosmic awakening at the City University of New York. Happy Science was the result; a new age organization that preaches the "Fourfold Path" of Love, Wisdom, Self-Reflection, and Progress. Okawa claims to be the Buddha of the 21st century, and (thanks in no small part to a savvy marketing plan provided by the monolithic Japanese advertising corporation Dentsu) his more than 500 holy books have been best sellers.
The principle tenant of Happy Science is that the universe was created by a deity called Lord El Cantare, who dwells in ill-defined realm called the Ninth Dimension. In the past, El Cantare has lent his great wisdom to such luminaries as Jesus, Confucius, Mohamed, and Socrates, but this celestial being isn't afraid to take a hands on approach. Cantare manifests on Earth every so often, having previously hung around in ancient Atlantis, Greece, and India. Okawa, so the Happies believe, is the current incarnation of El Cantare. Under his guidance, the Happies make regular visits to the 300 various temples across Japan to meditate and commune with the greater truth and what-not. They even recently opened a branch in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Happy Science was formally recognized as a religious movement in 1991, along the same time that the notorious terrorist cult Aum Shinrikyo rose to prominence. While that organization later self-destructed after flooding the Tokyo subways with poison gas, Happy Science has gone on to form its own political party. Called the Happiness Realization Party, the political wing of the Happy Science movement focuses on self-actualization and staunch neoliberal capitalism. The Happiness Realization Party also plays the fear card, with warnings of an imminent nuclear attack from China and North Korea. Okawa, who serves as party president, claims to have great insight into the mind of the famously eccentric North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il after telepathically communing with Jong-il's "guardian spirit." While the Happiness Realization Party failed to win any seats in the recent 2009 Japanese elections, they remain confident that they can be a viable alternative to the both conservative Liberal Democratic Party and the left-wing Democratic Party.
Would you like to know more?
-Read this article from the Japan Times
-Visit the official Happy Science website