KŌFUKU NO KAGAKU TIMELINE
1956: Ōkawa Ryūhō was born as Nakagawa Takashi in Kawashima on Shikoku Island.
1981 (March 23): The alleged first contact of a representative of the “spirit world“ (reikai) with Ōkawa Ryūhō took place.
1985: The first publications of purported “spiritual messages“ (reigen), basically dialogues of Ōkawa with various figures of the spirit world (such as Kūkai, Amaterasu, Jesus etc.) were published under the nom de plume of (viz. Nakagawa’s ) father, Yoshikawa Saburō.
1986: This was the official foundation year of Kōfuku no Kagaku; the first “bureau“ (shibu) was opened on October 6 in the Suginami district of Tokyo, then using its initial name Jinsei no daigaku-in: Ko-fuku no Kagaku (“Graduate School of Life: The Science of Happiness”).
1987: The first three and most important books of the so-called “Laws Series“ (hō-shirīzu) were published.
1989: Budda saitan (The Rebirth of Buddha), claiming Ōkawa to be the reborn Buddha, was published.
1991: The beginning of public mass events combined with an intensive advertisement campaign, with the central claim that Ōkawa was the current reincarnation of a being named “El Cantare” took place.
1991: The “Kōdansha Friday Incident” occurred.
1991-1993 Period of the “Miracle (mirakuru) project” and Kōfuku no Kagaku’s greatest expansion
1994: first “bureau” (shibu) outside Japan, in New York
1994: release of Kōfuku no Kagaku’s first film, Nosutoradamusu senritsu no keiji
Mid 1990s onwards: Re-editions of the initial hō-books with major revisions and amendments, were issued, and major public events ended.
1996: The official opening of Kōfuku no Kagaku’s first “temple” (shōja) in Utsunomiya took place.
1997: The first anime, Herumesu: Ai was followed by The Golden Laws: Ōgon no hō. Eru Kantare no rekishikan (2003) and The Laws of Eternity. Eien no hō. Eru Kantāre no sekaikan (2007)
2006: The first temple outside Japan, in Honolulu, Hawai’i was opened.
Since 2008: The new name in the international arena, Happy Science (instead of prior designation as “The Institute for Research in Human Happiness”) was adopted.
Since 2009: The movement’s political party, Kōfuku Jitsugentō (“Happiness Realisation Party”), was established, followed by unsuccessful participation in national elections.
2011: Ōkawa’s wife, Kyōko, was officially “excommunicated” and “banned” from the movement.
2012: Major critical media attention on Kōfuku no Kagaku occurred in Uganda after its activities there.
2015: Plans to establish a Kōfuku no Kagaku University in Chiba prefecture were rejected by the Education ministry; the University was nonetheless opened without state recognition.
2018: Ōkawa’s son, Hiroshi, a long-time and close associate to his father, who was mainly responsible for the film production, split with the movement.
2023 (March 2): Ōkawa Ryūhō died at age sixty-six.
Kōfuku no Kagaku was founded in 1986 by the then thirty year-old Ōkawa Ryūhō (born Nakagawa Takashi) in Tokyo. [Image at right] Born on Shikoku Island, he graduated from the prestigious Tokyo University and was working in Nagoya and Tokyo for an international trading company until the foundation of the movement. According to the official legendary information by the movement, he started to be contacted by representatives of the “spiritual world” (reikai) in 1981 and began to act as a spiritual medium under the guidance and with the help of a “friend,” under whose name the first books pertaining to the movement were published in 1985. As was revealed at the beginning of the 1990s this “friend,” Yoshikawa Saburō, was none other than Ōkawa’s father, Nakagawa Tadayoshi, a long-time member of the new religious movement GLA (God Light Association) founded by Takahashi Shinji (1927–1976)(See the profile of GLA on this site for further information). https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/08/god-light-association/ Initially the major topics and essential aspects of Ōkawa’s teachings were clearly modelled on Takahashi’s concepts. The books of reigen (spiritual messages) contained reports of Ōkawa’s purported contacts with various figures from the spiritual world, such as Nichiren, Jesus Christ, Amaterasu, Socrates, and Kūkai. From a religio-historical point of view, the material presented in the first books shows many parallels to the vast array of channelling literature, which is an integral part of the New Age movement and which developed in Japan from the 1970s onwards in the context of the so-called seishin sekai (“spiritual world”) genre.
However, the further development of Ōkawa’s writings shows major differences and resulted in the creation of a new concept. After a set of books comprising new spiritual messages, in which Ōkawa presented channelled material in a more authoritative way as a spiritual teacher (and not as a “mere” medium) right after the first reigen, a new series of publications was introduced in 1987. This is referred to as the “laws-series” (hō-shirīzu), which laid the foundation for the movement’s future development. The first three books of this collection, namely Taiyō no hō (The Laws of the Sun), Ōgon no hō (The Golden Laws), and Eien no hō (The Laws of Eternity), [Image at right] are said to contain all the necessary teachings on cosmology, anthropology, and ethics and may be regarded as the fundamental doctrinal texts of the group. Interestingly, they were presented as definite revelations of the Buddha, as is evident from both the picture used on the cover of the original publications, showing a traditional Buddha statue, and the caption with direct references to the Buddha. In the course of further doctrinal development, these texts were the subject of major changes and additions, resulting in a series of re-editions and amended versions. However, what clearly changed in the following period was the perception of the figure and function of Ōkawa. He began to present himself not only as a mere mediator of spiritual messages but as none other than the definite reincarnation of the Buddha for the present time. The first official publication of this fundamental new take is a small book entitled Budda saitan (The Rebirth of Buddha) that was published in 1989. It was the starting point for a rather innovative re-interpretation of the main teachings by focussing on the new role of Ōkawa as representing the Buddha and the doctrine of Kōfuku no Kagaku as fundamentally Buddhist. Only a few years later, this initial change was expanded and the “full“ version of the truth about Ōkawa (and the Buddha) was revealed in 1991 in a mass event in the Tokyo Dome, which was referred to as the El Cantare Declaration (Eru Kantāre sengen). Its main message was that Ōkawa is the reincarnation of a spiritual being named El Cantare (Eru Kantāre, written in katakana script that is used for transliterating non-Japanese names). This “consciousness“ (ishiki) had already undergone a number of reincarnations [Image at right] before Ōkawa and the Buddha, including La Mu, a king on the continent Mu; Thos, a king on the continent of Atlantis; Rient Arl Croud, a king in the ancient Inca-kingdom in South America; Ophealis, in Archaic Greece and then Hermes who was the next reincarnation in Ancient Greece; and finally, Buddha in India and Ōkawa Ryūhō in present-day Japan. This more or less canonical list of prior incarnations, which is also important for the iconography of the movement, refers to an elaborate mythic prehistory of mankind that has many parallels in the aforementioned New Age literature. It broadens the movement’s geographical and historical dimension and encompasses not only India and Japan but many other important epochs of a (mythical) history of mankind. This new interpretation of the function of Ōkawa led to a revision of the older publications, particularly the aforementioned three “law” books that were re-edited in “shin“ (new) versions in the first half of the 1990s.
The El Cantare Declaration in 1991 was the most decisive and important event, but actually not the only one. Until the mid-1990s, Ōkawa was presented in a couple of other events using various kinds of uniforms and costumes to introduce former existences of El Cantare. These showy and spectacular public presentations were accompanied by an intensive media coverage, which became more and more critical towards the group. In 1991, this caused a major clash with the mass media in the so-called “Friday” or “Kōdansha” incident (Furaidē/Kōdansha jiken). After several highly critical articles in magazines, most of them published by the Kōdansha publishing house with the weekly scandal sheet “Friday” as the most prolific source, Kōfuku no Kagaku began to organize big mass demonstrations in front of the Kōdansha headquarters, which caused the work of the publishing house to come to a standstill, allegedly for a couple of days. This “incident” caused a series of court trials and litigations that continued until 2000, and its major result was a highly critical perception of the movement in the media. For the movement itself, however, the incident was the starting point for a very intensive public engagement, as Kōfuku no Kagaku began to launch media campaigns on topics such as suicide or pornography, obviously aiming at attracting more attention (and, thus, followers).
Consequently, the time of the so-called “Miracle” (mirakuru ミラクル) project from 1991 to 1993 was also the peak of the movement’s expansion and visibility in the public sphere in Japan. The major aim of this period was to establish Kōfuku no Kagaku as the “number one religious organisation in Japan,” after it had been accepted as a legally registered as shūkyō hōjin (religious corporation) by the Japanese state in 1991 and before the following phase focussed on international expansion. In this period, Kōfuku no Kagaku’s pronouncements often had a highly apocalyptic tenor and were full of predictions of imminent disaster and catastrophes that would affect Japan and the world in the near future. Here Kōfuku no Kagaku was replicating a general mood in Japanese society that was caused by the impending turn of the millennium and by major economic and societal changes since the end of the 1980s.
The next phase of Kōfuku no Kagaku‘s development, called the “Big Bang” project, focused on international expansion and led to the establishment of its first “bureau” (shibu) outside Japan in 1994, in New York in the United States. In Japan, however, the infamous Aum Shinrikyō incident of 1995 caused a major critical perception of new religious movements in general and particularly the most recent ones. Kōfuku was founded in the same period as Aum, and although there are major differences with regard to organisation and doctrine, it was widely associated in the public view with Aum and hence faced widespread criticism.
One consequence was that Ōkawa withdrew from public appearances in the mid-1990s, and the movement turned its focus to internal reorganization. In addition, the movement began to build widely, constructing centres and buildings throughout the country. Most of them are rather impressive in terms of size, and some are located in very expensive areas. All of them are referred to with the general expression shōja (a Japanese term meaning monastery or Buddhist vihara). Most of them are designated as shōshinkan (literally, Hall of the Right Mind), and linked to the area or town they are built in (hence, Tōkyō Shōshinkan, [Image at right] or Fukuoka Shōshinkan). The common feature of all these buildings is a main prayer hall at their centre, which contains a statue of El Cantare in one of his different representations, along with rooms for staff as well as accommodation for members who stay at a temple. The temples are often characterised by a general theme that can be, for instance, connected with a period of the mythic prehistory of mankind. There is no general style common to all shōja, which offer a wide variety of different styles.
At the end of the 1990s, the aforementioned books of the “laws”-series were followed by others starting with the publication of Han’ei no hō (The Laws of Success). This series has continued since then and is not meant as a substitute for the initial three fundamental “laws”-books, but as supplementary to them. It offers new teachings on a variety of different topics, such as “success” in business life, which are linked to the main teachings of Kōfuku no Kagaku on the spiritual world (Winter 2012a:129-34).
Another important aspect of the movement’s publication activities is an emphasis on other forms of media for the propagation of its message. The most conspicuous is its extensive and highly professional use of manga and anime. Most of the major publications of Ōkawa’s books, and particularly the fundamental three “laws”-books, are published as manga (often in multi-volume editions) and as full-length anime. They tend to present a narrative version of the various teachings, and some are even different from the book content. The idea of “love,” for instance, is presented in the manga-edition of the fundamental doctrinal text Taiyō no hō by referring to the love story of Hermes and Aphrodite as described in Ōkawa’s version of the Hermes legend (Winter 2013:436-38).
The importance of its manga and anime presentations should not be underestimated. It seems legitimate to speak of a close connection between essential features of Kōfuku no Kagaku’s teachings and the popular manga culture itself. This relates not only to presentation but also to basic aspects of its teachings, such as its cosmology along with the significance of “lost continents” and their once flourishing civlisations. These teachings show many parallels to storylines of popular manga, which may even lead to the characterization of Kōfuku no Kagaku as a “manga religion” (manga shūkyō) due to obvious inspirations drawn from popular manga series. This expression was initially coined in regard to Aum Shinrikyō (Gardner 2001, 2008), but it is more than obvious that some basic features of Kōfuku no Kagaku seem to be inspired from manga culture and belong to a pool of topics, patterns, and ideas that share a common basis (Winter 2014:113-15). One conspicuous example would be the portrayal of the Greek Good Hermes, who plays a major role in the list of prior incarnations of the highest spiritual being. Ōkawa even published a four-volume “biography” of this figure that was also published as a manga and even an anime (the first anime produced and released by Kōfuku no Kagaku, in 1997). The story of his love for the goddess Aphrodite and the problems he is facing until he wins her finally are clearly styled on comparable shōjo manga (i.e., for a young teenage female readership; see Winter 2013:436–38; Winter 2012:269–71).
Regarding membership figures (which are always a sensitive issue and not only in the case of new religious movements), there is a wide gap between the official numbers as given by the movement and the estimated number of “active” members. As far as the official declarations are concerned, Kōfuku no Kagaku claims to have had 10,000,000 adherents in Japan since the middle of the 1990s, a number which is still maintained today but has never been verified. This differs significantly from estimates made by academics in the late 1990s and early 2000s that indicated numbers between 400,000 and 500,000 (Wieczorek 2002:167), or 100,000 and 300,000 (Reader 2006:152). The recent attempts to enter into the political arena along with the percentages the political party founded by Kōfuku no Kagaku gained at the various elections in the last years seem to confirm these estimates. In the elections for the Lower House (House of Representatives, shūgiin) in 2009 the Kōfuku Jitsugentō (the political party founded by Ōkawa; see below under Issues/Challenges) gained 459,387 votes; however, the number has been declining since then. Since the political party appears to rely largely on the support of members of Kōfuku no Kagaku this decline in votes may indicate a fall in membership numbers.
The historical outline given above included already some major aspects of the doctrines and beliefs of Kōfuku no Kagaku, although it is also evident that there is a constant process of reshaping and redefining them. This is a trait not untypical for movements in their emerging decades with a founder still living and constantly in need of answering and reacting to the questions and demands of his surroundings.
However, one of the major results of the early doctrinal development is the definition of the role and function of the movement’s founder, leader, or “president“ (sōsai). Ōkawa Ryūhō is perceived as the current representation of a being that makes up part of an elaborate and not fully explained hierarchy of transcendental entities in a multidimensional universe. This is the basis of his authority, which encompasses everything, including not just religious and spiritual issues, but also organisational and other matters within the group. The spiritual being purported to be represented by Ōkawa is referred to with the rather unusual expression “El Cantare“ (Eru Kantāre) and is regarded as the “main object of veneration“ (gohonzon). [Image at right] It had various former earthly representations in a mythic history of mankind, thereby encompassing not only “historical“ periods such as ancient Greece, India, or South America, but also the “lost continents” of Atlantis and Mu.
Because of this connection Ōkawa is able to provide believers with a kind of guiding schedule that may help in their orientation, including their own former existences. Being reincarnated is not perceived as a burden but as a chance to move towards a better spiritual position. Consequently, the world is perceived as a “training ground for spiritual discipline” (tamashii shugyō no ba), and the purpose of each person is to learn the “lessons in life” (jinsei no kyōkun) and “improve the souls” (tamashii o kōjō saseru). A parallel expression that can be traced back already to early publications of Ōkawa and that is often used in the publications is the formula that life is “a workbook of problems” (issatsu no mondaishū) meant to be solved by the individual.
If someone relies on Ōkawa’s teachings, that individual might attain liberation, which is basically a state of “happiness.” All that is closely connected to the concept of a future ideal world usually referred to as “utopia” (yūtopia), which will be realized when every human being is “happy” thanks to the teachings of Ōkawa. Consequently, the attitude towards the world and its history is positive, something that contrasts with the emphasis on apocalyptic topics that played a role in earlier stages of the movement’s history (Winter 2012a:115-16; Baffelli 2004:86-87).
There are four so-called “principles of happiness” (kōfuku no genri) outlining the guidelines that members should follow. They are very often introduced in various publications as a set of core teachings directly deriving from the spiritual world. The four kōfuku no genri , which are sometimes also referred to as the modern version of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths viz. the “fourfold path” (yonsho-dō), are: “love” (ai); “wisdom” (chi); “self-reflection” (hansei); and “progress” (hatten). Amongst them “love” is probably the best described aspect: There is a distinction between various forms of love that are related with the different dimensions of the universe. The most basic distinction is between a “love that takes (away)” (ubau ai) and a “love that gives” (ataeru ai), the latter being the most noble one that leads to an altruistic life style on every level. “Wisdom” is basically associated with belief in the teachings of Ōkawa, whose authority as the actual manifestation of the highest spiritual being guarantees the truth of this message. “Self-reflection” is interpreted as a kind of realisation and adaptation of these principles in daily life, particularly through constant reflection on Ōkawa’s sayings. This aspect is also developed in rituals such as “meditation” (meisō) that basically consist of pondering on sentences or phrases by Ōkawa. The last of the “principles of happiness” is “progress,” and it comes as a more or less logical consequence of the aforementioned factors referring to the actual outcome in daily life. It is promised that following the kōfuku no genri ultimately brings “success” (seikō), not only in regard to matters of personal life, such as marriage and family but also in professional and business life. The latter is of particular importance in many of Ōkawa’s publications as he published a couple of books that are styled on business and management counselling literature. In general, there is a rather positive stance towards the material world and its challenges that is combined with an explicit working ethics in overall conformity with the mainstream of Japanese society.
When surveying the history of the movement one can see that there has been a constant growth since its foundation in the amount of prayers and rituals performed. Most of them have been modified according to the general changes in regard to the major doctrinal frame and the basic teachings. As the importance of Ōkawa as the major focus of the movement grew, a couple of rituals and festivities that are closely related to specific events within the life of the founder and “president“ became important. Examples would be the Enlightenment Festival (daigo-sai) on March 23 remembering the first contact of Ōkawa with the spiritual world in 1981, the Festival of Ōkawa’s birthday (go-seitan-sai) on July 17, and the Festival of the Anniversary of Foundation (risshū kinen shikiten) on October 6. As is the case with most of the other new religions of Japan, there are also some “common” festivals that are connected to usual and well-known events and dates such as a New Year Festival (shinnen taisai) in early January, and a Memorial Happiness Festival for Ancestors (O-bon no kōfuku kuyō taisai) (Baffelli 2011: 270-271).
In general, there are regular prayer meetings on a monthly basis with the seventh, the seventeenth and the twenty-seventh of each month as crucial dates. All members are encouraged to join the various meetings, seminars, and other activities that are offered in the centres. The meetings consist mainly of “meditations” (meisō), which are commonly connected with the prior presentation of DVDs with, for instance, a sermon of Ōkawa. Quite common are also the “seminars” (seminā) that are devoted to special topics and mainly revolve around texts and quotations taken from Ōkawa’s publications.
The most important prayers are collected in a three-volume set that is given to new members during the initiation ceremony when taking “refuge” to the Buddha (i.e., Ōkawa/El Cantare), the dharma (i.e., Ōkawa’s hō-books), and the sangha (i.e., Kōfuku no Kagaku). These three small books include a main collection entitled Shōshin hōgo (literally, The Dharma of the Right Mind) and two additional volumes Kiganmon I and II (Prayers Book I and II). The Shōshin hōgo contains the essential prayers that are relevant in most of the ceremonies and for individual daily service. Its eminent status was often emphasized by Ōkawa, who called it a “fundamental doctrinal text” (konpon kyōten) and even compared it to the Lotus Sūtra. The two Kiganmon books contain shorter texts for various occasions and for individual worship. All three books have been the object of changes and re-editing in accordance with the major doctrinal changes of Kōfuku no Kagaku since its foundation.
The above-mentioned ceremony to become a member is referred to as sanki seigan shiki (Pledge of Devotion to the Three Treasures). It can be traced back to the 1990s and this is closely associated with the gradual “Buddhisation” of the movement. The way to become a member, however, underwent various changes over the years, and was adapted, especially in the course of its international development, to provide easier access to the movement. Initially, one of the preconditions was a written examination that was allegedly read by Ōkawa himself and upon whose approval the new member was accepted.
As becomes clear with the history of the movement described above, there is a rather hierarchical top down organization. [Image at right] Ōkawa is the “president” (sōsai) and is supported by a board of “directors” (riji). However, there is limited possibility to get insight into the structure and the chain of commands and directives within Kōfuku no Kagaku. In addition, there seems to be a constant mode of change and adaptation of this general structure and its branches.
As with many other new religious movements, there is also a vast number of sub-organizations that are responsible for various tasks. One of these very important parts of the Kōfuku no Kagaku structure is its publishing arm, Kōfuku no Kagaku Shuppan (internationally referred to as IRH Press), which was founded already in 1987 and which is intrinsically related to the high importance of the publishing sector for the history of this movement. When the World Wide Web began to be important on a global level, interestingly, there was initially only a Kōfuku no Kagaku related website for the publishing house, but no separate one for the movement itself (from 1999–2005).
The last few decades saw several major problems for Kōfuku no Kagaku, some of them caused by the general societal climate towards new religions in Japan since the Aum Shinrikyō incident in 1995 and some of them due to internal divisions and obvious organisational and even internal family troubles. One example of the latter would be the split between Ōkawa and his wife Kyōko, which led to the latter’s exclusion and even “excommunication” in 2011. This was not only relevant on the personal level (where it surely belongs), but also on the doctrinal and organizational level since Ōkawa Kyōko had important functions within the movement and came to be regarded as reincarnation of both Aphrodite (who is said to have been married to Hermes, one of the former reincarnations of El Cantare) and the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī. After the split she came to be referred to as a reincarnation of Judas, which is a rather harsh turn. Another major split is that of Ōkawa’s son Hiroshi (born 1989), who was a close associate and president of the film company “New Star Production,“ which was founded in 2011 and responsible for some of Kōfuku no Kagaku’s recent films. The script of the 2008 film “Buddha’s Rebirth“ was also written by him, and he was involved in the production of the 2009 film “Final Judgement.“ He left the movement in 2018, due to personal reasons, and has continued to live independently of the movement since then.
However, there remains a clear tendency to use close family members, relatives, or their wives or husbands in the hierarchy, and this seems to have grown in the last two decades. Most of the important organizational posts of Kōfuku no Kagaku are held by a seemingly close-knit group with personal ties to Ōkawa.
The aforementioned films are still produced on a large scale with a shift away from anime to real life films (which is in accordance to developments in the Japanese filming industry in the last decade, particularly more recent film versions of major manga series). Some of the recent films show a close association to the biography of the founder with the film “Immortal Hero” (2019) as the most recent example. The script was written by Ōkawa’s daughter, Sayaka.
Another conspicuous aspect of the current activities of Kōfuku no Kagaku is the foundation of a political party called Kōfuku Jitsugentō (“Happiness Realization Party”) at the end of the 2000s. These endeavours, however, have been a failure when taking into account the constant loss of voters starting with its first participation in nationwide elections in 2009 (in elections for the Lower House, shūgiin) with 459,387 voting for the party. These numbers have been declining since then and clearly show a lack of mobilization among members and sympathizers even though the party has conducted very intensive media and advertisement campaigns at election times. Some of these activities even gained wider public attention, particularly their overall focus on what the movement claimed was an imminent threat to Japan and the Japanese people coming from North Korea (and China). In addition, the party has, in its policy statements, blatantly challenged a major pillar of Japan’s post-war constitution, namely the strict separation of religion and state in the constitution of the modern Japanese state. This is in line with current political right-wing activism in Japan and clearly marks the movement’s position in a highly problematic debate with many implications (see the analysis in Klein 2012).
Another recent feature is the attempt to establish a form of higher education system, which goes in line with many aspects of the movement’s initial stages in the late 1980s where it presented itself as a kind of “graduate school” (the first self-designation used only a short time was actually Jinsei no daigaku-in: Kōfuku no kagaku, “graduate school of life: the science of happiness,” see Winter 2014:107). It is also in many ways parallel to other new religious movements that established alternatives to the public education system, particularly their own universities with an “added spiritual value” of educational guidelines based on the movements’ teachings but obviously orientated on the model of secular institutions when it comes to structure and organisation, as they would not have been accepted by the state otherwise (Baffelli 2017:138–39).
Clearly based on a long-term plan that is described in many publications since the establishment of the movement (Baffelli 2017:139–41; see also Winter 2014:105–08), Kōfuku no Kagaku established the Kōfuku no Kagaku Gakuen (Happy Science Academy) in Nasu (in the Kantō region around Tokyo) in 2010 and a Kansai branch of this institution in 2013. It is basically a boarding school including both junior and senior high school levels and was granted the necessary status of a so-called “educational corporation” by the government. Consequently, its curriculum follows the standard of other Japanese high schools, including, however, several religious practices of Kōfuku no Kagaku.
The establishment of a junior and senior high school was clearly related to the following phase, namely the attempts to establish the Kōfuku no Kagaku Daigaku (Happy Science University), [Image at right] whose campus in the town of Chōsei in Chiba prefecture was completed in 2014. However, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbu-kagaku-shō) rejected the application for official permission to open the university in 2014. In contrast to the high school system, the university as proposed by Kōfuku no Kagaku is intrinsically based on the teachings of Ōkawa with an emphasis on the idea of the transformation of society into the alleged “Utopia“ that will appear in the future. In its rejection, the Ministry directly cites the lack of any evidence to prove a kind of rationality to the basic “spiritual messages” of Ōkawa (Baffelli 2017:144). Although Kōfuku no Kagaku reacted to this official rejection (by drawing on the alleged “scientific” character of the claims but also invoking some spiritual messages; on their notion of “science” see also Winter 2014: 109–11), it was able to open the university only as an unaccredited private religious school with a first group of students in April 2015. Their education and the examinations will not be accepted by other institutions and are in that regard valueless outside the premises of Kōfuku no Kagaku.
Ōkawa Ryūhō died suddenly at age sixty-six on March 2, 2023.
Image #1: Ōkawa Ryūhō in 2015.
Image #2: Covers of recent editions of ithe three basic “hō”-books.
Image #3: The reincarnations of El Cantare that preceded Ōkawa.
Image #4: The Tōkyō Shōshinkan.
Image #5: Ōkawa presenting as the former reincarnations of the highest being, El Cantare.
Image #6: The Kōfuku no kagaku logo since 1989, represented by the “O” and the “R” of the founder’s name.
Image #7: Happy Science University.
** Unless otherwise noted, this profile is drawing in particular from a major publication on Kōfuku no Kagaku, published in German: Winter, Franz. 2012. Hermes und Buddha. Die neureligiöse Bewegung Kōfuku no Kagaku in Japan. Münster: LIT. A (very) condensed and updated English version is Winter, Franz. 2018. “Kōfuku no Kagaku.” Pp. 211–228 in Handbook of East Asian New Religious Movements, edited by Lukas Pokorny and Franz Winter. Leiden: Brill 2018.
Astley, Trevor. 1995. “The Transformation of a Recent Japanese New Religion: Ōkawa Ryūhō and Kōfuku no Kagaku.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22:343–80.
Baffelli, Erica. 2017. “Contested Positioning: ‘New Religions’ and Secular Spheres. Japan Review 30:129–52.
Baffelli, Erica. 2011. “Kōfuku no Kagaku.” Pp. 259–75 in Establishing the Revolutionary: An Introduction to New Religions in Japan, edited by Birgit Staemmler and Ulrich Dehn. Berlin: LIT.
Baffelli, Erica. 2004. Vendere la felicità. Media, marketing e nuove religioni giapponesi. Il caso del Kōfuku no kagaku. Tesi di dottorato in Civiltà dell’India e dell’Asia Orientale. Venezia: Università ca’ Foscari di Venezia.
Baffelli, Erica and Ian Reader. 2018. Dynamism and the Ageing of a Japanese ‘”New” Religion: Transformations and the Founder. London: Bloomsbury.
Gardner, Richard A. 2001. “Aum and the Media: Lost in the Cosmos and the Need to Know.” Pp. 133–62 in Religion and Social Crisis in Japan, edited by Robert J. Kisala and Mark R. Mullins. New York: Palgrave.
Gardner, Richard A. 2008. “Aum Shinrikyō and a Panic about Manga and Anime.” Pp. 200–217 in Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, edited by Mark W. MacWilliams. New York: M. E. Sharpe,.
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