The guru Ryuho Okawa, founder of the Japanese sect “Happy Science”, died at the age of 66. The cause of death is not known. Born in 1956, the man had founded in 1986 the religious group “Happy Science”, which believes in reincarnation and says it aims “to establish a world where love, happiness and prosperity reign”. This sect claims millions of followers around the world.
The movement had however been the subject of criticism due to the real cult of personality around its founder, some coming from his son Hiroshi. “I believe what my father is doing is completely absurd,” he said in 2020 to the New York Timesadding that Ryuho Okawa had “relentlessly lied to his followers”.
The sect launched a political party in 2009
Okawa was known to the Japanese public for his outlandish claims that he could communicate with the spirits of celebrities, publishing books of “interviews” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, former US President Donald Trump and Jesus Christ. The founder of the sect kept away from the media, but was nevertheless regularly present through newspaper advertisements for his books, films and records.
In 2009, he launched a political party advocating in particular to stem the rise of China and restrict the rights of the LGBT + community. No candidate from the Happiness Realization Party has yet been elected to parliament, but several have won seats in local communities.
Fringe religious groups like Happy Science have long operated in Japan with relatively few restrictions, but have come under increased scrutiny since the murder last year of former prime minister Shinzo Abe. His alleged killer, Tetsuya Yamagami, said he targeted Shinzo Abe because of his alleged ties to the Moon sect, also known as the Unification Church.