One of the speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the potential coronavirus super-spreader event being thrown by Republicans in Orlando, Florida this week, is a former leader of the political arm of a… we’ll say spiritually innovative faith in Japan. The guru at the center of said group has previously claimed to have summoned the “guardian spirit” of Donald Trump.
That’s according to a report by the Daily Beast, which flagged Friday CPAC panelist Jay “Hiroaki” Aeba as a onetime leader of Kōfuku-no-Kagaku (Happy Science), a spiritual movement described by Vice in 2012 as the “laziest cult ever” and more recently in the New York Times as “Tokyo’s answer to Scientology.” Its guru, former bank exec and self-proclaimed living god Ryuho Okawa, claims to be a medium of sorts that can talk to the spirit of anyone, living or dead, and has happily invoked that ability in both scenarios. Per the Beast, Okawa has claimed to have spoken with such living luminaries as the current brutal failson dictator of North Korea and Donald Trump, as well as Jesus Christ (who still technically lives through all of us, I guess, depending on your religious persuasion):
[Okawa] claims to have had a great awakening in 1981 and subsequently founded the Happy Science religion (Kofuku no Kagaku) in 1986. In American terms, he’s like Billy Graham crossed with Shirley MacLaine. He’s channeled the spirits of Jesus, Kim Jong II, and in 2016, he even managed to obtain an exclusive interview with the guardian spirit of Donald Trump.
In that amazing encounter, Trump’s spirit correctly stated, via Okawa, that he would be the next president.
Other spirits Okawa has had nice conversations with include Quetzalcoatl, Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, and the actress Natalie Portman, according to Vice News.
In a video dug up by the Beast, Okawa relays Trump’s guardian spirit as saying it enjoys criticism as much as a “New York cheesecake” (Trump allegedly prefers apple or chocolate pie) before rambling about how it will be “strong.”
Happy Science was reportedly once a rival of sorts to Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult that apparently tried and failed to assassinate Okawa with the deadly nerve agent sarin before it launched similar attacks on the population of Tokyo in 1995. According to the Times, Okawa is listed as the author of over 2,000 books, has been described as the head of a pyramid scheme, and is vehemently opposed by his own son, Hiroshi, who says he is full of “complete nonsense.” Okawa also moonlights as a peddler of bogus cures for the coronavirus—which he says was created by Chinese scientists, stolen by anti-Communist aliens, and dumped back on China as divine punishment. Naturally, he also believes Japan must prepare for a forthcoming apocalyptic world war.
While the ideological similarities between Happy Science and CPAC’s swarms of pro-Trump election truthers and QAnon conspiracists are obvious, here’s where Aeba, the leader of the Japanese Conservative Union (JCU), comes in. Aeba’s conference bio states he has attended CPAC since 2011 and hosted joint events with the American Conservative Union—CPAC’s organizer—but it doesn’t mention he was a chief of fringe Happy Science-affiliated political party the Happiness Realization Party (HRP). Per the Beast:
Aeba, who also used the alias Jikido “Jay” Aeba, and sometimes goes by Jay H. Aeba, was born in 1967 and graduated from the elite Keio University Law Division in 1989. In 1990, [Aeba] joined the headquarters of Happy Science and in May of 2009, he became their political leader. He served as the organization public relations chief. In 2013, he became the chief of the research and investigation division. In 2015, he ostensibly left the party and created the Japanese Conservative Union.
Here’s a fun sample of what the HRP’s platform looked like in 2009, when Aeba was ascendant, according to the Japan Times:
A Happiness commercial posted on YouTube last week lays out the stakes. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is preparing to nuke Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, bring Japan to its knees and enslave its people. “Japan will be unable to do anything about this because of its Constitution,” Kim sneers in the clip, referring to the so-called pacifist clause — Article 9 — of the 1947 document, written under U.S. Occupation, which renounces the right to wage war.
Against pictures of a mushroom cloud exploding over Tokyo and red ink slowly drowning the nation, the narrator warns that China ultimately lurks behind this plot. “With a population of 1.3 billion, China will rule the world,” intones the voice of Kim. “And North Korea will be No. 2.” Neither the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, nor their likely successors, the Democratic Party of Japan, have an answer to this threat, says the party. “The very existence of the nation hangs in the balance.”
According to Vice, the HRP has never succeeded in electing so much as a single candidate to the Japanese parliament. It instead appears more interested in cultivating relationships with U.S. conservatives by adopting ultra-nationalist positions such as hardcore opposition to China, the subject of Aeba’s CPAC speech. In fact, Vice wrote that Aeba originally went to CPAC in 2011 to study the populist rhetoric of GOP politicians so that Okawa might pull off a Tea Party-style political revolution in Japan. (Right-wing nationalism has indeed surged in Japan since, though more to the benefit of the dominant Liberal Democratic Party and the hardcore ultra-conservative Nippon Kaigi, which aims to restore an emperor who would presumably not be Okawa.)
The current extent of Aeba’s relationship to Happy Science isn’t really clear. The Beast wrote that last year, Aeba professed to still believe in the religion, but that Happy Science disavowed him after he was named in Japanese media reports as the head of a nearly $9 million cryptocurrency scam that used an image of Aeba and Trump hanging out in marketing materials.
“Jay [Aeba] and JCU are proceeding to deal with and address this issue with the cooperation of experts including lawyers,” the JCU told the Daily Beast. The organization added that it and Aeba have no organizational relationship to Happy Science, though it didn’t have any idea what Aeba’s personal religious beliefs are because it has a “policy of religious freedom for all members and staff.”
As the Beast noted, given the atmosphere of cultish fervor that has swallowed the GOP wholesale, it’s perhaps not too ridiculous to imagine that there could be market opportunities for someone claiming to be able to divine Trump’s will after his death. According to OpenSecrets, Aeba’s crypto startup is listed as a $60,000 partner in CPAC 2021.
Aeba is in no way, shape, or form the only weirdo U.S. conservatives conjured up to speak at CPAC in 2021. Its speaker and panel list is stuffed full of figures promoting hoax claims that Joe Biden won the 2020 elections via mass fraud, while the ACU backpedaled and revoked an invitation to a hip-hop artist named Young Pharaoh after it was pointed out he is a raving anti-Semite.