We bring you love

So, what political party do you support? Labor? Liberals? Republicans? Democrats? I don’t care. Your party sucks. I’ve got a new party and it rocks:

The Happiness Realisation Party

Wait, what’s that…?

The Happiness Realisation Party

The Happiness Realization Party’s platform promises include: world peace; a unicorn in every house; Polyphonic Spree robes for everyone and, finally; dumping LSD into the water supply to make sure everyone actually believes this will all happen.

Actually, this isn’t your standard case of humorous English translation – the Japanese name, too, literally means “Happiness Realization Party”. They were founded in May this year, and you can read all about them on their website (okay, if you can read Japanese).

According to their site, they’re connected to a 10 million person-strong Buddhist group called “Happy Science“.  According to their Wikipedia entry, Happy Science’s prophecies include:

In 2300-2400 the new continent of Atlantis will be recreated as a result of the United States sinking. After this is complete, Martin Luther and Nichiren will be reincarnated and they will lead a new huge religious movement.

During the years of 2400 through 2500 Jesus will be re-incarnated. Another important event is that the extraterrestrials that visited the Earth in the 1980s return.

You should really read the rest of the prophecies too.  I left some out of this quote because they sounded too wacky.

Back to the secular world, the main platform of the political party is amending  Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.  Article 9 was introduced with the new Japanese Constitution following the end of World War II, and basically states that Japan may maintain a military only for self-defense.  This is taken to the extent that if you happen to say “the Japanese army”, you’ll be quickly corrected to say “the Japan Self-Defense Forces”.

The Happiness Realization Party, founded on Buddhist values of pacifism, wishes to amend Article 9 so they can go and kick some North Korean ass.  Really, that’s what it says on their web site.  Okay, it doesn’t say “ass”, but you can tell that’s what they were thinking when they wrote it.  They want to loosen some of the strict conditions in the constitution so that they can “defend Japan against North Korean missiles”.

What started as a poster that gave me a chuckle when I was at the local supermarket turned out to be quite the rabbit hole indeed.  My planned 5 minute post has turned into a 1 hour mini-research project, and there’s a lot more to read besides.  Look for an update after I’ve had some more research time.

Alternatively, if they find that I’ve met my maker after having realised what would appear to be a suspiciously excessive amount of happiness, you know who did it and that I knew too much.  Tell the world!

Update: Somebody has already done a great job researching this.  Head over there if you want to bask in the craziness.

Join the New Power ‘Watchtower’ generation

One Saturday morning a few months ago, my doorbell rang.  A well-dressed couple stood on my steps and apologised profusely for the intrusion, with plenty of bowing.  And then they gave me this:

DSC01710

If you don’t already recognise it from the style, one of the only sentences in English on the back page might give a clue:

2008 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania

Yep.  Jehovah’s Witnesses.  In Japan. They’re everywhere!

I used my standard technique for dealing with door-to-door types – pleading absolutely no knowledge of Japanese, and broadening my accent to make it even less understandable.  The JWs were polite, but after getting nowhere, they backed off.

Until last week.  Apparently having marked me down as a worthy challenge, another well-dressed Japanese couple turned up, only this time they spoke excellent English.  Even though I’m always up for a bit of theological argy-bargy, they seemed like nice people, so I fell back on the tried and true “Sorry, I’ve already got one”, but not before they left me with an English translation of the pamphlet and a promise to return.

At the very least, I now have professionally translated English and Japanese versions of the pamplet to study – always handy for studying how to naturally express complicated ideas in another language.

What is the sound of one stick thwacking? Loud.

Early on a balmy summer Sunday morning, I went to Kamakura with some friends, about one hour south-west of Tokyo by train. Kamakura is a very popular place for Tokyo residents to go and visit. As well as some nice sea-side areas, it harks back to a more traditional time in Japan. One of the things it has in this theme is a rather large Zen temple.

The reason a small group of us were there was for what you’d call the equivalent of Zen Sunday morning mass. It begins with chanting a Zen mantra for fifteen minutes – almost hypnotic in the early morning heat – and then a sermon. I couldn’t understand very much of it, but most of it talked about Obon, a Buddhist festival celebrating the spirits of one’s ancestors. But that wasn’t really why I came. The main course was… Zen meditation.

Now, you might be familiar with basic breathing meditation – sitting tranquilly, closing one’s eyes, focusing on only the breath and emptying the mind. A few of the little details in Zen mediation are slightly different. The first difference is that you keep your eyes open, though staring at nothing in particular. This makes things a little more difficult, particularly when you’re in a very interesting-looking temple, with about one hundred other people.

The second difference is that there’s a monk quietly patrolling through the meditators with a five-foot long lump of timber. Every minute or so, he uses it to give a meditator a solid hiding.

True. Meditators who are looking a little drowsy or losing focus are favoured with a stern paddling. In this case, though, contrary to what I’ve heard elsewhere, you actually had to ask for your paddling. This isn’t like your headmaster rapping you across the knuckles at school, though.

As the patrolling monk passes, you put your hands together to petition him. He bows to you. You bow to him. You lean forward, crossing your arms and exposing your back. He assumes the paddling position. He lightly places the paddle across your back to target it. And then…

I was expecting this to be something like a symbolic love tap. In reality, it’s a fairly full-blooded hit – two staccato blows in rapid succession – that echoes around every corner of the temple. Two on the left side, two on the right. The hit-ee then thanks the monk with a polite bow. Problem solved – now they have something to think about.

I had believed that Zen meditation was designed to empty the mind of trivial matters. It did this to some extent, in that my trivial matters were now replaced with a recurring thought of “Holy ****, how hard did he just hit that guy?”.

So, did I get the full Zen shellacking experience? Happily or unhappily, no. It turned out that I passed on the one opportunity I would end up having. My friend volunteered though, I was sitting next to him. As the paddle comes down, the sound is wince-inducing, like you just belly-flopped a particularly thick side of beef onto hot concrete from five stories up. Of course, the paddle is fairly flat, so it’s also engineered to make a particularly meaty thwack against one’s back without permanent damage.

Amazingly, not one of the meditators made a sound after this happened. Although I was assured that it was painful enough, my friend said the residual effects were gone in about 36 hours.

I wish I had photos I could show you, but see, there was this guy walking around with a big lump of wood that he wasn’t shy about using. Actually, the monk seemed like a friendly enough guy, and I guess he was well qualified to deliver some very direct focus, no doubt being the frequent recipient of the same.

So, I haven’t really had the full Zen experience. It really does take some practice – just sitting there motionless and cross-legged for the forty minutes is painful enough. Now if only they perhaps had some way to get my mind off my circulatory-deprived legs…