Ryuho Okawa

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Ryuho Okawa
Master Ryuho Okawa, Feb. 15, 2015.jpg
Okawa in 2015
President of Happiness Realization Party
In office
July 22, 2009 – September 12, 2009
Preceded byPosition established
Assumed office
December 27, 2012
Preceded byPosition established
Master of Happy Science
Assumed office
October 6, 1986
Preceded byPosition established
Personal details
Takashi Nakagawa (中川 隆)

(1956-07-07) July 7, 1956 (age 66)
Kawashima, Tokushima Prefecture, Japan
Kyoko Kimura (木村 恭子, Kimura Kyōko)
(m. 1988; div. 2012)
Shio Kondo (近藤 紫央, Kondō Shio)
(m. 2012)
Children5, including [[Hiroshi Okawa]] [ja] (大川 宏洋, Ōkawa Hiroshi)
Alma materTokyo University, New York University
OccupationReligious leader
Political activist

Ryuho Okawa[a] (大川 隆法; Ōkawa Ryūhō; born Takashi Nakagawa (中川 隆; Nakagawa Takashi) on July 7, 1956) is the CEO and founder of the Happy Science religious organization and the Happiness Realization Party in Japan. He is also chairman of two companies affiliated with the organization, Newster Production and ARI Production.[3]

His organization has been widely criticised as a cult.[4][5][6] Adherents of the religion worship Okawa, who claims to be the current incarnation of a god called "El Cantare" and a number of other beings, including Hermes and Gautama Buddha.[7]

Early life[edit]

Ryuho Okawa was born Nakagawa Takashi on 7 July 1956 in Kawashima (now Yoshinogawa), Tokushima Prefecture as the second son of Nakagawa Tadayoshi (中川 忠義, Nakagawa Tadayoshi) (1921 – 2003) (later known by his pen name[8] Yoshikawa Saburō (善川 三朗, Yoshikawa Saburō))[9] and Nakagawa Kimiko (中川 君子, Nakagawa Kimiko). His older brother is named Nakagawa Tsutomu (中川 力, Nakagawa Tsutomu) (later known as Tomiyama Makoto (富山 誠, Tomiyama Makoto)),[10] who is four years older than him.

Okawa said his family was religious; both of his parents believed in God and the Buddha, and Okawa believed in the existence of spirits and souls, and a world after death in childhood.[11] Despite his beliefs, Okawa was not active in religious practice.[12] Okawa and Tomiyama lived were raised in a strict home environment that was ordinary and not particularly rich nor poor.[13]

Yoshikawa is said to be one of the most important influences on Okawa's life. Okawa said, despite not having a spiritual or religious master, Yoshikawa had an important influence. Yoshikawa edited journals for the Japanese Communist Party and later worked as an agricultural advisor in local government. He was deeply interested in spirituality and religion. He studied in the Christian Church as a teenager, as well as in a new religion called Seicho-no-Ie after World War II. He later became a follower of Takahashi Shinji, leader of the religious organization God Light Association [ja] (GLA).[13] He would also later serve as Happy Science's official adviser in its first few years.[b][14] Yoshikawa was demanding on Okawa's success.[1] Yoshikawa gave him and Tomiyama hour-long lectures after dinner at home. The lectures included religious topics like the Bible and The Gateless Barrier, as well as secular topics like Kantian philosophy and Marxism during elementary school,[15][16] although Okawa was not successful in school.[1]

Okawa wanted to be a scholar or a diplomat.[15] He wanted to spread his ideas in academia, or broaden his view on life by experiencing different cultures as a diplomat.[13] Because of this prospect, he started studying until late at night and became amongst the top of his class. He became particularly good at English.[16] He was obese, weighing 60 kg when he was 143 cm tall.[15]

During secondary school, Okawa was an active student. He fished, played tennis, and practiced kendo. He was involved in school activities; he was president of the student union and editor of the school newspaper.[13]



In 1975, Okawa failed the entrance exam for Tokyo University. After studying for a year, he was accepted into the university's Liberal Arts Division. During his first year, he was not socially adjusted. He said he once wrote love letters to a girl, but was rejected.[15] He felt uncomfortable amongst the students who were uninterested in spirituality.[16] During his second year, a time he calls "the first stage in the 'awakening of wisdom'",[15] he modeled his daily schedule after that of Immanuel Kant, whom he respected deeply. At 3 pm, he would take a walk while writing poetry. At 5 pm, he would go to the local bathhouse and stay there for an hour thinking about his day. Going home, he would have a cheap meal, and buy two books at a local bookstore. From 8:30 to 9 pm, he would read, then drink tea, and then read philosophy.[15] The philosophy he read included those of Plato and Kitaro Nishida.[16]

In April 1978, after his second year at university, he majored in politics and studied at the Faculty of Law. After his third year, he paused his studies for a year. At the end of the break, he failed a judicial exam and the exam for higher-level civil servants.[15] In his fourth and last year, his interests started to change from philosophy to metaphysics. He read the works of Takahashi Shinji of GLA and Masaharu Taniguchi of Seicho-no-Ie.[16] He accepted a job offer from TOMEN Corporation [ja] (now Toyota Tsusho) because his grades were not sufficient for graduate school. After graduating in spring 1981, he took up his job. He was assigned to the foreign exchange department at the headquarters in Tokyo.[15]

Buddha Enlightenment[edit]

On 23 March 1981, before graduating from university and working at TOMEN Corporation, Okawa said he experienced his "Buddha Enlightenment".[15][17] He had a sudden feeling that a person was trying to communicate with him. He grabbed a pencil and a card. His hand started to move on its own, and wrote "良い知らせ、良い知らせ" (good news, good news). Asking who the person is, his hand signed "日興", the name of Nikkō Shōnin, who was one of Nichiren's disciples. A week later, one last message from Nikkō was given, this time on behalf of Nichiren: "Love others, nurture others, forgive others". This message later became the basis of Okawa's teachings about love. One night in June, the religious leader Takahashi Shinji's spirit told Okawa his destiny to found a new religion. His father Yoshikawa, upon hearing of this, went to Tokyo, later becoming one of his followers. The next month, the spirits spoke through Okawa, including those of Kūkai, Shinran, Confucius, Jesus Christ, Moses, and Nostradamus. Yoshikawa and Okawa's older brother Tomiyama taped the communications. The tapes would be transcribed and adapted into publishable formats.[18][c]

Business career[edit]

His secular life as a businessman was successful.[14] In August 1982, Okawa was sent to the company's US headquarters at the World Trade Center in New York for training.[18][14] He took an English course at Berlitz Language School and he studied international finance at New York University. He dropped out of university after experiencing an intensified inferiority complex from seeing a Taiwanese classmate who spoke fluent English. Around this time, he said he experienced the "second stage in the 'awakening of wisdom'".[18] His inferiority complex went away when he thought about the knowledge he obtained from the over three thousand books he read thus far. In 1983, he returned to Tokyo, and was assigned to work on negotiations with banks. In March 1984, he was sent to Nagoya. By summer of 1985, he had read over four thousand books.[18] Thoughts "spewed forth like water from a spring",[19] and his inferiority complex changed into a sense of superiority. On 15 August, he published his first book Nichiren no reigen (日蓮の霊言, Nichiren Shōnin-no-reigen),[d] a collection of spiritual messages, using Yoshikawa's pen name to avoid his authorship being found out by his employers. By June, he published four more collections.[21][8]

Okawa earned a particular reputation at his work, where rumours about him spread. His former colleagues said he claimed to see spirits possessing people and offered to exorce them. In June 1986, high spirits suggested he retire from work, leading him to dedicate his life to religion. On 15 July, he resigned from TOMEN Corporation and on October 6, founded Happy Science and adopted the name "Ryuho Okawa".[21][2]

Happy Science[edit]

Study group[edit]

On 6 October 1986, Okawa opened the first office for Happy Science in Suginami, Tokyo, with four staff members. Happy Science's initial name was Jinsei no Daigaku-in: Kofuku-no-Kagaku (人生の大学院 幸福の科学) ("Happy Science, The Postgraduate School of Human Life"). The name "幸福の科学" originates from inspiration that Okawa said he received from Nichiren's spirit; the details were published in Okawa's first book Nichiren no reigen in 1985. At first, the organization presented itself as a "study group on human happiness"[22] and consisted of readers and sympathizers of Okawa's spiritual works, who were friends and acquaintances of Okawa.[23][22][24] However, the organization may have intended to be known as a religious body later.[25]

On 23 November 1986, Okawa gave his first sermon to about 80 followers in Tokyo. This date is now known as one of the most important dates in Happy Science's history. It is known as the day of Shoten-bōrin (初転法輪, Shoten-bōrin) ("The First Turn of the Wheel of the Dharma").[26][e]

In March 1987, Okawa gave what is known as his first official large public lecture, entitled "The Principles of Happiness", to an audience of about 400 people. In the lecture, he implied that he was a prophet, saying that while spiritual mediums and psychics cannot hear the voice of God, prophets can.[27][f] He said that a prophet's task is to listen to the voice and spread the word of God. He stated that the early years of Happy Science would consist of study.[27]

At the end of 1989, with the publication of The Rebirth of the Buddha,[g] one of his most important works, Okawa officially declared that he is an incarnation of Buddha. He started to highlight the importance of "faith" in the Buddhist conception of the "Devotion to the Three Jewels", which are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.[27][29]

Okawa's audience at his lectures grew larger as Happy Science gained new members. The initial audience of 400 at his lecture in 1987 grew to 10,000 by 1990.[27] The organization grew rapidly. In December 1989, the headquarters was moved to one of the most expensive business buildings in Tokyo in Kioichō, Chiyoda, next to Tokyo's main business and political area. The rent was known to be ¥25 million per month.[30]

Religious organization[edit]

On 7 March 1991, Happy Science obtained legal status as a "religious juridical person" (宗教法人, shūkyō-hōjin) through the Religious Corporations Law by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.[22][24][31] As a result, its name was simplified to Kofuku-no-Kagaku (幸福の科学, Kōfuku-no-Kagaku).[26][h] The group's government recognition allowed it to gradually grow by taking on new members from the general Japanese public.[24] Happy Science underwent a drastic change in its public image. The body modified its teachings and assumed a more Buddhist identity. Okawa's past writings were changed to include more references to Buddhism and to emphasize Okawa himself.[22] In that year, Happy Science started large-scale festivities. One of these was Okawa's "Birthday Festival" (御生誕祭, Goseitan-sai), held on 15 July 1991, just after Okawa's 35th birthday. In the festival, Okawa was in front of an audience of 50,000 people, which included the mass media, in Tokyo Dome. He declared that he now had at least 1.5 million followers and that his real identity is "El Cantare", the Grand Spirit of the Terrestrial Spirit Group, also known as the "Buddha of Mahayana".[31]

Since the founding of Happy Science, Okawa has reportedly published over 500 books,[32] most of which are transcripts of his video recorded lectures.[33] There are 15 films based on his teachings: The Laws of the Sun, The Laws of Eternity, The Golden Laws, The Terrifying Revelations of Nostradamus, Hermes - Winds of Love, The Rebirth of Buddha, The Mystical Laws, The Final Judgement, The Laws of the Universe, I'm Fine My Angel, The World We Live In, and Daybreak.[3] The three books The Laws of the Sun, The Golden Laws, and The Laws of Eternity (a.k.a. The Nine Dimensions) contain the core teachings of Happy Science.

Rivalry with Aum Shinrikyo[edit]

Happy Science came into a bitter rivalry with the cult Aum Shinrikyo dating back to 1990.[34] The hostility between the two groups culminated in an assassination attempt on Okawa by Aum Shinrikyo in February 1995.[7][35][36] Aum members attempted to kill Okawa by putting the nerve agent VX in the air conditioning system of his car. The perpetrators did this by injecting the agent into the car's ventilation system with a needle-less syringe. The attempt failed for unknown reasons.[35]

Writing career[edit]

Okawa is a prolific writer.[37] By the early 1990s, he published about 20 to 30 books per year.[20] He is said to have published over 300 books by 2004. Some of them sold over a million copies;[38] Okawa's main book The Laws of the Sun has sold the most copies, with ten million sold by January 2000.[39]

Okawa's writings can be categorized into different types.[40][41] His first five books published under Yoshikawa's pen name before the foundation of Happy Science are interviews between the interviewer Yoshikawa and the spirits who were speaking through Okawa.[41] The interviews were taped, transcribed and published with Yoshikawa's help.[40] These books were replaced with newer versions when Okawa started publishing under his own name after the foundation of Happy Science. The new books were akin to collected and revised versions of the originals; they are presented as religious tractates rather than interviews.[41]

Unlike traditional religious text, Okawa's writings are very easy to read, with some parts being almost poetic. Okawa does not use old-fashioned, technical or complex language and avoids difficult kanji. He opts for the modern language, even using English loanwords. This simplicity may have helped give his books a popular appeal.[40]

Happiness Realization Party[edit]

On 23 May 2009, Okawa founded the national political party Happiness Realization Party, with himself and his wife Kyoko Okawa as joint presidents. The party was founded in anticipation of the 2009 Japanese general election on 30 August 2009.[42] The party is religious, conservative, and populist.[43] The party does not make direct reference to the religious ideas of Happy Science.[44]

In the 2009 general election, the party fielded 337 candidates, including 75 women, in 288 out of the 300 constituencies in Japan. This number of candidates was rivalled only by the two major parties at the time, the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party.[42] However, the party did not win any seats. It claimed to have just over one million votes, which is 1.4% of all votes cast, despite Happy Science having about ten million members.[42][45][i]

On 22 July 2009, Okawa was appointed as president of the party.[46] He resigned as president on 12 September following the 2009 general election.[47][better source needed]

On 21 April 2010, Okawa was appointed honorary president of the party.[48]

On 27 December 2012, Okawa was reappointed as president of the party.[49]

Personal life[edit]

In April 1988, Okawa married Kyoko Okawa (大川 きょう子, Ōkawa Kyōko), née Kyoko Kimura (木村 恭子, Kimura Kyōko), born on 22 August 1965.[27][50] Kyoko had took a role as a spiritual leader alongside Okawa since 1987.[50] Kyoko is a graduate of the University of Tokyo, where she studied English literature. Of his marriage with Kyoko, Okawa said it provided his life "...with a stable basis that enabled me to concentrate even more on my task",[27] and that it was "instrumental in the development of [Happy Science]".[27] Kyoko became the Presidental Assistant of Happy Science in 1988, and the Head of Happy Science's women's group, called the "Society of Aphrodite" (Aphrodite-kai (アフロディーテ会, Afurodiite-kai)).[27] Like her husband, Kyoko has also published books for Happy Science, which mainly targeted the female audience.[40] She was the joint president of the Happiness Realization party along with Okawa and later became the leader of the party.[42][32] Okawa said that he and Kyoko were together in some of their past lives.[27][j]

In February 2011, it was reported that Okawa and Kyoko had divorced.[53][54] Happy Science announced that she had been permanently expelled for allegedly causing great personal and administrative damage to the organization, libeling the organization in various newspapers, and besmirching the name of Lord El Cantare.[55]

Okawa and Kyoko had five children. Their oldest child, [[Hiroshi Okawa]] [ja] (大川 宏洋, Ōkawa Hiroshi), has since renounced his father, stating "I believe what my father does is complete nonsense."[7] In an interview with Shūkan Bunshun on 28th February 2019, Hiroshi said he left Happy Science because he felt pressured by his father to marry the actress Fumika Shimizu, and his refusal to do so had angered his father.[56][57] Happy Science has denied the accusations of trying to marry Hiroshi and Fumika to each other.

In December 2012, Okawa married Shio Okawa (大川 紫央, Ōkawa Shio), née Shio Kondo (近藤 紫央, Kondō Shio), born in 1985.[58] She is believed by members of Happy Science to be the incarnation of the goddess Gaia.[59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Astley 1995, p. 344
  2. ^ a b Winter 2013, p. 422
  3. ^ a b 大川隆法ご紹介 [Profile of Ryuho Okawa]. Happy Science (in Japanese). Japan: IRH Press.
  4. ^ Musasizi, Simon (21 June 2012). "Clerics call for probe into Happy Science". The Observer. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015.
  5. ^ "Happy Science, a new cult offers celebrity guide to heaven". The Jakarta Post. 22 July 2012. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012.
  6. ^ Donnelly, Beau (2 November 2015). "Blooming 'Happy Science' religion channels Disney, Gandhi, Jesus and Thatcher". The Age. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Kestenbaum, Sam (16 April 2020). "Inside the Fringe Japanese Religion That Claims It Can Cure Covid-19". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 15 March 2021. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  8. ^ a b Winter 2013, p. 425
  9. ^ [善川三朗名誉顧問紹介 "善川三朗名誉顧問紹介"]. 幸福の科学. Archived from the original on 2010-10-27. Retrieved 2015-12-18. {{cite web}}: Check |archiveurl= value (help)
  10. ^ a b Astley 1995, p. 377
  11. ^ Fukui 2004, p. 62
  12. ^ Fukui 2004, pp. 62–63
  13. ^ a b c d Fukui 2004, p. 63
  14. ^ a b c d Fukui 2004, p. 66
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i Astley 1995, p. 345
  16. ^ a b c d e Fukui 2004, p. 64
  17. ^ Fukui 2004, p. 65
  18. ^ a b c d Astley 1995, p. 346
  19. ^ Astley 1995, pp. 346–7
  20. ^ a b Hotaka 2012, p. 144
  21. ^ a b Astley 1995, p. 347
  22. ^ a b c d Baffelli 2007, p. 86
  23. ^ Fukui 2004, p. 68
  24. ^ a b c Leto 2014, p. 195
  25. ^ Fukui 2004, pp. 68–69
  26. ^ a b c d Fukui 2004, p. 69
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Fukui 2004, p. 70
  28. ^ Fukui 2004, pp. 72
  29. ^ Fukui 2004, pp. 71–72
  30. ^ Fukui 2004, pp. 70–71
  31. ^ a b Fukui 2004, p. 73
  32. ^ a b McNeill, David (4 August 2009), "Party offers a third way: happiness", The Japan Times, retrieved 6 August 2009
  33. ^ Saint-Guily, Sylla (3 October 2012). "Happy Science Is the Laziest Cult Ever". Vice. Archived from the original on 27 November 2015.
  34. ^ Astley 1995, pp. 343–344
  35. ^ a b "Chronology of Aum Shinrikyo's CBQ Activities" (PDF). Monterey Institute of International Studies. June 2016. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-04-11. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  36. ^ Astley 1995, p. 373
  37. ^ Shields 2009, p. 50
  38. ^ Fukui 2004, p. 119
  39. ^ Fukui 2004, pp. 119–120
  40. ^ a b c d Fukui 2004, p. 120
  41. ^ a b c Winter 2013, p. 427
  42. ^ a b c d Shields 2009, p. 52
  43. ^ Shields 2009, p. 56
  44. ^ Shields 2009, p. 60
  45. ^ a b Shields 2009, p. 53
  46. ^ https://www.asahi.com/senkyo2009/news/TKY200907220376.html
  47. ^ https://dailycult.blogspot.com/2009/09/blog-post_23.html
  48. ^ https://info.hr-party.jp/press-release/2010/53/
  49. ^ https://info.hr-party.jp/press-release/2012/955/
  50. ^ a b Akito 1998, p. 15
  51. ^ Fukui 2004, p. 124
  52. ^ Fukui 2004, p. 98
  53. ^ Shūkan Bunshun 3 February 2011, p. 140–43
  54. ^ Shūkan Shinchō 3 February 2011, pp.136–37
  55. ^ 幸福の科学が大川きょう子氏を永久追放 [Happy Science permanently expels Kyoko Okawa]. The Liberty Web (in Japanese). IRH Press Co., Ltd. February 22, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
  56. ^ "大川隆法長男が語る「『幸福の科学』決別の理由は清水富美加との"結婚強制"」". Bunshun. Archived from the original on 20 February 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  57. ^ "価格.com - 「大川宏洋」に関連する情報 | テレビ紹介情報". kakaku.com. Retrieved 2022-01-24.
  58. ^ https://newsmatomedia.com/okawa-ryuho
  59. ^ Okawa, Ryuho Okawa & Shio (2014-11-21). In Love with the Sun: Spiritual Messages from Goddess Gaia. IRH Press Company Limited. ISBN 9781941779262.


  1. ^ This is an adopted name, and is now known as Okawa's holy name. The name is derived from replacing the character 中 (middle, naka) in Okawa's birth family name 中川 with 大 (great, ō), and from adding 法 (dharma, ) to the on'yomi of his birth given name 隆.[1] The name was adopted with the founding of Happy Science in 1986.[2]
  2. ^ Yoshikawa was known as "Honorable Adviser" (名誉顧問, Meiyo Komon). In January 2003, a memorial shrine for him opened.[14]
  3. ^ The identity of Okawa's father and older brother were hidden; they were initially described as Okawa's friends under the names Yoshikawa Saburō (善川 三朗, Yoshikawa Saburō) and Tomiyama Makoto (富山 誠, Tomiyama Makoto) respectively. Their true identities were revealed through investigation by Japanese sources in 1991.[10]
  4. ^ Originally Nichiren Shōnin no reigen (日蓮聖人の霊言, Nichiren Shōnin-no-reigen)[20]
  5. ^ The name refers to the day that the "Wheel of Law" (hōrin (法輪, hōrin)) started to "turn for the first time" (shoten (初転, shoten)). It is a Buddhist expression, where the "Law" refers to teachings, in this case those of Okawa. The "turn" refers to the introduction of the teachings to the world.[26]
  6. ^ Okawa may have thought of God as "High Divine Spirits" as well as the Creator God. Fukui (2004) says this is so because Okawa mentions Archangel Gabriel, who sent messages to Prophet Mohammed, and the spirit of Nichiren who spoke to him, both of which are known as high divine spirits.[27]
  7. ^ Originally Buddha Saitan (仏陀再誕, Budda saitan)[28]
  8. ^ An alternative name Shūkyō Hōjin Kofuku no Kagaku (宗教法人 幸福の科学, Shūkyō Hōjin Kōfuku no Kagaku) ("Religious Corporation – Kofuku-no-Kagaku") was also used.[26]
  9. ^ This discrepancy may be because many, if not most Happy Science members, are only loosely connected to the party.[45]
  10. ^ Okawa said that Kyoko lived in Atlantis, the Inca Empires and Ancient Greece in her past lives. Kyoko was the mythological figure Aphrodite in Greece, who was saved from captivity by Hermes, an incarnation of Okawa.[27][51] Okawa said, in contrast to the original story, they married and had a son named Eros. Kyoko's other incarnations included Manjushri in India and Florence Nightingale in England, who is believed to be the most recent of Kyoko's previous incarnations.[27][52]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]