TOKYO—Even by the standards of the alleged kooks and conmen commonly found on the CPAC roster, one of this year’s speakers has an extraordinary background that includes fronting an organization that claimed—in all seriousness—to be able to channel Donald Trump’s guardian deity through a magical medium.
The former political leader of a Japanese cult called Happy Science, Jay “Hiroaki” Aeba, is on the bill for Friday.
Like Trump, Aeba has been accused of fraud back home but he doesn’t think that should be held against him.
We asked Aeba for clarification but didn’t get a reply. He is now head of the Japanese Conservative Union although he said last year he was still a believer in Happy Science.
Aeba’s guru, Ryuho Okawa, claims to be a Venusian god named El Cantare who created life on earth—and is also a reincarnation of the Buddha, just in case you were wondering. Okawa is not only a snazzy dresser and a self-proclaimed deity, but he says he has the power to channel the spirits of any person, living or dead. He 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.
You’ve never quite seen anything like the spirit of Donald Trump possessing a Japanese visionary and discussing New York cheesecake as a political metaphor. It’s too bad that the God (Okawa) himself can’t make it to CPAC but at least his former disciple Aeba is speaking.
CPAC, which runs through Sunday afternoon, features the best and the brightest of the Republican party and its allies, such as insurrection rousing Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, and the usual assortment of foxes and fiends from Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. Aeba is scheduled to take the podium right after Donald Trump Jr. and speak about China’s threat to the U.S.
This will not be the first time that Aeba has spoken at the event—indeed, he claims to be the first Japanese man to speak on the mainstage of the event. If you read Aeba’s online profile in English, there appear to be no outright lies at first glance, but there are what the Jesuits would call some sins of omission.
He is a self-proclaimed conservative commentator and columnist and chairman of the Japanese Conservative Union (JCU) which was founded in 2015. The profile says, “Jay attended his first CPAC in 2011 and founded JCU in 2015 as a counterpart to the American Conservative Union (ACU). In 2017, JCU and ACU co-hosted the first-ever international CPAC in Tokyo, where experts from across the Indo-Pacific met to discuss such critical issues as the economic and military security of the region in the face of Chinese expansionism, the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, the development and regulation of the cryptocurrency market…. To date, JCU and ACU have hosted four Japanese CPACs”.
All of this is true. What his biography fails to mention is that Aeba was a member of Japan’s Happy Science cult for many years, and was also a major figure in the creation of their political arm, the Happiness Realization Party.
Ostensibly, the Happy Science cult teaches that Okawa, the founder, is a god, and only by following his teachings can one obtain happiness in this life and the next. They believe in aliens, reincarnation, and multi-dimensions. Some of the teachings are modeled after the Buddhist eightfold path and preach love, wisdom, and self-reflection. Yet at the same time, the cult also teaches that the Nanjing massacre never happened and that Japan must scrap its pacifist constitution, rearm to the max, and prepare for a cataclysmic war.
One weekly magazine reported the group’s total capital as being close to $1.8 billion—money made from encouraging believers to buy copies of Okawa’s many books, from extracting lavish donations from followers, and for self-help seminars conducted by the organization. Of course, they also sell prayers and charms. During the pandemic, Happy Science found itself in hot water for selling “cures” for COVID-19.
Happy Science—not content to just be a spiritual power—launched its own political party in 2009, and Aeba was the first party leader. He went on to serve as the research division chief and held many other positions within the party. In 2011, while attending his first CPAC, he was still an executive member of the Happiness Realization Party and presumably began networking with America’s conservative elite in the hopes of gaining the Happiness Party an aura of legitimacy.
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, he joined the headquarters of Happy Science and in May 2009, he became their political leader. He served as the organization's 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. It’s not entirely clear what relationship Aeba has had with his former party after the creation of JCU but his relations with Happy Science seem strained—much like Trump’s relationship with the GOP. Although, in an interview published last year in SEIRON magazine, he said that he was still a believer in Happy Science.
On April 6, 2020, he changed his name to Hiroaki Aeba. Three days later, on April 9, Happy Science publicly disavowed having any connection to Hiroaki Aeba aka Jikido Aeba and the JCU on their website. Why? Possibly because in April last year two magazines reported on a scandal within the JCU that seemed to implicate Aeba in possible fraud involving cryptocurrency. According to the articles, Aeba collected nearly $9 million to create a virtual currency called Liberty. In his fund-raising efforts, he used a photo of himself and Donald Trump in a pamphlet handed out to potential investors. The photo was enough to convince many of his credibility.
The Japanese media reports that it is still a mystery as to what happened to the nearly $9 million in funding used to create the virtual currency, and it has resulted in internal fighting within the JCU.
The JCU told The Daily Beast in an email about the alleged cryptocurrency misconduct: “Jay [Aeba] and JCU are proceeding to deal with and address this issue with the cooperation of experts including lawyers.”
One thing is certain: the photo of Trump and Aeba is actually real.
There are some similarities between Aeba and Trump. They are both political opportunists, charismatic speakers, adept at using celebrity connections to enhance their image—and both of them have been accused of fraud. For Aeba, his pictures and meetings with Trump have given him an air of prestige and access among Japan’s arch-conservatives. He may have used that for his own personal gain rather than for the benefit of the Happy Science cult, but it seems to be working out fine.
While Aeba was a member of the Happiness Realization Party, the cult’s political arm, he gave them access to the wealth and influence of the Republican Party. JCU told The Daily Beast: “Since its establishment [in 2015] JCU has never had any relation with Happy Science (HS) or the Happiness Realization Party (HRP). As for Chairman Jay Aeba, he also has completely left the HS organization and HRP now. In terms of his personal religious belief, we do not know because the JCU has a policy of religious freedom for all members and staff.”
Trump supporters at CPAC may worry that the Republican Party is trying to move on from the Trump era, but even if he returns as the presidential nominee for 2024, Trump is mortal, and unlike cult-leader Okawa, he doesn’t claim he will be reincarnated again and again and live on forever.
That’s where the Happy Science cult comes in handy. Even after he’s dead, the ghost of Trump can keep calling the shots via a magical medium for years to come.
Now, isn’t that something to be happy about?