I was just clued into a manga series called 聖☆おにいさん, or Saint Young Men. It’s about two young men, Jesus and Buddha — yes, as in the two very famous spiritual leaders from the Western and Eastern traditions. They’ve just returned from a vacation in the underworld and are living together as roommates in the Tachikawa suburb of Tokyo. The stories are penned by 28-year old Hikaru Nakamura, and chronicle the duo’s adventures as they navigate their way through the modern world. Buddha is thrifty and very detail-oriented; Jesus is a lavish spender. Despite their differences, the two are best friends. Amazing.
His father was Kikujiro, a poor house painter who drank all the time, and it was expected that Takeshi would follow in his father’s footsteps. Takeshi’s mother Saki, however, was adamant that her son would break away from their family’s cycle of poverty, so she did part-time jobs secretly to save money to buy study books so her son could attend university one day. I’d say it worked out pretty well.
Japanese politics has been dominated by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party for half a century, but every once in a while there are these small radical-sounding parties that take a stab at leadership positions. One of the most recent is the Happiness Realization Party. They’ve just published their manifesto in English this month, which includes goals like a new constitution, reduced taxes, protection against North Korean missiles, and the realization of true happiness.
The Happiness Realization Party is actually the political offshoot of a new religious group called Happy Science, which might be something similar to Scientology, though I don’t know for sure.
Link (Thanks, Ted!)
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Japanese Buddhism these days has been called "funeral Buddhism" because, although 3/4 of the population is registered as Buddhist, people only go to the temples when someone dies. That’s why the head monk at Tsukiji Honganji temple in Tokyo decided to hold a fashion/hip hop event last week. Titled the "Tokyo Bouz Collection," the event featured 40 monks and nuns from eight major Buddhist sects blinged out in gold embroidered robes performing a rap version of a Budddhist sutra. They strutted the runway while chanting prayers and throwing confetti that looked like lotus petals.
Ever since the subway-gassing Aum cult lost its dear charismatic leader to death row, there’s been a split in those remaining. Some wanted to retain reverence for Shoko Asahara, focusing on mantras and religious teachings and 101 ways to kill off the population, while others wanted to get rid of holy names, throw out anything resembling their leader, and think of 102 ways to kill of the population. The latter is led by the super-smart, super-scary, loved-by-the-teeny-bopper-girls ex-spokesman for Aum Shinrikyo, 44-year old Fumihiro Joyu.
Anyway, an "insider" just announced that Joyu is leaving Aum–which, by the way, is now called Aleph–and starting his own spin-off cult with about 60 others. It’ll be fun to see what kind of trouble they cause. Maybe we can throw in them in the middle of the yakuza war and watch them all rumble.