A new religious group called Kofuku no Kagaku (Science of Happiness) has aroused a great deal of interest among Japanese in the past year. The background to this growing interest is as follows: the founder of the movement is 35-year-old OOKAWA Ryuho, a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tokyo who claims that he can communicate spiritually with great religious figures of the past such as Buddha and Nichiren.
The movement seems to have grown rapidly for a few years while using a rather unique method of collecting new members. Formal membership in the group depended on the reading of at least ten books written by the founder. The group claimed their membership numbered some five million at the close of 1991, though that claim has generally been given skeptical treatment outside the group.
Late in the year, the popular weekly tabloid Friday (published by Kodansha) issued stories claiming that OOKAWA had been plagued with mental disturbances while a youth; in response, members of the group began to take opposing actions, including several days of "fax tactics" (sending continuous fax messages to Kodansha's offices), and by demonstrating in front of the publisher's gates. Thereafter, the media began giving the group strongly negative treatment, with the result that the movement is now thought to be declining in membership.