In 2016, a rash of articles about an extremely conservative religious cult in Japan appeared in publications ranging from Japan Today to The Daily Beast, National Review, and The Economist. These articles bore headlines such as "Japan Reverts to Fascism," "The Religious Cult Secretly Running Japan," and "Ultraconservative Lobby Nippon Kaigi Backs Constitution Revision." More likely than not you've heard of the organization in question, Nippon Kaigi, which begs the question, what the hell is it, and is there merit to these claims?
Nipon Kaigi is powerful, religious lobbyist organization in Japan. Literally translated, Nippon Kaigi simply means "Japanese Conference." The organization formed in 1997, when the Society for the Protection of Japan and the People’s Conference to Protect Japan merged. The right-wing group, which counts as many as 40,000 members, has gained power and popularity in the 2010s, to the point that many of its goals may be within reach.
As the spate of articles shows, Nippon Kaigi has become a lightning rod for international controversy. Depending on your politics, the organization it is either a political movement that will provide salvation for Japan or a sinister shadow government bent on world domination. The Daily Beast called the organization a Japanese cult secretly running the country, and while there certainly are cults in Japan, not everyone agrees with this alarmist assessment. The organization's adherence to nationalistic forms of Shintoism recalls affiliations that led Japan into the Sino-Japanese and Second World wars, which sets off alarm bells with many historians.
Regardless of what you think of Nippon Kaigi, the truth of the group is fascinating, and provides insight into the changing face of Japanese politics.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Many Other Prominent Officials Are MembersPhoto: US Embassy Tokyo / Public Domain
Its Chairman Is a Former Journalist Who Wants to Reconsider HistoryPhoto: FCCJchannel / Youtube
Nippon Kaigi Wants to Change the Constitution, Fundamentally Altering Modern Japan
It Advocates Expanding the Japanese MilitaryPhoto: US Army / Public Domain