Why does Japan need a conservative movement? “That is a very important question,” Aeba said. “As you know, Japan has been suffering from a bad economy for many years. What is worse, at the moment, the current administration is aiming to raise the [sales] tax again, from 5 percent to 8 percent, and then 10 percent. If we allow them to do that, the Japanese economy will end.”

Watase, a tall, thin 30-year-old with rimless glasses, large teeth, and floppy hair, jumped in. After bemoaning what he said were rising numbers of overpaid public-sector workers, he darkly declared that Japanese people who work for private companies are now “actually slaves of the government.” If they had gathered nothing else from CPAC, the Japanese conservatives had clearly internalized the American right’s language of alarmism and crisis.

The Tokyo Tea Party uses the same slogan as its American counterpart—“Taxed Enough Already”—and even goes by the same name (though I was assured that there was no danger of confusion with the traditional Japanese tea ceremony). Aeba’s Happiness Realization Party, meanwhile, is the political arm of a new-wave religious movement called Happy Science, whose founder claims to be a reincarnation of the Buddha. The Happies, as they are called, envision a Japan that is at once more muscular on the world stage—they propose eliminating the constitutional ban on waging war—and more religious at home. “The best analogy would be the Christian Coalition, Buddhist-style,” Sparks offered helpfully.