ONCE A YEAR, at a Marriott just a few blocks from the National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., the Conservative Political Action Conference convenes its own, somewhat less exotic menagerie of economists, activists, lobbyists, and ministers, plus several hundred college students who fancy themselves tomorrow’s Sarah Palins and Karl Roves. CPAC, as it is nicknamed, is the kind of conference where you can join the NRA, pick up a DVD about the Tenth Amendment, and buy a tiny rubber fetus as a souvenir. If you’d been there this year, you might also have noticed, wandering among the booths, a rather conspicuous delegation of three neatly groomed Asian gentlemen in dark suits. They were visiting from Tokyo, but they weren’t there to sightsee. They had come to learn the secrets of the American conservative movement, in hopes of taking that knowledge home and using it to transform Japan’s drab political landscape.