Kanekichi returned to Seattle. Arriving at King Street station, he immediately headed to the Toyo Club. On his train ride up, he contemplated the diffuse words of Yamamoto as well as his own problem – securing a supply of opium. He realized that Yamamoto’s message and the solution to his problem have the same answer.
He would travel to Japan to personally meet with Toyama. Kanekichi was aware of Toyama’s growing influence in Japan but with little details. In general, he did not know how important Toyama could be, but he suspected he could help him with his specific problem at hand – securing opium at scale. Once a steady source could be established, the Toyo Club Syndicate fishing fleet would be mobilized to carry the goods to the United States. Product could be counted and packaged at or near the canneries and then distributed through the yet-to-be-established distribution system in the United States. His distribution plan, though not shared with Capone, was to use Capone’s existing distribution network of alcohol. While he was being paid for the supply and distribution, he would sneakily piggyback on top of Capone’s existing infrastructure.
As for payment, Yamamoto knew that extracting money would be through both “carrots and sticks.” Getting deals was relatively easy. Collecting payment was always much more difficult. The deal agreed to with Tessio and Capone was just a starting point. The one million dollars or so that he held in the suitcase was not the $10 million agreed to. And, a “60-40 split” was ambiguous in its terms. Of course, all deals were murky in terms and enforcement. Collecting would be a matter of force and violence for what ever could be gotten as well as the promise of even more lucrative transactions in the future.
Yamamoto decided he would personally go to Japan to meet with Toyama. He had Yamada set up the meeting. He then booked a ticket on a passenger ship back to Japan. Since his arrival, he had not been back to Japan. Unlike that maiden voyage where he stowaway in the cramped quarters of the Yone Masa, he was now able to travel “legitimately” as a first class passenger. Of course, his passport and other documents were created (“forged”) by the Japanese government officials in the United States. The Toyo Club had established ties, through payoffs, bribes, and just building good relationships with the Japanese embassy in Washington, DC and the consulate in Seattle. The documents were easy to get.
Toyama had connections throughout out Asia. Over the years, Yamamoto had come to understand the broad power of Toyama. His interactions with him as a young boy set his curiosity and his reading of Saigo gave him insight. Further, during his time in America, Toyama’s presence was increasingly felt with Japan’s continuous rise to power and his own embedding into the Toyo Syndicate. Yamada was happy to facilitate a meeting between Yamamoto and Toyama, though he was a bit surprised – he realized that Yamamoto did not have the close relationship with Toyama that he had previously envisioned. And, it was only on a hunch that Toyama could help him with his drug supply needs. He did not know precisely what he would ask, what he could get, or what deal he could make, but he knew Toyama could somehow help.
The trip to Tokyo was still a long one – over one week on the Pacific. With little communication with Seattle or Tokyo, Kanekichi spent the journey reading and thinking. And, as a diversion, gambling. Small stakes stuff were the games at hand, so it was just for fun and amusement. Or possibly an opportunity understand the mind and thinking of “the common man.” Could these people be the target for a new clientele? Little did other passengers know of Kanekichi’s life in the Toyo Club, so he could play and watch in anonymity. He pleasantly passed time, made friends, and enjoyed himself. The boat provided relatively safety. At sea, there could be no surprise intrusions. There were likely no people plotting against him or planning to murder him, after he bribed the ship’s purser to see the ship’s manifest. For the first time in a few years, Yamamoto felt he could rest at ease.
That said, as with his first trip to America he had much time to contemplate; to contemplate his destiny. And, while it was just a hunch that his life would be tied to Japan and it’s destiny, his intuition was his future was Japan’s (and vice versa). On his trip to America, he only brought the tattered papers containing the writing of Saigo Takamori. On this trip back, he brought Dai Saigo Ikun (published in 1926). This book contained the published and refined writings of both Saigo and Toyama. Toyama’s writing includes not only his philosophical viewpoint of Japan, Nationalism, and Expansionism but also a critique and analysis of Saigo. The writing rationalized and explained Japan’s rise to power during the 19th and 20th century through a confluence of forces – the tradition of the Samurai, the allegiance to the Sun Goddess and it’s direct descendant Emperor Hirohito, the rights and destiny of Japan to conquer Asia (and possibly the world). Further, it stated and possibly overstated Toyama’s role in the transformation of Japan, perhaps driven by delusion and ego. Kanekichi was skeptical and fascinated by Toyama’s account of the state of the world. Skeptical because it was a “larger than life” story of Toyama and hardly believable. Fascinating because it was an in situ analysis of Japan as its history was unfolding in real time. And, as outlandish as it may seem, it was a story and prediction that may be or might become true.
Nonetheless, Kanekichi was quite impressed. True of not, rational or not, Toyama was well reasoned with depth and breadth. He wondered if Toyama knew or remembered that he had rejected the oath that he attempted to administer years ago. How would this affect his upcoming meeting? Was his rejection an unrecoverable loss of face to the strategic goals of Toyama?
Regardless of Toyama’s own mission and viewpoint, Yamamoto believed that speaking with Toyama would all most certainly help him with his drug problem. Understanding or getting a perspective of the post-Meiji restoration was just a bonus. His own feelings of allegiance to the Emperor, the importance of Japan, and his personal need through his efforts behind both are solidified and heightened. He anticipated much from his forth-coming meeting with Toyama.
When Yamamoto arrived in Tokyo, he was met by one of Toyama’s associate and taken to a nondescript and secret location in the City. Toyama was waiting for him.
Toyama does not disappoint. In the years that have passed since last seeing him, Toyama had aged, his gravitas had grown, and his demeanor had become more serious and reflective. However, ego, overconfidence, and narcissism seemed to boil under the surface of a refined demeanor -- he seemed barely able to keep these under control, and they were ready to get the best of him. They sat across from each other; a low table separated the two of them. Neither said anything for a minute as they stared at each other, each measuring up the other. Toyama was 45 years older than Yamamoto, which in addition to stature, created a “respect gap” that flowed towards Toyama. Toyama spoke first. Like Captain Yamamoto, Toyama had message. Kanekichi’s request would have to wait.
Like Captain Yamamoto, Toyama spoke of the destiny of Japan. And, like Isoroku, his message was forceful but not focused. Japan’s “Manifest Destiny” is to rule Asia and beyond. Military force, not peaceful negotiation, would be a necessary action to conquer the people of Korea, the minerals and metals of Manchuria,, the poppy in China, and the oil in Southeast Asia. The Navy is an ally. The Prime Mister is an obstacle. The samurai is our guide. Our allegiance is with the Sun Goddess. Unlike his writing, which is philosophic and sometimes poetic, his speech is direct and practical. His words are forceful and sometimes threatening and menacing. His rhetoric is charismatic and convincing. Tennoheika Banzai! – Long Live His Majesty the Emperor! It is the rallying cry that unifies much of Japan.
Toyama’s message had not changed much in the two decades have passed. However, he was emboldened in his thinking and action. Japan’s rise to power had come true, much to Toyama’s prediction and possibly doing.
“We have personal responsibilities. Your allegiance to the Emperor is your duty and destiny. We must do our part. To make Japan great. No sacrifice is too small. No action too large. The world is our destiny. Your destiny. You are part of a cause larger than your life.”
Toyama’s message had gone from pontification to personal. While he had failed to secure his allegiance when he was younger, Toyama had set out to rectify this now, years later. It was his mission to convert all to his beliefs. Failure to convert was a damaging affront to everything he believed. His previous failure to secure Yamamoto’s allegiance was a hidden bruise that would not heal. Further, Toyama knew that Yamamoto could be a valuable and important ally in the cause. His desire to have Yamamoto on board was as practical as it was philosophical.
“What will you do? Live your life as your own, but your vision should be clear. Every day we must take small steps. Advancement might sometimes be imperceptibly small. But every day we advance to the great cause. It will not be easy. It will be messy. Much blood will soil the ground, many lives will be lost. Violence may not be required but it may be necessary.”
Tennoheika Banzai! (Long Live His Majesty the Emperor!)
Yamamoto was yet unconvinced. He appreciated Toyama’s point of view and philosophy. What reason would he have to argue against the rise of Japan as a world power, especially if it was a zero sum game of Japan vs. another country? Rule vs. be ruled, by any means necessary. But devotion and allegiance to the Sun Goddess? Was this necessary for such a practical agenda? And distrust of the government? Was it really the enemy? That said, he was on board. It was a destiny he could make his own. Could Toyama’s agenda merely be a means to his own ends?
Big picture aside, the words, “…conquering…the poppy of China….” repeated in Kanekichi’s mind. Bingo. The opening he was looking for.
“Our destiny is clear. Japan will not succeed without the will of the individual for the good of all. My allegiance is with the Emperor. Indeed a strong military is a strong Japan,” said Kanekichi. He was measured in his speech, speaking each word slowly, with seeming thoughtfulness, seriousness, and deliberateness. While he might not fully believe what he said, aligning with Toyama was critical, if he was to successfully get agreement on his request.
“Financing our destiny was not without cost. It will be expensive” reflected Kanekichi. “How will this be paid for? Long-term power accrues wealth. But in the mean time?....the poppy business?” Kanekichi voice trailed off as he faked being demure with the question. He all ready knew the answer.
“Yes. Poppy,” stated Toyama. Kanekichi was not sure if Toyama was also playing coy with him – Toyama was the master of rhetoric and influence. Regardless, they played this game of incrementally revealing their desires and the synergy of a poppy – specifically opium – business across the Pacific. Ultimately, Toyama has the supply, Yamamoto has the demand, and the shipping business of the Toyo Club Syndicate out of Yokohama will provide the transport. With an agreement, money and power flow to the Toyo Club, In turn money flows to Toyama, allowing him the money necessary to finance his greater ambitions for Japan. Toyama had turned a hesitant follower into a dedicated believer.
“How long will you stay in Japan?” Toyama asked. Yamamoto had lined up business meetings, as well as a visit to his father, who he had not seen since he had left nearly a decade before. “Perhaps two weeks,” Yamamoto answered ambiguously. Believing that Yamamoto dedication to his cause, Toyama offered, “Good. We can spend some time together.”
Yamamoto agreed and he quickly departed. First stop: Yokosuka to visit his father. A short train ride took him there. It seemed that nothing has changed but everything has changed. His father has aged, weary from the years of playing a behind the scenes supporter of Ichiro. Ichiro’s life had gotten off to a rocky start. After the day Kanekichi left, Ichiro’s life was filled with drinking, gambling, and women. However, a few years with the steady guidance of Sutejiro, Ichiro “turned the corner.” He found steady employment as an architect (like his father) and as a renowned ceramicist (following the footsteps of previous generations of famous pottery makers). Ichiro had found wisdom, maturity, and stability. Now married with a son, Eisuke, Ichiro had recently “returned” to Yatsuo – the home of both the Yamamoto and Tanaka families. Eisuke would carry the Yamamoto name forward.
Yokosuka had grown. The industrialization and militarization of Japan had been good for Yokosuka. It was a center of much of Japan’s plan to be a player on the world stage. Sutejiro, himself, had slowed his life. He now operated a small ramen shop outside his home. Kanekichi arrived at his father’s restaurant – the Mikasa. There are many restaurants named the Mikasa after Togo’s famous battleship, but Sutejiro’s restaurant was special among all – Admiral Togo, now retired, visited regularly. And today was no different. Togo was here, along with Captain Yamamoto as well as many other officers of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was the gathering place of choice for Navy officers. Sutejiro was not expecting Kanekichi. When he pulled the door to the side to enter, Sutejiro looked up to see him. Obviously he was surprised – stunned. He recognized him immediately; tears of joy, happiness, and simultaneously sadness (sadness of having missed so many years of Kanekichi’s life) puddled in his eyes. He moved to gives his son an uncharacteristic embrace of extra long duration. The circumstances of Kanekichi’s departure still brought sadness to him. And, now, all seemed to have been forgotten. Introductions and re-introductions (in the case of Togo and I. Yamamoto) were made. Kanekichi and Isoroku do not acknowledge their earlier meeting in San Francisco – obviously what had been revealed was best kept secret.
When he arrived, many of the men were readying themselves to leave – they needed to get back to base. However, they deferred their departure long enough to acknowledge the departed son who had just returned; a matter of courtesy. After amble pleasantries had been exchanged, Togo, (Captain) Yamamoto and most others stood up, secured their hats and departed. A few, however, after a brief internal discussion stayed. While they were surprised to see Yamamoto, they saw an opportunity and seized it. They were aware of Kanekichi’s activities with the Toyo Club Syndicate, the Little Tokyo Club, and the consulate. He would be a useful person in the United States, if military needs ever arose. It was not clear how Yamamoto could be used but having a contact would undoubtedly be useful in the future. Yamamoto, too, recognized an increased alliance with the Navy, especially intelligence, would be useful. Especially if he was operating an overseas operation to transport elicit drugs. And, he knew that the relationship between the Japanese government, the Japanese military, and political groups were not aligned in practice or ideology. Having connections to all would be useful. Contact information, including some business cards, were exchanged.
Just then, the front door slid open, with an authoritative pull. Light from the setting sun poured through the entrance, obfuscating who as there. Rays of sunlight shimmer over the shoulders of the person standing in front, creating streams of alternating lightness and darkness. There were five people at the door. As the lead person entered, the restaurant crowd was silenced. Then, a collective gasp:
It was Mitsuru Toyama.
While Kanekichi has just met with him, Toyama’s appearance was quite a surprise. His public appearances were few, and, by design, he moved silently with the explicit intent to not be noticed. Toyama’s legend was bigger than life. There were as much truths as falsehoods. People did not know what to believe. It was known that he had been born to a poor samurai family. They knew he was a forceful man that somehow controlled many. Many suspected he was the founder of the Black Dragon Society, a secret society of growing popularity and influence requiring complete allegiance to the Emperor and Sun Goddess. He had strong Nationalistic agenda comprised of contempt for the Japanese government, belief in the strength of the Japanese people, and desire for Japan to rule the world, using a strong military. His tactics were often violent hand his words were convincing. His presence was felt wherever he went, making supporters comfortable and the suspicious fearful. Today was no different.
Toyama joined Yamamoto and the military officers at the bar of the restaurant and settles in. His entourage waited near the door. Like Isoroku, Toyama made no reference to his previous meeting with Yamamoto. Sutejiro was happy to see Toyama. He had only seen Toyama once in the past several years, however, that time was only a few months ago. Toyama had been on the move, traveling in Korea, China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. His fomenting of anti-Americanism brought him in contact with Chinese counterparts. In the late 19th century, he befriended Sun Yat Sen while he was exiled in Japan. As he rose to power – rather as he took power when he returned to China, Toyama was at his side, figuratively if not literally. And, now that Sun Yat Sen was dead, Toyama had built even greater alliances. His prize, for Japan, was Manchuria. “How would that be orchestrated?” he pondered frequently.
There were less than a dozen people still at the restaurant. His appearance was not a huge commotion. Other patrons tried to ignore Toyama’s presence, mostly out of fear or out of desire to just not be noticed. Half paid their bill, and quickly left. The officers were not quite sure what to make of Toyama’s presence. He was either friend of foe, possibly both. The government’s goals, the military’s goals, and Toyama’s goals seemed to be aligned. But perhaps the tactics and means were not. So, they proceeded carefully with Toyama. Acknowledgement and pleasantries, as usual, are exchanged. But, Toyama was seemingly impatient, irritated, and short. One sake was followed by a second, when Toyama rose, pushing his chair back from the bar with his legs, and, quietly announces to Yamamoto, and Yamamoto alone, “Tomorrow we leave for Shanghai. Without waiting for an answer, he turns, swinging his kimono in a single motion. As quickly as he had entered, he departed, entourage in tow.
The trip from Tokyo to Shanghai was not a short one. It involved an overland trip by train to Fukuoka and then a boat trip to Shanghai across the Yellow Sea. It would take over a day. Toyama prepared accordingly – he would use the time to indoctrinate Yamamoto, persuade him of his cause, and recruit him to this aid. Yamamoto, also aware of the duration of the trip, was prepared – but he was more concerned over securing the necessary supply of opium and heroin but knew supporting Toyama could be synergistic with his cause.
As they settle in for a train portion of their journey, Toyama waxed poetically about his past and Japan’s past. It weas a creation story based in truth, but has a point of view and exaggeration that itself was a means to an end. He began by reminding Yamamoto of their last meeting. Indeed, while Yamamoto was uncertain over the years, Toyama knew he did not take the oath of allegiance to Genyosha.
“A man who does not believe on his own accord, is man not fully capable or trustworthy,” Toyama commended Yamamoto. “Instilling blind allegiance is not optimal. Thoughtful commitment is the only true path to success. It is the believer that will execute the true destiny. Force, and its cousin, violence, is a substandard way.”
Toyama was careful about his story, his history, and his rationalization for his viewpoint of his role in the past, present, and future of Japan.
He was born in 1855. His was the third son of his father (hence, like Sutejiro, Kanekichi, and Isoroku he was not a privileged first son), named Otsujiro. He later changed it to Mitsuru, his mother’s family name whose father had no sons to carry that name forward. He grew up during a period of transition for Japan – the fall of the Tokugawa Dynasty and beginning of the Meiji Restoration. He was born to a poor samurai family and raised under the traditions, values, and code of the samurai. Toyama, because he was a child during much of this transformation never fulfilled his birth-righted destiny as a samurai. As the role of the samurai was declining under the power of the Tokugawa Shogunate, its declination accelerated under the Meiji Restoration. Like the true samurai, Toyama was restless for lack of duty, privilege, responsibility, and power. He lived a life of between the lines of legality and criminality, between justice and vigilantism, and, dramatically put, between good and evil.
In addition to the loss of power and dignity as a samurai, Toyama was greatly affected by the sweeping reforms of the Meiji Restoration including returning power to the Emperor, adoption Western values, a system of law based on a written Constitution, an opened Japan to the rest of the world, and ambitions for modernization and industrialization.
The Satsuma Rebellion in 1877, in reaction to the loss of power for the samurai, was an epoch of activation and radicalization for Toyama. He rationalizes that he found a calling, even though he himself did not fight in this battle, but he, as with many of his stories, alludes that he did.
The restless and dissatisfied samurai lived within Toyama. The samurai was the basis for his identity. He viewed the world around him through this lens. Dedication to the Sun Goddess (a merger of Shinto, Buddhist, and now state thought) and the allegiance to the Emperor as now dictated by Meiji would be unequivocal. Such dedication and alliance would be executed by the tactics, values, and mindset of the samurai. Further it was Japan’s destiny to rule and control Asia and beyond, an Eastern version of “Manifest Destiny.” Modernization and industrialization would be necessary drivers and consequences of this destiny. However, this destiny was not self evident or natural – force and violence may be necessary. Japan as a people must unite, but unfortunately there are factions within that are not aligned – especially many of those within the Constitutional government. Military to fight external forces and subversive organization within must fight internal forces. Only as united a people will we win.
With clarity of purpose, action quickly followed. Toyama accrued connections, proselytized his dogma, and built a following to his cause. He established Koyosha (“Facing the Sun Organization”) and founded a movement to petition for establishing a National Diet. He helped form Jiyuto, Japan’s first liberal party and sparked the first liberal movement known as the Jiyu Minken Undo (“The Freedom and People’s Rights Movement”). He spoke at public gatherings where he demanded government to stop handing out concessions to foreign countries, stop having an inferiority complex, and fight China for Korea before Russia did. In general, he pushed for an increasing expansionist policy.
In 1881, he formed Genyosha (“Dark Ocean Society”), which became one of Japan’s most powerful nationalist groups. Drawing from the local, disgruntled samurai in Fukuoka, this group pledged themselves to uphold the honor, dignity, and pride of both the nation and of the Emperor himself. The group’s principle would slowly shift from democratic rights of the people to sovereign rights of the state through the implementation of concepts such as kokkenron (“nation’s rights”) and Ajiaron (“Asianism”). Through Ajiaron, the Genyōsha argued that all of East Asia needed to unite in order to purge itself of Western influence, and that the nation which should shepherd this alliance should be Japan due to its state of modernity in comparison to other Asian nations (kokkenron). The group also believed in tennō shugi (“Emperor Reverence”), as the group believed that the Emperor would naturally advocate their actions: Their real concern was with promoting overseas expansion and not necessarily with seeing that the Emperor was ruling as well as reigning, since what they advocated was in Japan’s best interest the Emperor could not fail to concur. The Genyōsha members would increase in number and become secreted in various positions throughout Japan, working as bodyguards for government officials, as strong- arm persuaders for local political bosses, and in skilled trades (i.e., plumbers, carpenters, masons). The group would also accumulate enormous funds through racketeering, stock speculation, gambling and prostitution, and so the Genyōsha continually grew through the 1890s and into the twentieth century, until it became a paramilitary group. The group also received funds through Tōyama himself, who gained staunch support from the owners and managers of the large coal mines recently discovered in northern Kyushu, and through his friend Hiraoka, who held great personal wealth and who was also was the publisher of Fukuryo Shinpo (Town of Fukuryo Newspaper, est. 1887). During this time, Tōyama began to perceive Japan’s international image as being of primary importance. He would neglect those in the poorer communities, as evidenced by his decision to change the group’s focus from “people’s rights” (minken) to “nation’s rights” (kokken).
Sun Yet-SanToyama had built an interconnected empire of various Nationalist organizations and had infiltrated Japanese politics by sponsoring candidates who ran and won local and national elections that promoted his cause. In 1901, he founded the Black Dragon Society (“Kokuryukai) with Ryohei Uchida to further his cause. In particular, he now was not just operating within Japan but abroad. He spent time throughout Asia helping other Nationalist causes and destabilizing governments that aligned with his thinking and supported the position of Japan’s destiny.
The Black Dragon Society was largely a secret society. While its strategic goals may have been clear, it’s actions, membership, and tactics were hidden and obfuscated. It had a reputation (probably warranted) of violence. Assassinations were common to neutralize enemies, take revenge, or just advance the cause when someone was an impediment.
Toyama and the Black Dragon Society had great interest in China. Conquering it, especially Manchuria, was key to its success. Perhaps surprisingly, Toyama built a secret alliance with a strange bedfellow: Sun Yat-Sen. Sun Yat-Sen’s story is fascinating in it’s own right. Born in 1866, Sun was the first president and founding father of the Republic of China. Sun Yat-Sen. He led a revolution against the Qing Dynasty but it was a revolution in “fits and starts” over three decades.
The First Sino-Japanese war created upheaval and in China, and Sun Yat Sen led the First Guangzhou uprising, which failed, exiling him to Japan. He launched the Huizhou uprising which also resulted in failure. He consolidated many forces revolting in China, resulting in many uprisings, some successful and many failures. This activity came to head with the 1911 revolution, which Sun was elected “provisional President.” However, turmoil and upheaval ruled China. In 1919, Sun resurrected the Kuomingtang (KMT) as the Chun-kuo Kuomingtang (KMT or National Party of China) and, while actively cooperating with the Communist Party of China. Sun’s cooperation with the Communists (including Vladimir Lenin) allowed him to consolidate power throughout China through a fragile alliance throughout China.
It was during his exile in Japan that Toyama first befriended Sun. Aligned philosophically, Toyama and Sun had many common interests. Both unified factions throughout their respective countries. As charismatic leaders, they pushed agendas of nationalism and freedom from imperialist domination. They had both controlled military power and were not opposed to violence as a means to an end. Despite the philosophical alignment, they had a fundamental conflict – who would rule China? Nonetheless, they fought similar enemies and hence formed an alliance of convenience to destabilize China.
Chiang Kai Shek
|Chiang Kai Shek
In 1925, Sun died (presumably of cancer), creating a power vacuum in the KMT. His protégée, Chiang Kai Shek, battled for control of the KMT with Wang Jingwei, Liao Zhongkai, and Hu Hanmin. Perhaps amazingly (or not surprising), Chiang had the support of Toyama. Decades ago, Toyama had also cultivated a relationship with Chiang, as well at Sun. While China was in turmoil at the beginning of the 20th Century, Chiang spent time in Japan pursing a military career. He attended the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1907 and serviced in the Imperial Japanese Army from 1909 to 1911. During this time, Toyama had formed an alliance with Chiang much like that he had with Sun. Then, it was unclear how this relationship would be useful or unfold; it was a long-term investment. Today, it would pay dividends. Chiang had the support of Toyama. Coincidental or not, Liao was assassinated and Hu arrested for his connections to the murderers. Wang Jingwei seemed heir apparent to lead the KMT but he was forced into exile by Sun following the Canton Coup.
Chiang struggled to be the successor to Sun. Perhaps to consolidate power, he married Sun’s widowed sister. In 1927, he made a dramatic move – a split from Communism. First, on April 12, he purged thousands of suspected Communists and dissidents from Shanghai and began large-scale massacres across China known as the “White Terror.” In the following year, 300,000 people died across China in anti-Communist suppression campaigns, executed by the KMT. “I would rather kill 1,000 innocent people rather than allow one Communist to escape,” Chiang is quoted as saying. There are some claims that millions of people died in the White Terror but concrete numbers cannot be verified. Chiang hand gained controlled of China.
During the past few years, after Sun’s death, Toyama had made many trips to China, Shanghai in particular, to aid and abet Chiang. Toyama had supported Chiang intellectually, financially, and militarily, mostly through subversive forces. In his mind, Toyama role in Chiang’s assent to power was key and would not have happened without his support. It was probably true.
Like his alliance with Sun, Toyama’s relationship with Chiang was complicated. While philosophically aligned, they had differences about the ultimate outcome for China. Again, an alliance of convenience was formed. Toyama’s ultimate plans for China would be ignored and put on the “back burner” for now.
Meeting in the French Concession
|Sun Yat-Sens House
It was morning when Toyama and Yamamoto arrived in Shanghai. For as secretive and subversive Toyama was, he moved about in plain site and operated in the open, with seemingly little protection when he traveled abroad. Perhaps he was “hiding in plain site” or perhaps his security detail was well hidden. Nonetheless the two made their way to the French Concession without fanfare and arrived at a non-descript house – the home of Sun Yat-Sen.
Toyama had prepped Yamamoto about the meeting on the journey over. They would be meeting with members of Chiang’s government and members of the “Green Gang.” The Green Gang had a broad network of opium (and heroin) production and distribution throughout China and Southeast Asia – Burma, Laos, and Thailand. Moreover, the Green Gang was key participants in the crack down of Communists and subversives in Shanghai in 1927. During their “reign of terror,” the Green Gang destroyed the city’s Communist Party and labor activists. Chiang owed the Green Gang for their support. Whether a blind eye or active support, the drug trafficking would flow under the leadership of Chiang. This was the perfect opportunity to enlist Chiang. Chiang’s wobbly government was in need of money and he needed to get control of the drug lords in China. The money that would flow from the drug business was too large to resist. Building a drug business in the United States, flowing money to Chiang’s government, keeping the Green Gang “in the pocket,” and destabilizing China to suit each of their needs was the perfect storm for an “unholy” alliance.
Toyama and Yamamoto were greeted at Dr. Sun’s residence and led to a back room, where four men met them, two from the Green Group and two from the KMT. The agenda was set by Toyama earlier and the meeting was simultaneously and paradoxically both formal and casual – the dynamics and language were formal but the actually words spoken were quite colloquial and vague. The details had all been worked out in advance; this was just a formality and an opportunity to look each other in the eyes, much like the meeting with Capone.
Then, Chiang himself then entered the room. All quickly rise to acknowledge his presence.
“So good to see you again, Toyama-san,” said Chiang.
“Likewise,” responded Toyama. “This is Yamamoto. He is a rising contributor to our cause – from America.”
Chiang and Yamamoto shake hands, in a seemingly unusual Western ritual. However, because Chiang had spent time in the West, perhaps it was a intentional message or a courtesy.
“All is in order?” asked Chiang as he turns to the KMT personnel. They nod in confirmation. “Good.” He turned to Toyama. “I’m glad we can still work together for a common cause,” implicitly acknowledging the complex alliance that was in place. He quickly departed. The meeting was over.
Yamamoto and Toyama spend the rest of the day with the two Green Gang men touring Shanghai. The visited the opium processing facilities. They visited the ship yards to discuss how the goods are going to be transported – how Green Gang will transfer goods to the Toyo Club boats – some will be done at port (either Shanghai or various places in Japan) and some at sea – either near China and some near the United States. And, (secret) banking arrangements were made – a complex system to launder money without detection.
Yamamoto and Toyama left Shanghai late in the afternoon. It was a successful trip, so Yamamoto believes. Instead of returning to Tokyo, Yamamoto took a train to Yokohama. He caught the next ship to Seattle. Yet another weeklong journey.
Coming HomeWhen Kanekichi returned from Japan, he immediately went to the Toyo Club. Upon stepping into the building, a change there was obviously present – Takoichi Yamada was out – he had retired and had left for Japan. A new boss, Mitsugu Yokoyama had replaced him and was now in charge. As new boss, Yokoyama wanted to make his mark and establish his authority as such. The changes were dramatic both substantively and symbolically. He explicitly did not wait for Yamamoto’s return. While Yamada had done a good job to start the Toyo Club Syndicate, Yokoyama was there for the next phase to scale it up. Operationally, managerially, and functionally, the Toyo Club was transformed into a new organization – an organization that could rapidly expand. It had happened all most over night the day Yokoyama came to power. Having Yamamoto away during the transition was well timed – it eliminated any question of authority. If locally present, it may have been expected for Yamamoto to vie for the role as head of the Toyo Club Syndicate. Yamamoto knew it was not his time. Strength and unification of the Toyo Club would be necessary moving forward. Its desire to grow (especially its drug business) and need to prepare for the looming clash with the Little Tokyo Club demanded it. Yokoyama was the right man, at the right time, at the right place.
Yokoyama was concerned about the new drug business the club was going to enter. Yamada had briefed Yokoyama about its nascent state. It was a big potential endeavor filled with much uncertainty. The entire proposition was just a plan. All the arrangements were not completed. No drugs had yet been delivered. And the plans were in the hands of person Yokoyama had not officially met – Yamamoto. Yokoyama did not have control over the situation. Yokoyama knew of Yamamoto’s rise to power at the Toyo Club. Would he be a problem in which he would need to “eliminate?” Or would he be a valuable ally? Quite possibly, there would be ambiguity as whether Yamamoto would friend or foe. Yokoyama depended on Yamamoto, but it was likely he was not fully aligned.
However, Yamamoto knew his role and how to play it. He’d present himself as 100% loyal and focused on drugs. Opium would be a big part of the Toyo Club’s business. He needed to make it work. It was the fastest growing part of the diversified business interests. Kanekichi knew his place. He’d continue to be active in gambling and prostitution but drugs along with canneries, and fishing (because the drug business intrinsically depended on them) would be under his control. That said, it was assumed by all that Kanekichi would be Yokoyama’s “right hand man.”
Yamamoto explained the plan to Yokoyama. It appeared sound and Yamamoto worked the details to get all the relationships in place. Yokoyama had no choice but to accept Yamamoto’s proposal and actions. Its’ a tough place for a new boss -- when one does not have control and must rely on a person he does not yet trust. So, he accepts Yamamoto plan.
Much work needed to be done. The cannery and fishing operations needed to scale up to handle the new business. New processing facilities, especially in Alaska (but also Washington and California) were to be built. All canneries needed modifications to process the incoming drugs. New ships and boats for the fishing fleet had to be procured and brought online to handle the new product to be delivered. Routing and logistics needed to be worked out. And, once the heroin was processed at the canneries, the distribution channel and synchronization points with Capone needed to be put into place, as the first ships were to arrive in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Luis Obispo. And, last but not least, new government officials, policemen, and federal agents needed to be brought on board and paid. A payment infrastructure handle bribes needed to be built. On leaving Yokoyama’s office, he started immediately to put this in place.
In parallel, Yamamoto had kept a secret to himself – his new ambition. While he accepted and supported Yokoyama as the new head of Toyo Club Syndicate, he had a decided a longer-term goal: Position himself as heir apparent to lead the Toyo Club next. But this too was just a means to a larger goal: He will help the Sun rise – Japan will ascent to rule the Asia and beyond.