Make Japan Great

In terms of physical damage, the Mudken Incident was small. It was a minor explosion that disrupted all most no service for the Southern Manchurian Railway. However, in terms of impact, it emboldened Japan that may have been in question in the past.

Leading up to the Incident, a confluence of forces had driven Japan to this point. The “Opening of Japan” threatened the formerly isolated nation. The Meiji Reformation was transforming Japan from a simple agrarian country to an industrial power. The surprising military victory over Russia in 1904 established Japan as force to be reckoned in addition to allowing it to stake it’s claim on Manchuria. As it’s industrial and military power grew, its need for resources increased commensurately. Hence, adventurism into Southeast Asia, in addition to China, became increasingly important. With turmoil in China, it was a seemingly obvious target for Japan. Japan flexed its muscle to assert more influence on Asia.

Japan believed it was its Destiny to control all of Asia. Further, it rationalized that “Japan bore the burden of responsibility for peace in East Asia,” as expressed by Prime Minister Koki Hirota in 1934.

Internally, unrest grew slowly but steadily over time since the fall of the Tokugawa Empire, the Meiji Restoration, and now the transfer of power to Hirohito. The agrarian to industrial transformation did not treat all Japanese equally. While cities prospered, rural Japan, especially farmers, suffered a steady decline for decades. The loss of power and dignity of the samurai, which westerners may find hard to understand, fomented anger and frustration not just among the samurai but to restless common men as well. The influx of foreign culture, ideas, and people disturbed much of the Japanese citizenry. Their own culture was being diminished, their jobs and lively were being taken, and their sense of their sense of basic identity was threatened. As its people looked inward, a returned allegiance to the Emperor, the direct descendent of the Sun Goddess strengthened and unified the people. For decades since the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japanese leaders had treated their people like children. And the people looked for a leader who they could blindly follow, oftentimes foregoing critical thinking of their own.

The “Great Depression” did not affect Japan as much as other countries in the early 1930’s, though it did experience a small slump. However, economic instability coupled with political, military, and social unrest led to a new order being imposed on the country. The new order was a one party political system based largely on a fascist model.

A fanatical populace supported a strong government. A nationalist agenda of “Japan First” emerged. The Mudken Incident fueled the government’s and the people’s confidence. A stronger Japan advanced its agenda outside of Asia – operations in South America and the Caribbean grew. And, it set its target on perhaps greatest prize in the west – control of the Panama Canal. Opened in 1914, the Canal was the gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Military and government personnel were dispatched both officially and covertly to the West.
Mitsuru Toyama: Mastermind?

Exploiting all of this was Mitsuru Toyama. He built his shadow empire on the back of the confluence of forces that were impacting Japan. The Black Ocean Society was his first vehicle, but it was the Black Dragon Society that wielded power beneath the scenes impacting nearly all aspects of Japanese life. Toyama was the hero of every Japanese expansionist, inside and outside of the government. Shigenobu Okuma and Ki Inukai, both Prime Ministers of Japan, collaborated in many undertakings of the Black Ocean Societies (though Inukai was later assassinated purportedly masterminded by Toyama). The Black Dragon Society was perhaps the most feared but revered organization in Japan and by the United States. It was not just exploiting the changes in Japan, but the driver of it. Riding the wave of Japanese nationalism, the Black Dragon Society became more powerful and more violent. The operations of Black Dragon Society extended beyond Asia to the Middle East, the United States, Mexico, and South America. With time, Toyama and Japan’s goal was not just to control Asia but the world.

Political influence through legal and illegal means was effective tools to achieve its goals. Supporting candidates through words, actions, and especially money were effective. The Black Dragon Society had infiltrated government at all levels. It was believed the Japan’s final decision to wage war on Russia in 1904 was arrived at after Toyama physically threatened Prince Hirobumi Ito, who was considered pro-Russian and wielded power behind the scenes.

That said, violence was even more effective, though the Black Dragon Society denied it used such tactics. Assassinations became an increasing part of its operations and it was perhaps the most effective weapon in its bag of tools. It removed dissidents, especially those that can influence public policies such as politicians. It removed enemies. It struck fear in those that are in the way or just potentially in the way. A politician would at least think twice about voting against the Black Dragon Society’s nationalistic agenda, whether the threats were explicit or implicit.

From the earliest days of the Black Ocean Society, assassination was used by Toyama. On May 14, 1878, Ōkubo Toshimichi, Japan’s Minister of Finance and former collaborator of Saigo was killed after the failed Satsuma Rebellion. On October 8, 1895, Queen Min of Korea was assassinated, as Toyama desired control over Korea. On September 5, 1913, Mr. Abe, Director of Political Affairs in the Foreign Office was killed. In 1916, Zenjiro Yasuda, founder of Yasuda Bank was assassinated. In 1921, Kai Hari (first commoner to head a Japanese cabinet) was killed. In 1931, Prime Minister Hamaguichi Osachi was assassinated. Dozens if not hundreds of others were also murdered. Toyama denied the involvement (either without or without the Black Ocean and Black Dragon Societies), he was likely to have been responsible, either directly or indirectly for these murders. The reason – differential treatment that conflicted with his broad nationalist agenda; typically, it was either slight or substantive differential treatment to a foreign entity, whether it be Korea, China, Russia or a White power.

In 1932, after the Mudken Incident, the assassinations accelerated. Dan Takuma (President of Mitsubishi Bank), San Inouye (a Japanese Statesman), and Prime Minister Taoyoshi Inukai, were all taken out by Toyama.

The murder of Primier Inukai on May 15, 1932 was, of course, of particular prominent. Inukai's struggle against the military led to his assassination during the May 15 Incident of 1932, which effectively marked the end of civilian political control over government decisions until after World War II. Inukai was shot by eleven junior Navy officers (most were just turning twenty years of age) in the Prime Minister's residence in Tokyo. Inukai's last words were roughly, “If I could speak, you would understand.” to which his killers replied “Dialogue is useless.” The insurgents also attacked the residence of Makino Nobuaki, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, the residence and office of Saionji Kinmochi, headquarters of the Rikken Seiyukai, and tossed hand grenades into Mitsubishi Bank headquarters in Tokyo, and several electrical transformer substations. The original assassination plan had included killing the English film star Charlie Chaplin – who had arrived in Japan on 14 May and was Inukai's guest – in the hopes that this would provoke a war with the United States. However, at the time, Chaplin was watching a sumo-wrestling match with the prime minister's son, Inukai Takeru, and thus escaped. Inukai’s murderers received only light sentences for their actions.

According to a now declassified FBI report, “Toyama goes where and does what he pleases, laughing at officials condemnation of his instigation of youths who commit the last series of political assassinations and emulators who have since been caught almost weekly in plots against the lives of Prince Saionji, Premier Saito, Lord High Chamberlain Makino, America diplomatic and consular representatives, and others.”

Hence, to progress his nationalist goals, the violence, in particular assassinations, continued. Any opposition was met with resistance and oftentimes death. It was not just high ranking officials, but wide scale terrorism from the common to the elite. It was estimated that over 500 assassination plots a year were foiled and without its competent police force there would be 100 assassinations a month.

In 1935, Lieutenant General Tetsuzan Nagata was murdered. In a failed attempt to kill Prime Minister Keisuke Okada on February 26, 1936 (The “February 26 Incident”), Takahashi Korekiyo (former Prime Minister and Finance Minister), Viscount Saito Makoto (former Prime Minister and Lord Keeper of the Private Seal), and Gen. Jōtarō Watanabe (Inspector General of Military Education) were all assassinated.

Hatred of the White Man

"When an assassin plunges his dagger late into the heart of a Japanese elder stateman, he is acting under the orders of a secret society, the Black Dragon Society, whose object is to bring death and destruction to the white race."

Pragmatically, the White world, whether it be European or American, stood in the path of Japan to achieve its goals of Asia and, ultimately, world domination. Japan was on a collision course for geography, resources, and, ultimately, power. But in parallel, or perhaps beneath it, boiled an underlying prejudice. Possibly beginning with Commodore Perry’s “Opening of Japan” in the early 1830’s, America had intruded on Japan. Justified through an extension of Manifest Destiny, an Imperialist America had forced itself on Japan. Merchants pushed Western goods and missionaries pushed Christianity onto the Japanese people that were largely isolated from the Western world. With arrogance and a perceived superiority, the white man denigrated the Japanese people, as Western culture and Western government infiltrated Japan. America’s condescension to Japan as a “second among equals” fomented anger. Like a cornered dog, the Japanese response was perhaps predictable but surprisingly effective. Japan’s victory over Russia was likely the foreshadowing of what would come next.

Consequently, Japan’s hatred, and in particular the Black Dragon Society’s hatred, towards White people grew over the decades. It was noted that any Japanese who has worked for instance, in New York, as butler or who has studied in an American university returns to Japan with an acute memory of condescension or slights, which he has received, from White folks. In effect, nationalism in Japan rose not just from internal effects within Japan, but from pragmatism to grow as a nation, defense from foreign intruders, and response to prejudice directed personally at its people. Assassinations were the consequence of people not aligned with this nationalist viewpoint. While the Japanese government officially condemned the killings, many of the people silently supported the subversion of its own government, for the greater good of Japan.
For Japanese in America

In America, Japanese watched Japan with varying interest. For some, there was horror and disbelief of how Japan was evolving. For others, Japan’s actions were sources of pride, comfort, and opportunity. Last, probably for many, disinterest.

Those holding extreme positions were deeply concerned, vocal, and active in response to Japan’s actions. However, all were affected, especially the Issei’s – the first generation of Japanese that came to the United States and were not citizens. Rumors and discussion around the dining room table, at bars and restaurants, and, of course gambling dens such as the Toyo Club, were rampant. What was happening to Japan?

Yamamoto was no different. Yet, he was different. He thought back on his childhood and remembered, all most with disbelief. Certainly, his life long relationship with Mitsuru Toyama shaped much of his life and recent actions. Was his father really friends with Admiral Togo and, now Admiral Yamamoto? Did he really visit the Emperor’s Palace and meet the boy who would become Emperor? It felt more like a dream than a fantastical upbringing.

But of course, it was real. His communication with Toyama had been on the increase since the Mukden Incident. His receptiveness to supporting Toyama and his agenda had resulted in a deepened relationship. In addition to money, Toyama was increasingly desiring to expand his reach to the United States and North and South America in general. The Japanese Navy, through its Seattle Consulate, had also increased its communication with Yamamoto. Maybe surprisingly, the Japanese government had not established communication channels with Yamamoto. And, of course, it was not clear how Toyama and the Navy worked together. Sometimes they seemed to be working together, sometimes they were at odds. Yamamoto took a neutral position and “sand boxed” his communication with both. Of course, it was unclear what Toyama communicates with the Navy and vice versa, so it was a tricky balance.

America, Americans as individuals and as a nation, grew increasingly concerned with the rise of Japan. The FBI and Office of Naval Intelligence kept a watchful eye, especially on terrorist organizations such as the Black Dragon Society. As Toyama’s organization infiltrated China, South East Asia, Russia, Mexico, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean, the United States government obviously was concerned if and when it would come to its soil. In particular, it was particularly concerned that the Japanese would infiltrate the American Negro community, especially the 500,000 blacks in Harlem. With America’s poor treatment of Negroes, they were perceived to be easy targets for radicalization and agents for Japan against White America. As a precursor, Japan (probably Toyama) had recruited 500 well-to-do American Negros to tour Japan; undoubtedly the beginning of an indoctrination process to build a subversive force within America when the time came.

In fact, the FBI concluded that the Black Dragon Society was the most dangerous group of Japanese alien fanatics in the United States. The FBI noted that the Black Dragon Society was the most fascist and militaristic association in Japan and the Black Dragon Society had organized as the Sokoku Kai in the United States. Treachery and violence were their weapons and unquestionably the Black Dragon Society constituted Japan’s Fifth Column in the United States.

It turned out the FBI was wrong. Indeed, the Sokoku Kai was a Japanese nationalist organization but not strictly the Black Dragon Society. Riekichi Kita in Tokyo originated Sokoku Kai in Tokyo. Riekichi was a Fascist minded political leader and part of the Japanese Diet. In 1933, it entered the United States. While it was unclear what its entire scope of operations were, Sokoku Kai was a key propaganda mechanism to spread information and disinformation in Japan and abroad. While not officially linked, the Sokoku Kai and the Black Dragon Society shared common interests as well as common membership, especially abroad.
Who was the head of the Sokoku Kai in the United States?

None other than Kanekichi Yamamoto.

Yamamoto now held connections to Toyama, the Japanese Navy and Army, as well as the key communication channel through Sokoku Kai. Arguably, he was the most important man linking Japan’s nationalist agenda to America. His pivot of the Toyo Club away from the dirty opium business allowed him to stabilize and grow the other business verticals. With the Toyo Club under his control, he could use it fuel his Destiny. Japan’s Destiny.

Tenno Heika, Banzai!

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