JAPAN'S DARK BACKGROUND 1881-1945
The rise of the various himitsu kessha (secret societies) and Japan's
desires for an Asian empire in the 19th and 20th Centuries can be traced back
to a number of concepts that developed in its ancient past. The premiere concept
exploited by the ultranationalists was a decree made by Emperor Jimmu in 660
AD, the policy of hakko ichiu (All eight corners of the world under one
roof). While Emperor Jimmu's policy really only extended to Japan, China and
Korea, the world he knew at the time, it was the belief that all of the world
should be brought under the imperial rule of the divine Emperors, a sort of
religious manifest destiny. While various leaders tried it over the centuries,
it was a goal that was to color Japanese thinking through the Second World War.
The tenets of the modern form of hakko ichiu were to develop after 1868
and would take the following form:
1) Japan is the center of the world, with its ruler, the Tenno (Emperor),
a divine being, who derives his divinity through ancestral descent from the
great Amaterasu-Omikami, the Goddess of the Sun herself.
2) The Kami (Japan's gods and godesses) have Japan under their special protection.
Thus the people and soil of Dai Nippon and all its institutions are superior
to all others.
3) All of these attributes are fundamental to the Kodoshugisha (Imperial
Way) and give Japan a divine mission to bring all nations under one roof,
so that all humanity can share the advantage of being ruled by the Tenno.
It was the third tenet, especially, that would chart Japan's course towards
several wars that would culminate with World War Two. The concept of the divine
Emperors was another belief that was twisted to fit the later goals of the ultranationalists.
It was an integral part of the Japanese religious structure that the Emperor
was divine, descended directly from the line of Ama-Terasu (or Amaterasu, the
Sun Kami or Goddess). However court life had softened the military rule of the
Emperor over the centuries and in 1192 AD Yoritomo Minamoto managed to force
concessions from the Imperial Family and become Shogun. To consolidate his power
and eliminate threats that might arise from the direction of the Imperial family,
Yoritomo declared that the Emperor's divinity was so great that to allow him
to stoop to ruling Japan personally was a massive insult. The Emperors were
essentially to spend the next several centuries locked up in the capital, their
every whim catered to but their political power almost non-existent compared
to the military leaders of Japan. In more modern times, even with the resurgence
of Imperial power in the wake of the Meiji Restoration, this "Emperor Worship"
would continue and be exploited by those in Japan seeking military ventures.
The final idea that was perverted in modern times was the concept of Bushido.
Bushido was the warrior code and laws of feudal Japan, that while having
cultural surface differences, was at its heart not that different from the code
of chivalry or any other similar system in other cultures. The code of Bushido
provided the social fabric of Japan at the time and while seemingly harsh to
outsiders (though in reality, no worse than any other system) provided an incredibly
ordered society and provided the glue that eventually allowed Japan to be united
under Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa in 1600 AD. Again, in later years, the code of
Bushido found a resurgence in belief following the Meiji Restoration. At first,
this allowed Japan to field what was considered one of the most professional
and humane militaries in the world, one respected by friend and foe alike. Eventually,
however, this belief would become a combination of propaganda and fanaticism
that would lead to the brutality carried out in the China War of the 1930s and
the Second World War.
The Shogunate provided Japan with incredible stability for over 250 years but
at the cost of isolationism. When the forced opening of Japan's ports in the
1850s by the Americans and other Western colonial powers led to outside influence
flooding into the country, the Japanese decided not to allow the nation to become
the playground of these outsiders like had happened to China. The isolationism
caused by the Shogunate had allowed the nation to become weak when the outsiders
came and helped lead to its eventual fall and the restoration of the Emperor
and the establishment of a new government. With the reestablishment of the Emperor,
Western ideas and industry began to pour into Japan. Taking a cue from the other
colonial powers, Japan built up a new industrial infrastructure and revamped
all levels of its political and military systems in a remarkably short period
of time. . .
By 1882, Japan was a formidable regional force, with a revamped infrastructure
and reorganized military. By 1890, this had grown even more and Japan began
looking at playing the game of colonial power under a growing belief in a modern
form of hakko ichiu, one supported by the secret societies and many in
the military and government (often these forces were all one in the same). The
western powers were all around the Pacific and Asia, a point that was taken
to heart by the Japanese. Treaties were negotiated with the other powers as
an almost equal, especially with Great Britain, who developed a close relationship
with the Japanese. Now, the Japanese decided to begin its empire building. Its
first item was settling the Korean question.
Korea had for centuries bounced back and forth between Chinese and Japanese
domination. After the opening of Japan, the Japanese had again begun to cast
covetous eyes towards the peninsula nation, hoping to expel both Russian and
Chinese influence. After several years of negotiating and saber rattling, which
pushed the Russians out of Korea with the help of the Chinese, Japan decided
to move against Korea. Using agent provocateurs in the form of an anti-Japanese
group, the Tonghaks (which was secretly controlled by the Japanese), a rebellion
against the Korean government was initiated. The Chinese moved in to assist
in quelling the revolt, a move that Japan claimed could not be tolerated as
an attack on Korea's "sovereignty". Japanese troops landed in Korea
and by July 1894, the Tonghak revolt had been largely put down. On July 23,
the Japanese invaded the palace in Seoul of the Korean king and forced him to
expel the Chinese.
Attacks began almost immediately on Chinese forces and on August 1st, war was
officially declared. The new Japanese military easily beat the outdated Chinese
one and by February of 1895, they were in control of all of Korea and part of
Manchuria. Peace was negotiated soon after that and Korea was transformed into
a complete vassal state of Japan.
In spite of the easy victory, Japan's new infrastructure had been stretched
to the breaking point by the war with China. Russia, eager for its own expansionism
in the region managed to gain a number of concessions from the Japanese following
the war to curb Japan's influence. This move was backed by the US and many European
powers, all hungry for their own territories, with the notable exception of
England. The Japanese took many of the concessions forced upon them from 1895-1904,
while laying plans to eliminate Russia as a threat to her territorial desires
in the region. The seeds of the Russo-Japanese War had been sown. Japanese forces
made their surprise attack against the Russian navy at Port Arthur and Chemulpo
on February 8,1904 destroying much of the Russian Pacific Fleet. Troop landings
followed and then war was officially declared.
Initial success smashed much of the Russian military might in the area, a combination
of Japanese skill and Russian ineptness, and led to the victories at Mukden
and Tsushima. The war was not without its costs, however, as Japan was not completely
versed in the new styles of warfare and the land war began to eat up the troops.
Eventually, between Russia's initial losses and Japan wanting to avoid being
bogged down in a long war of attrition it would lose, both sides came to sign
the Treaty of Portsmouth (New Hampshire) on September 5th, 1905. Japan received
many of the things she had gone to war for but at home the population, in a
feeling fostered by the militarists and secret societies, came to feel cheated
out of total victory. Riots and sabotage broke out in Japan and there were calls
for the assassination of the government that were only quelled by martial law.
Japan continued its military build-up. The Americans sent the "Great White
Fleet" on a thinly veiled intimidation tour of the Pacific and nearly ended
up at war with Japan. Luck averted it for a time and coupled with a growing
anti-Japanese sentiment in the US, more seeds were laid for the eventual war
that was to come.
World War One allowed Japan to seize additional territories with little risk
by activating its alliance with Britain and siding with the Allied Powers against
Germany. Most of Germany's Asian and Pacific colonies, including the colony
of Kiaochao in China and the Mariana, Marshall and Caroline Islands, were seized
by the Japanese and kept as tribute. With the other powers occupied with the
war, Japan sent its infamous 21 Demands to China in 1915. These demands would
have given Japan unbelievable political and economic powers within China, essentially
turning China into a vassal state. At first China refused and the Japanese mobilized
troops for an invasion. The Chinese capitulated and the Japanese, with secret
agreements with most of the other world powers (except the United States) began
to consolidate its new empire.
The Russian Revolution also allowed further Japanese expansion as they sent
a large force with the Allied expeditionary force that seized parts of Siberia,
taking huge amounts of captured weapons and aiding the fleeing White Russian
forces. Japanese forces continued to occupy large parts of Siberia until 1922.
The 1920s saw the last of the old-style samurai officers going and a new radical
breed taking their place in the Japanese military. Officer cliques, such as
the Double Leaf Society, which were secret societies themselves and with ties
to the other secret societies, were formed with the fanatical beliefs of ultranationalism
and the need for a purge of the Choshu elements of the army. The army became
divided into two factions, the Koda Ha (Action Group) led by Colonel (later
General) Sadao Araki and the Tosei Ha (Control Group) led by General Kazushige
Ugaki. The Koda Ha represented the radical and ultranationalist elements growing
within the army. The Tosei Ha attempted to represent the more conservative moderates.
The situation was made all the worse by the fact that the army was deeply resented
at the time by the Japanese public. Seen as an unnecessary drain on already
strained public coffers, the army faced a public almost bent on their destruction.
Coupled with friction with the civilian government on a variety of topics, the
army became more isolated and more of a power unto itself. The navy was faring
a bit better but not by much. Faced with the limits imposed by the Washington
Armaments Conference of 1921, the navy was also split into two factions. The
Fleet Faction wanted unlimited naval growth to build the mightiest navy on the
face of the earth to challenge the supremacy of powers such as the United States
and Russia. The Treaty Faction realized the Japanese economy could not support
such a move and argued that the limitations of the treaty actually could serve
Japan for the time being. The Treaty Faction won the day, for the moment at
least, and in the process won a public relations victory, also. Things continued
in this manner for the next several years, with the civilian government keeping
the radicals in the military generally in check and those radicals scheming
to remove them.
Events in 1927 begin the spiral that draws Japan into the World War. In that
year, General Giichi Tanaka, representing the Seiyukai Party, became Prime Minister.
The real power rested with a little known official, Kaku Mori, who became Parliamentary
Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mori was a civilian but had extensive ties
to Japan's ultranationalist secret societies, the Zaibatsu and Kwantung Army
radicals. Tanaka, with influence from Mori and his cohorts, announces new interventionist
policies concerning Manchuria and Mongolia. Within the next year, thanks to
the machinations of Mori and the Kwantung Army, Tanaka would be forced to resign
after the Kwantung Army attempts to formulate a crisis and seize Manchuria.
To replace Tanaka in 1928, Prime Minister Osachi Hamaguchi is chosen and forms
a new cabinet. Initial public confidence bolsters Hamaguchi's government and
allows him to successfully challenge the military radicals and get the London
Naval Conference of 1930 treaty ratified. It is both the high point and the
last pre-war instance of true civilian government and real challenges to the
military radicals. For his efforts, Hamaguchi was the target of an assassination
attempt on November 14, 1930. The assassin was Tomeo Sagoya, a member of the
Aikoku-sha (Love of Country Association), yet another ultranationalist secret
sect. Hamaguchi survives but is hospitalized for several months. He returns
to his post in March of 1931 but resigns a month later. He is replaced by Reiijiro
Following the war, a bit of a peace movement developed in Japan and it seemed
like the militarists might begin losing power. Several events conspired, however,
to destroy any hopes of ousting the militarists from power. The first was the
way in which the United States acted and came to be perceived in Japan. America
grew to become Japan's rival during this period, opposing the territories she
had won and any future geo-political moves she would make, all the while pursuing
her own emerging colonial aspirations. Relations, already soured, continued
a gradual but steady decline with each year. The factions continued their jockeying
for power until December 25, 1926 when Emperor Taisho died. Taisho had ascended
the throne with the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912 but was not a strong leader
and was considered to be mentally ill. Crown Prince Hirohito took the throne.
This was to be just in time for the Great Depression and the unchecked military
plots that were to come. The first target was the overt colonization of Manchuria
and other key parts of China. Soon afterwards incidents were provoked and the
Kwantung Army moved through Manchuria on its own accord.
Next, the massive economic growth the zaibatsu families had enjoyed during the
war came to a grinding halt in the early 1920s as the production of the wartime
industry suddenly glutted the markets and drove prices way down. Radical elements
in the form of labor unions and Communists came in the wake of Japan's industrial
birth, bringing violence and social unrest for their causes. A commoner and
liberal thinker of the Seiyukai party, Kei Hara, came to be Prime Minister in
1918 with the rallying cry of "militarism is dead." Unfortunately,
three years later it was Hara who was dead, assassinated by a railroad worker
during the increasing periods of labor unrest and riots. Under the Peace Preservations
Acts of the constitution, the Kempei Tai and other police groups started to
crack down on the unrest and oppression that would last until the end of the
Second World War began.
During this time the army began to rebel against the system and bring much more
power into its grasp. Young officers and enlisted men were coming to the military
from the harsh life of the peasantry. They realized that through the military
they could rise above their poor former lives and become anything, even leaders
of government. Back at home, these men saw their families still suffering on
the farms and in the factories. Anger began to mount against the civilian authorities
that were doing nothing about it while loyalty grew towards their military extended
family These men came to view their military superiors as the only law to be
The time from the end of World War One until the start of World War Two was
an extremely chaotic period for Japan. The militarists and secret societies
waged a war against every moderating voice heard in Japan. Assassinations and
coups were the rule of the day and even when they failed, the concessions gained
from the actions paid off for the secret forces. The secret societies grew in
immense power during this period and organizations such as the Kwantung Army
and the Kempei Tai came into their own. The war in China during the 1930s set
the stage for the brutal war yet to come and the collision course became inevitable.
The secret powers of Japan led their country towards war.
Black Ocean Society Originally formed in 1880 as Kayosha (National Assembly
Pressure group), this secret society was reorganized in 1881 as an "unofficial"
organization bent on expanding Japanese influence through Asia (notably China,
Manchuria, Russia and Korea). The Japanese name, Genyosha, is derived from Genkai
nada (the Black Ocean) for the strait that separates Kyushu from Korea. The
founder was a wealthy samurai and mine-owner, Kotaro Hiraoka, but the most famous
of the society's leaders was Mitsuru Toyama, who gathered groups of ronin (wave-men
or masterless samurai) to serve as enforcers for the group.
Toyama was a mystical leader, almost a hermit and involved in extreme eastern
religious beliefs, but who could command audiences with the highest members
of the Japanese government and military. In addition to ultranationalists from
the samurai and merchant classes, a large number of Yakuza, thugs and petty
criminals also gravitated to the organization. Their motto and aims were "Honor
the Imperial Family, respect the Empire and to guard the rights of the people."
The Black Ocean Society was modern Japan's first organized use of foreign intelligence
assets and supplied the Japanese army with intelligence as well as spreading
Japanese influence throughout the region. Financing and intelligence gathering
occurred through the use of many bordellos throughout Asia. The bordellos allowed
spying, bribery and blackmail to be used against foreign officials, members
of rival societies and so on.
These bordellos, established throughout Japan and in Hankow, Shanghai, Tientsin,
and Pusan and throughout Sinkiang (now the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region,
Northwest China) and in Russian-controlled Central Asia, were called "Halls
of Celestial Delights" and proved to be one of the most successful of the
Black Ocean activities. The bordellos offered many unusual sexual activities
and targeted, in addition to the usual political victims, the paymasters of
the secret societies. The paymasters not only knew a considerable amount of
information on the various groups but by targeting them, the Black Dragons were
draining the coffers of their enemies to finance their own activities. In addition,
they acted as safehouses for Japanese agents in the region.
The Black Ocean Society was operating with the support of the government and
in return was powerful enough to demand concessions from the government. They
demanded and received promises of a strong foreign policy from the 1892 Matsuka
Cabinet. To support their government allies, they gathered intelligence on opposition
parties and waged a terror campaign against rival political groups in the elections
but this wasn't enough to keep the opposition parties from gaining many seats
in parliament. In 1882, Toyama sent 100 agents into China to begin operations.
The group managed to set up spy operations throughout China from a base at Hankow,
with the full support and cooperation of the Japanese army and began to infiltrate
the myriad of Chinese secret societies to seek out allies and enemies. The success
of these operations is best illustrated by the work of the agent, Hiraya Amane.
Hiraya compiled the Zhong-guo Bi-mi She-hui Shi, the first true history of the
Triads and other secret societies. Hiraya uncovered the history of these groups
not only by careful research and making contacts but also by simply frequenting
their teahouses and other establishments to observe them in action. By simple
surveillance, Hiraya discovered and decoded the complex rituals and secret signs
to unravel the mysteries of the secret societies. His work was so complete and
accurate that it was classified and not published for public consumption until
many years later. These agents also managed to establish the Tung Wen College
in Shanghai that trained future agents for espionage in China. The Tung Wen
would continue to operate until the end of World War Two, training agents for
operations throughout Asia.
The Black Ocean Society began forming alliances with some of the Triad Sects
and manipulating their actions. Some of the Triad leaders, such as K'ang Yu-wei
and Liang Ch'i-ch'ao had been forced into an exile in Japan and traded safety
for connections to their groups. They conducted more mundane intelligence and
reconnaissance duties, including detailed map making operations in Korea and
China. The Black Ocean also ran subsidiary groups throughout the region, the
most well known being Tenyukyo in Korea. Tenyukyo (Society of the Celestial
Salvation of the Oppressed) was a special unit of 15 agents picked by Ryohei
Uchida to spy and wage a covert subversive campaign to prepare for the eventual
Japanese conquest of the Korean peninsula. They established contact with the
Korean Tonghaks, a radical religious sect with a belief in eastern mysticism
and violently opposed to Western influences in the region. Together, they waged
a terror campaign that included bombings and assassinations that culminated
in the murder of Korean Queen Min in 1895. This situation allowed the Japanese
In 1898, the Black Ocean Society and many other similar groups were being assimilated
into the East Asia One Culture Society to consolidate and continue their work.
Some of the other groups affiliated included Yamaguchi-gumi (which survives
today as one of the largest of these groups, with 400 sub-groups and a membership
roll of approximately 10,000), Sumiyoshi-rengo (based in Tokyo), Inagawa-kai
(based in Yokohama) and Ichiwa-kai (based in Kobe).
Black Dragon Society
The Black Dragons (Kokuryukai) formed in 1901 by Ryohei Uchida, a former
leader of the Black Ocean Society. Actually, the name Black Dragon Society is
an inaccurate Western interpretation of their name. The Chinese characters for
the Amur River are translated as Black Dragon River (or Kokuryukai in Japanese),
thus Westerners have incorrectly labeled this group the Black Dragon Society
when the correct translation should be the River Amur Society (I will continue
to use the more popular terminology, however, for our purposes). The Black Dragons
were formed due to the publicity starting to surround the Black Ocean Society
and to begin operations against the Russians in Manchuria. It would outgrow
this function and continue as a shadow government for Japan through the Second
World War, growing from a few hundred members to over 10,000 by the end of the
war. From the beginning, there was a feeling of patriotic duty and romanticism
concerning joining the Black Dragons and acting as one of its agents. While
expenses would be paid for agents operating in the field they received little
or no other financial compensation for their activities. The secrecy surrounding
the group would be maintained until the 1930s and even then little information
leaked out. Its membership grew into the thousands and included high-ranking
military officers and cabinet officials. The group was so powerful that all
military attaches abroad had to be cleared through them. Uchida also pressured
the War Office for an increased military presence and intelligence-gathering
capability along the Mongolian border with Russia.
The Black Dragons were formed by one of the former leaders of the Black Ocean
Society, Ryohei Uchida, in collaboration with Mitsuru Toyama. Toyama and the
Black Ocean Society lent their full support to the formation of the new group.
Toyama's political influence guaranteed the safety and success of the new organization
and it grew to be the largest of Japan's secret societies. Toyama never officially
joined the Black Dragons but remained as an advisor and patron until his death
in 1944 (Toyama did join the Taisei Yokusankai- Imperial Rule Assistance Association-
another powerful ultranationalist group with a hand in World War Two). The Black
Dragons also attempted to initially keep some of the more criminal elements
from its ranks (though this would quickly change) in a successful bid to attract
more military officers to the group.
From their training camps in Hokkaido, the Black Dragons spread out to prepare
for the inevitable conflict arising with the Russians. The Black Dragons followed
in the footsteps of the Black Ocean Society and began to seriously penetrate
the region with its agents, placing a large number in Manchuria and Siberia
before war broke out. The Black Dragons even acquired a Black Ocean front, a
jiu-jitsu school in Vladivostock, from which they could observe much of the
Russian military and naval movements. Back in Japan, the group established a
special espionage school dedicated to studying Russia and Russian. They had
gathered intelligence before the Russo-Japanese War that showed detailed troop
strengths and locations, as well as logistical networks. Japan essentially went
to war on February 8, 1904 knowing more of the Russian strengths and weaknesses
than the Russians did. Once the war erupted, the Black Dragons intensified their
efforts in support of the Japanese Empire. They organized Manchurian guerrillas
against the Russians from the Chinese warlords and bandit chieftains in the
region, the most important being Marshal Chang Tso-lin. Black Dragons managed
to infiltrate a small party of Japanese officers and NCOs for a meeting with
Tso-lin and other guerrillas, allowing the alliance to be formed. The Black
Dragons waged a very successful psychological warfare campaign in conjunction
with the Japanese military, spreading disinformation and propaganda throughout
the region. They also acted as interpreters for the advancing Japanese army.
Their missions were so well planned and their training so thorough that not
one Black Dragon agent was reported killed or captured during the war.
The Black Dragons had a hand in running the legendary Japanese spy, Colonel
Motojiro Akashi, who operated against the Russians at the turn of the century.
Akashi, who was not directly a member of the Black Dragons, ran successful operations
in China, Manchuria, Siberia and established contacts throughout the Muslim
world. These Muslim contacts would be maintained through the Second World War,
both as operatives in their areas and as a hedge against Soviet aggression.
Akashi eventually established networks through Europe, too, that served the
Black Dragons. The Black Dragons also formed close contact and even alliances
with Buddhist sects throughout Asia.
After the Russo-Japanese War, Japan identified their three main enemies: China,
Russia and the US (the order would vary based on events of the day). Operations
in China and Manchuria generally took top priority. After the Treaty of Portsmouth,
the growing threat of the US was realized and the Black Dragons unsuccessfully
protested this and future treaties. It also came to be realized that the US
had started a somewhat clumsy espionage operation directed at Japan.
To support operations in China, the Black Dragons were cautiously supporting
the revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat-sen while infiltrating his inner circle and Triads.
Similar operations with revolutionaries were established from 1906 on, targeting
India, Indonesia and the Philippines, amongst others. The Black Dragons began
establishing subsidiary groups to support these regional aims, such as the Advance
Society in Korea (1906), the Roninkai in Mongolia (1908) and the Yurinkai to
support Sun Yat-sen in China (1908). Through this last group, the Chineserebellion
of 1911 was planned and support was directed to it. The events leading up to
the rebellion soured Sun and his Japanese allies on each other. Still, Japan
successfully carried out the rebellion but failed to unite China behind a puppet.
The 1920s-30s saw a marked rise in the membership of the Black Dragons as well
as an increase in operations. The members came to be known as the "China
Wave-Men" and belonged not only to the Black Dragons but an ever-increasing
number of secret societies. During this time, the political influence of the
Black Dragons grew as they actually began using non-extremist language in their
proclamations as disinformation on their aims. Support for underground groups
around Asia grew, especially as the Anglo-Japanese alliance died and anti-British
sentiment rose in Japan. As political chaos began to arise within Japan during
this time, the Black Dragon leadership found itself under police surveillance.
However, their political influence and alliances with the rising radical military
officer cliques largely protected them from the civilian government.
By the start of the 1940s, the group was operating worldwide, as far away as
North and South America and Morocco, Ethiopia and Turkey. The members referred
to themselves as Brave Knights (Soshi) and their leader as the Darkside Emperor.
They were a strange organization that ran the gamut from common criminal activities
to major political manipulation. They even formed covert ties with the Nazis
during this time but they were never extensive. At the end of the 1930s, the
group slid back into the shadows and away from public attention but did not
cease its operations. After the war, Douglas MacArthur personally ordered the
abolishment of the group and ordered seven alleged leaders arrested. The intelligence
was inaccurate, however, as two of the men were not even members, one had died
in 1938, another had committed suicide in 1943 and one had renounced his membership
Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory
The founder of Unit 731 was General Ishii Shiro, who was born in the village
of Chiyoda on June 25th, 1892. While considered a selfish and pushy individual,
he nonetheless excelled at the Kyoto Imperial University in the field of medicine.
He also courted and married the daughter of the school president. In 1920, Ishii
graduated from the school and enlisted in the Japanese army, where he was soon
commissioned as an officer.
Ishii found himself assigned to the 1st Army Hospital and the Army Medical School
in Tokyo in 1922. There his work impressed his superiors enough to gain him
post-graduate medical schooling back at the Kyoto Imperial University two years
later. Ishii took a two-year tour of the West starting in 1928. In his travels,
Ishii did extensive research on the effects of biological and chemical warfare
developments from World War One and on. It was a highly successful mission and
helped win him his patron, Minister of the Army Araki Sadao.
Ishii was placed in command of the Army Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory
located in Tokyo in 1932. The laboratory focused on both the prevention and
conduct of chemical and biological warfare. There research quickly outgrew their
facilities and a year later the lab received an additional building and land
grant in Tokyo. Ishii also organized a satellite laboratory in Harbin a few
months after its capture. Harbin was a major railroad hub for the whole region,
a fact that Ishii would put to great use. Mirroring on a smaller scale the Nazi
extermination machine in Europe, the rail system became the transports of death
for thousands destined for Ishii's units. The laboratory proved to be too public,
though, so Ishii continued legitimate medical studies there and prepared for
a more secret location for his bio-war experiments. Ishii organized his secret
group, the Togo Unit, to conduct these secret experiments. The Togo Unit made
its headquarters in the Chinese village of Bei-inho (or Beiyinhe), 100 Km south
of Harbin. The local inhabitants were forcibly evacuated and their village burnt
down. Immediately a 100-room living quarters building and several smaller labs
were constructed while work began on the true facility.
Within a year the facility that would be called the Zhongma Fortress was complete.
Three-meter high walls topped with electrified barbed wire and a moat with drawbridge
surrounded the buildings within. The complex contained a huge laboratory with
hundreds of rooms and smaller surrounding labs, office buildings, living and
dining facilities, warehouses and munitions storage, crematoria, and the infamous
prisons. The road outside was closed to all traffic not related to the facility
and when trains traveled nearby, their shades all had to be drawn. Local Chineseworkers
who were required to enter the facility had to wear a basket over their head
and be escorted by the army guards. Inside, with the full knowledge that this
work was a flagrant violation of the 1925 Geneva Convention, Ishii pushed forward.
The Kempei Tai were assigned to act as human procurement agents for this and
all subsequent units. Prisoners were almost constantly shackled. While they
were well fed, the experiments performed on them were so horrible that the average
life expectancy was one month. In addition to the work being conducted withpathogens,
blood draining experiments and food deprivation experiments were conducted.
In spite of the precautions, rumors began to circulate outside about the work
being carried out there. The end for the facility came in 1936, when an escape
attempt allowed several prisoners to make it to freedom and spread the word
to the outside world through the Chinese resistance forces.
In 1936, the Togo Unit was again reorganized and expanded, taking the official
title of the Epidemic Prevention Department of the Kwantung Army (AKA the Ishii
Unit). A smaller sub-section to be based in Xinjing was created to compliment
the work of the Ishii Unit. Known as the Wakamatsu Unit, this group was established
to research and combat animal diseases.
Both units were approved and established with full knowledge of the Japanese
1938 brought another relocation to the unit, this time to Pingfan (25 Km southeast
of Harbin). After the early escape from the Zhongma Fortress, this location
was considered more secure. Pingfan had been cleared of its population and designated
a special military zone.
Construction began immediately on a huge bio-war facility. This facility was
similar to the earlier Zhongma Fortress, down to the surrounding moat. An airfield
was also constructed at this location and the airspace above the facility was
restricted to military flights only. The prison inside the Pingfan complex was
also greatly improved over the older one. Thick concrete walls were installed
to foil escape attempts.
The cells were laid out side by side and faced the corridor. Some were single
occupancy and some housed multiple prisoners. Each was fitted with a special
door that allowed prisoners inside to stick their arms out into the corridor
to have injections or blood work. Every cell had a flush toilet and a clean,
wooden floor in addition to central heating and cooling. Again, the diet was
good and the facilities clean so that outside diseases and other health problems
wouldn't confuse the testing results. The cells were organized into buildings
called ro buildings and housed either men or women and children.
The cover story was that the facility was a large lumber mill. This led to the
doctors within to start referring to their prisoners as maruta (logs), aterm
that would stick for all the medical units throughout the war.
Research was conducted into four main areas throughout the war and a myriad
of smaller ones. The four main areas were Cholera, Epidemic Hemorrhagic Fever,
Plague and Frostbite. The Cholera work eventually led to dogs being used as
the vector in a test on a village west of Chinan. While considered successful
and causing over a hundred deaths, Cholera bio-warfare applications were eventually
scrapped due to its long incubation time but human experimentation continued
in vaccine work. Epidemic Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF) was a disease local to the
Chinese-Russian border. Japanese troops had become infected with it over the
years of fighting in the region. This gave the researchers the idea of using
it as a biological weapon and human experimentation began. The humans used in
the EHF experiments were called monkeys as a cover story. Frostbite research
grew out of the belief that eventually Japanese and Soviet forces would be drawn
into war in Manchuria and Siberia, probably during a period of extreme cold
to aid the Soviet forces. Human freezing experiments were conducted to study
tolerances and treatments of frostbite cases.
Plague was the area of greatest interest to the doctors. Six different plague
attacks were conducted in China during the war. The first occurred on the Kaimingjie
are of the port of Ningbo in a joint Unit 731 and Unit 1644 endeavor. Using
airdropped wheat, corn, scraps of cloth and cotton that had been infected with
plague, a huge outbreak was started that resulted in over a hundred deaths.
The area had to be evacuated and contained with a quarantine that kept the area
off limits until the 1960s. A later attack in 1942 on the area by the two units
led to the developmentof their final delivery system: airdropped ceramic bombs.
Some work was conducted during the war with the use of liquid forms of the pathogen
but the results were unsatisfactory for the researchers.
Many other research projects were undertaken during the war. There were many
vivisection operations performed, most without even anesthesia. There were experiments
with venereal diseases, smallpox, tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid and dysentery.
The units carried out VD exams on the "comfort women" of the Japanese
brothels. There were air embolism injections given to prisoners to study the
effects. The units also developed and used the defoliant Dioxin, which would
later become the primary defoliant of the US military in Vietnam. Poison gas
tests with mustard gas, lewisite, cyanic acid gas, and phosgene gas were also
conducted. Towards the end of the war, stimulant tests were done for drugs for
kamikaze pilots, reducing fear and inciting frenzy in its subjects.
In 1938-39 Ishii deployed bio-war units to the Russian border to assist in the
escalating skirmishes there. Most of the operations were unsuccessful tactically
but provided useful research and publicity for the group.
On August 1st, 1940, the Ishii Unit was again renamed to the Epidemic Prevention
and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army,more commonly known as
Manchukuo Unit 731 (or simply Unit 731, though that wouldn't come into common
usage until 1941). Unit 731 was divided into four sections: Research, Experiments,
Anti-Epidemic, and Water Purification and Production. Immediately, there was
an influx of doctors and medical students from Japan who went to the unit to
study. Ishii had been gathering the scientific elite of Japan around him as
his unit grew and now he had a very firm base to use them from. The professors
of Japan were especially helpful to Ishii, finding recruits and assisting with
all manner of aid and assistance to the group. By the time war came with America
and the Allied Powers, Unit 731 numbered 3000 directly within the unit and when
sister units and satellite facilities were counted in, Ishii had some 20,000
people working on his projects.
Each of the units was officially classified as a battalion but received funding
equal to at least a regiment. Each unit consisted of a mix of military and civilian
doctors, medical specialists and technicians, interpreters and a variety of
The efforts of the medical units were supported by a number of other military
and civilian elements. Almost the entire university system of Japan was at their
disposal, running exchange programs between the schools and the field units.
The Youth Corps regularly sent interns and laborers to work in the research
centers. A symbiosis between the Kempei Tai and the medical units developed,
with the Kempei Tai acting as a human procurement arm and security force but
also acting as overseers to the project, ensuring secrecy and loyalty. The Kwantung
Army, too, was involved in both aiding and benefiting from the research conducted
in its own backyard.
The members of the medical units also received rewards. The first and foremost
was the power and prestige that accompanied those working with the units. There
were also better food rations and luxury items allotted to the researchers and
their staff. Finally, there were the brothels and their comfort women. The brothels
were classified as Class 1 (Officers), Class 2 (NCOs) and Class 3 (Civilians
and Enlisted Men). These were staffed by captive women, especially Koreans and
captured Western and Russian women. The final official tally of casualties by
the units in their experimentation is 3000, though many put the figures much
higher. The casualties from the field testing of their diseases runs much higher
with no official statistic established.
NOTE: Each unit would actually carry a "T" marking at the end of their
name/title to designate them as a secret unit. For example, the official title
of Unit 731 would read: Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department
of the Kwantung Army, Unit 731 T. Anda: This was an open air testing area about
120 Km from the Pingfang facility. Tests were conducted on humans to see the
effectiveness of pathogens and their delivery systems in a "real world"
Xingjing (Changchun): Headquarters of the Wakamatsu Unit (Unit 100 under veterinarian
Wakamatsu Yujiro). This facility dedicated itself to both the study of animal
vaccines, to protect Japanese resources, and especially veterinary bio-warfare.
Diseases tests for use against Soviet and Chinese horses and livestock were
developed here. In addition to these tests, Unit 100 ran a bacteria factory
to produce the pathogens needed by other units. Sabotage testing also was handled
at this facility, everything from poisons and other toxins to chemical crop
Beijing- Headquarters of Unit 1855. There was also a branch experimentation
unit based at Chinan. Plague and other diseases were extensively studied at
Nanjing- Headquarters of the Tama Unit (Unit Ei-1644). This unit conducted extensive
joint projects and operations with Unit 731.
Guangdong (Guangzhou)- The headquarters of the Nami Unit (Unit 8604). This facility
conducted food and water deprivation
experiments as well as water-borne typhus human experimentation. In addition,
this facility served as the main rat-farm for the medical units to provide them
with plague vectors for their experiments.
Singapore- Headquarters of the Oka Unit (Unit 9420). Formed in 1942 by Naito
Ryoichi, Unit 9420 had approximately 1000
personnel based out of the Raffles Medical University. The unit was commanded
by Major General Kitagawa Masataka and supported the Japanese Southern Army.
There were two main sub-units, the Kono Unit which specialized in malaria and
the Umeoka Unit which dealt with plague. In addition to disease experimentation,
this facility served as one of the main rat catching and processing centers.
Evidence points towards this facility also supplying a medical sub-unit operating
in neutral Thailand with diseases for unknown operations and/or experiments.
Hiroshima- At a top-secret factory at Okunoshima, chemical weapon production
for the Japanese military and medical units was conducted. Starting with mustard
gas production in 1928, the factory moved on to such poisons as yperite, lewisite
and cyanogen. During the 1930s, as the war in China grew worse, the island the
factory sat on was removed from most maps to strengthen secrecy and security.
Unit 200 (Manchuria- exact headquarters unknown): This unit was associated directly
with Unit 731 and worked mainly in plague research. Unit 571 (Manchuria- exact
headquarters unknown): Another unit that worked directly and extensively with
Special Teams: Special units led by Ishii Shiro's older brother and only staffed
with members from Ishii's hometown. They operated separately from the regular
medical organizations as roving researchers and troubleshooters. Operations
and experiments continued up until the end of the war. With the Russian invasion
of Manchuria and China in August of 1945, the units had to hastily abandon their
work. All of the members of the units and their families fled across Manchuria
and China to return to Japan.
Behind them they left skeleton crews to hide the evidence of their atrocities.
All the facilities were to be demolished with explosives but most were so well
constructed that they survived somewhat intact as testimony to what happened
there. Ishii commanded that every member of the group take the secret of their
experiments to the grave with them, threatening to find them if they did and
ordering none of them to go into public work back in Japan. All of the infected
rats and the human prisoners were killed and their bodies quickly destroyed.
Potassium Cyanide vials were issued to everyone in the event of capture. Ishii
planned to see the medical secrets hidden away from any public discovery.
The Kwantung Army and the Military Ultranationals
The Kwantung Army grew from the invasion and occupation army sent to Manchuria
during the war with Russia in 1905. It had remained there since then, slowly
growing in both power and autonomy with its powerful forces and relative distance
to the controlling civilian and military leaders in Japan. It was one of the
lead military units in the Russo-Japanese War, fighting the Russian forces all
through the region. The Kwantung Army was officially designated and organized
as such on August 1st, 1916. By 1920, the Kwantung Army was the most powerful
Japanese military force. It grew even stronger when Japanese troops finally
left Siberia in 1922. There were too many troops to be used in Japan proper
but the military wouldn't let go of the massive build-up it had been enjoying.
As spending cuts and calls for disarmament increased, the generals found some
solutions. Some troops would be transferred to the Kwantung Army while many
others would go home to act as teachers. Officers from disbanded divisions found
themselves at Japanese schools where compulsory military training was to be
conducted after elementary school through college. There, the officers brought
their way of thinking to new generations and insured their future plans.
In the Spring of 1927, Prime Minister Tanaka's advisor and power behind the
throne, Kaku Mori forces the Prime Minister to send elements of the Kwantung
Army into Shantung Province. Tanaka was negotiating at the time with Marshal
Chang Tso-lin, the chief warlord of Manchuria, for concessions. Tso-lin was
also facing Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists who were delivering the ultimatum
of join or fight. Tanaka wanted to carefully bring Tso-lin fully into the Japanese
camp and away from the Nationalist forces. The radicals in Japan had other ideas.
In the Spring of 1928, Kai-shek joins other warlords for a move into Shantung
Province. There are 19,000 Japanese there and they become the pretext for Mori
to pressure Tanaka into reinforcing Japanese troops there with an additional
5000 men from the Kwantung Army. Kwantung Army troops move into Tsinan under
the cover story of hundreds of Japanese citizens being killed there (really
the number is 13). The Kwantung Army attempts to provoke incidents with the
Nationalist forces on May 3rd but Chiang pulls out his troops to avoid entanglements
with the Japanese. The next day the Japanese bomb the city, killing 18,000 Chinese
Prime Minister Tanaka was unaware of the events that were quickly moving out
of control. Mori and his Kwantung Army cohorts decide an additional show of
force is needed and march on Mukden. This action prompts a warning to be issued
by the US concerning the action. The Japanese military begins to mobilize as
possible war with the US is seen on the horizon. Meanwhile, the Kwantung Army
is preparing to secure all of Manchuria and disarm Tso-lin's forces. The Kwantung
Army plans to move on May 22nd and awaits its orders from Tokyo. Then delays
in the orders occur as the government is divided over the possibility of war
with the US. Finally, on May 25th, orders arrive for the Kwantung Army to stand
down and Tso-lin is to be allowed to remain in power. These orders are not acceptable
to the Kwantung Army. General Muraoka, the commander of the Kwantung Army at
the time, issued formal protests back to Tokyo while preparing plots of his
own. The general was going to have Tso-lin assassinated. Through a number of
the Kwantung Army's colonels, three Chinese were used as patsies for the "Railroad
Plot." On June 4th, as Tso-lin was riding in a train, Japanese forces blew
the tracks and stormed his railroad car, killing him. Two of the three Chinese
patsies were killed with claims that they were the "bandit" attackers.
The third managed to escape and would eventually leak the truth out, causing
some embarrassment and many denials from the Japanese. Following the attack,
the Kwantung Army unleashed a wave of agent provocateur attacks throughout Mukden
in an effort to draw a larger Japanese commitment.
Back in Japan, Tanaka was appalled at the actions of the Kwantung Army but found
himself unable to act. Hsueh-liang becomes the new Japanese puppet warlord of
Manchuria. Factions and rivalries begin forming in Manchuria between the Kwantung
Army, the South Manchuria Railway and the Okura Zaibatsu. All of this begins
a political crisis in Tokyo and the Kwantung Army has to suspend its covert
operations to allow the crisis to pass due to the coming coronation of Hirohito.
That summer, Tanaka learns of the possible involvement of the Kwantung Army
in the assassination. He orders a full investigation, which by fall confirms
the allegations. To try and reign in the Kwantung Army, Tanaka moves all negotiations
between Japan and China concerning Manchuria to Nanking, away from the influences
of the Kwantung Army. Tanaka then approaches the Emperor with his allegations
and seeks punishment for the guilty officers. His cabinet and the army object
to the punishments, allowing only some minor punishments to a handful of officers
and complete cover-up of the army's involvement as a whole in the affair. Tanaka
is forced to accept these concessions and to approach the Emperor with the new
"developments" of his investigation. This reversal causes the Emperor
to lose faith in Tanaka, rebuff him and force his resignation. The Kwantung
Army, made bold by its successful defiance of the government, begins plotting
General Araki had become commandant of the Army War College in 1928. From that
position, he had been working with the younger officers to further the aims
of the ultranationals. The radical army cliques begin unauthorized studies of
China and the preparation of war scenarios. They begin their new round of plots
which include the aims of taking the government away from the civilians to remove
imperial advisors and isolate the Emperor (the so-called Showa Reformation),
starting agitation amongst the radical Japanese civilians in Manchuria and a
uniting of the many secret societies. By 1929 the conspiracy is fully formed,
consisting of manly colonels and lieutenant colonels, and preparations to finally
seize Manchuria begin. The officers know they will need another "incident"
to justify their actions. Eventually 24 officers were pulled together to create
just such an incident. In 1930, Manchuria's warlord, Hsueh-liang begins to lean
towards an alliance with Kai-shek and the Nationalists, while telling Japan
that new economic treaties will have to be decided by him. These moves alarm
the army and further strain relations with Kai-shek.
As the conspirators plotted their moves in Manchuria, other factions were arising
that would eventually lend support to the cause. The Cherry Blossom Society
developed, about 100 officers who were carefully placed to control the most
important military facilities in Japan. They plotted a coup for March 20th,
1931 to put General Ugaki in as Prime Minister and gain control of the government.
The plan was called off only due to the fact that the general decided against
it. In Manchuria, the three main conspirators of the Kwantung Army had essentially
seized control, putting one of their own, General Honjo, in as commander of
the Kwantung Army. Honjo made sure there was no interference to the plotters.
1931 brought a number of increasingly violent incidents to the region, such
as the Wanpaoshan Affair and the Nakamura Incident. These increased the Japanese
"Manchuria Fever" and laid more groundwork for the ultranationals
to exploit. Additional strains developed between the military and civilian government.
By September the Kwantung Army was out of control and tensions were rising.
Rumors began to circulate that an incident was coming. The plotters' supporters
were carefully diverting inquiries into these rumors, giving the conspirators
time to act. On September 18th, the plotters moved, capturing several officers
in Manchuria and attacked Chinese forces near Mukden, claiming they were attacked
and creating their incident. Calls went out to forces in Korea, calling for
reinforcements. Officials in Tokyo ordered the Kwantung Army to stop its assault
and remain in place. What news was coming out was confusing and incomplete.
The Emperor remained "indisposed" to avoid giving approval or disapproval
until he had information. Prime Minister Wakatsuki failed to take any strong
action, instead receiving a rebuff from the military. Only sporadic news was
allowed out to the public.
By September 20th, the radicals had control of the army and the Prime Minister
was weakening. The Kwantung Army had 12,000 men who were attacking but needed
the reinforcements from Korea. The reinforcements were being held up by the
government confusion and lack ofapproval. The Kwantung Army continued its attacks
and eventually the reinforcements moved without approval. This caused even the
generals in Japan to begin worrying that their forces were beyond their control.
Audiences with the Emperor to decide on a course of action were all refused.
America sought to stop the aggression but between isolationist thinking and
an economic crisis developing, failed to take decisive action, instead issuing
carefully worded protest notes. By the end of the month, the Emperor and the
civilian government had caved to the military, authorizing after the fact the
military's moves in Manchuria.
In October, the Kwantung Army intensified its actions and was beyond the control
of Tokyo. The Cherry Blossom Society decided to act with yet another coup attempt
in Tokyo to completely eliminate the civilian government. However, they got
overconfident due to the success of their brothers in the Kwantung Army and
let the plan slip out early. Quietly, the main conspirators, including General
Araki, were arrested. The harshest sentence was 20 days confinement, with most
given 10 days, to be served at local geisha houses and two resignations. Shortly
afterwards, another coup attempt was defused, causing more chaos for the Japanese
The Kwantung Army ignored warnings from the League of Nations to stop its aggression.
An investigation was planned but by the time it prepared to leave Manchuria
had already fallen. Wakatsuki resigned in December and when the new cabinet
was formed, General Araki was War Minister and the real power in Japan. The
Kwantung Army forced the last member of the Manchu Dynasty, Henry Pu-yi, to
head the Japanese colony of Manchuria. In February, 1932, Manchuria changed
its name to Manchukuo and became the kingdom of the Kwantung Army.
China's main response to the Japanese aggression was to institute a boycott
of Japanese goods, with Shanghai serving as the main center for the action.
The Japanese needed those markets and found the situation unacceptable to them.
On January 18th, a group of ultranationalist priests became involved in a bloody
clash with Chinese nationals at a factory in Shanghai. Two days later fifty
of them return to set fire to the factory and clash with the police. Japanese
politicians demand an apology and concessions, including an end to the boycott.
The Chinese attempt to compromise but refuse to lift the boycott. An ultimatum
is issued to again provoke an incident. This incident forms on January 29th
and the Japanese begin fighting in the city but when they engage the 30,000
troops of the Chinese 19th Route Army they are stalemated. The Chinese fight
well and hold out until March, raising Chinese morale and hurting the Japanese
warrior image as well as causing the disgraced resignations of several Japanese
All of these incidents further emboldened the ultranationalists. A wave of assassinations
broke out that could be traced back to the army and their secret society allies.
Economic hardships caused many civilians to flock towards them and their causes.
Another coup plot for that March caused a panic but never got off the ground.
May was a different story. Radical naval officers stormed Prime Minister Inukai's
residence, murdering him, while other buildings were seized. While several assassinations
were successful the coup failed. Public opinion, however, backed the plotters
and strengthened the military's position further. The court-martials of the
plotters were all commuted.
Prince Saionji, one of the Emperor's closest and strongest advisors, attempted
to stop the military take-over of the government. In a compromise, a naval officer
was chosen to become Prime Minister, Admiral Makoto Saito. Araki remained as
War Minister and immediately began making demands on the new government. Later
that month, the Japanese unveiled its new foreign policy, which they dubbed
the Japanese Monroe Doctrine that was a blueprint for Japanese expansionism
From September of 1932 on, the Japanese were becoming more locked into the course
that would lead them into the Second World War and Araki was leading the way.
Totalitarianism and expansionism were to become the rule and fewer voices would
be able to even speak against it. In a September 23rd news conference Araki
first mentions the philosophy of Kodo (The Imperial Way). The concept of Kodo
linked the Emperor, the people, land and morality as one and indivisible. This
led to the creation of a "new" Shinto and increased Emperor worship.
The corruption of Bushido started as well as seishin kyoiku (spiritual training)
in the army. The state was being transformed into a creation that served the
army and the Emperor, while the army transformed into a fanatical force ready
to die for their leaders and Emperor. To support this, a massive armaments campaign
was undertaken and the military, especially officers and NCOs, were expanded.
A belief started to grow that the faith of the Japanese military was enough
to defeat any enemy, no matter their size and strength. The samurai swords came
back into fashion as the martial embodiment of these beliefs. The Kwantung Army
would continue its quest to swallow up Manchuria, Mongolia and Northern China
through the next several years. All attempts to control them from Tokyo would
fail and the Army would become a haven for radicals and a hotbed of intrigues.
The continued expansionism and thirst for rearmament would cause Japan to leave
the League of Nations in 1932.
General Araki founded the Kokuhonsha (Society for the Foundation of the
State), a secret society containing some of the most powerful generals, admirals
and civilians dedicated to the Imperial Way. A number of officers were, however,
revitalizing the tosei ha (control faction) of the military to oppose them and
they were looking to Hitler's Germany as the inspiration for the kind of controlled
state they sought. The control faction scored a victory in January 1934 when
Araki was forced to step down due to the excesses of the Kwantung Army and his
replacement was one of their own, General Senjuro Hayashi. The struggle between
the two groups would continue quietly throughout the government and the war
in North China would continue apace until February of 1936.
On February 26, what would come to be known as the "2-26 Incident"
began. It was a major coup attempt by the Imperial Way faction, a last ditched
effort to seize the government. Groups of assassins killed or attempted to kill
the upper leadership of the government and seizing control of key buildings.
After some initial success, the coup started to unravel as the Emperor and Generals
Tojo and Honjo suprisingly acted against the rebels.
The Emperor acted with unusual force against the coup and after a brief political
crisis and stalling from the military, the rebels were forced to surrender.
In the aftermath, many radical officers were retired and the coup leaders were
tried and executed. The Kwantung Army would continue its uncontrolled behavior.
Its supporters would continue to find high office, often as a way of trying
to bring them under control. It didn't work. They would go on to instigate the
Marco Polo Bridge incident in 1937, which would broaden the war in China, eventually
leading them down the road to the Rape of Nanking and eventually war with the
Western powers. They would also almost lead into war with the Soviet Union in
1938-39 with a series of escalating border incidents that Japan soundly lost.
The only thing that eventually reigned in the Kwantung Army was the appointment
of Tojo as its chief of staff. While the Kwantung Army was brought somewhat
under control, the damage it had already wrought would be enough, putting its
brand of militarist in control of the government. Throughout the war, the Kwantung
Army would remain a powerful force and breeding ground for the sort of radicals
that would carry the war to its bitter conclusion. It also became the staging
area for other projects, such as Japan's medical experiments and further machinations
of the secret societies.
Choshu Faction v. Anti Choshu Faction
General Tanaka Giichi--Choshu-- Gen. Araki Sadao
served as PM, FM, Seiyukai head Gen. Mazaki Jinzaburo
General Ugaki Issei believed in spiritual
accepted reduced numbers of troops *power of Japanese troops
in return for mechanization/modernization
of Army *value of proper indoctrination
*sacredness of Imperial institution
Cols like Nagata Testuzan *group, family v. individual
Tojo Hideki *kokutai/ strong state structure
Yamashita Tomoyuki *opposed Western, liberal values
*in favor of mystical notions
So they become known as the
backed by Generals like Komoto Daisaku
become known as Kodoha or
Toseiha or Control Faction v. the Imperial Way Faction
1929 the Isseikai formed including above men + Sakuraikai 1930
Doihara Kanji Gen Tatekawa
Itagaki Seishiro Col. Hashimoto +
Ishiwara Kanji links with civilian Right Wing
[Itagaki & Ishiwara were or “Radical Nationalists”like
central to Manchurian Incident 1931]
March Incident 1931
October Incident 1931
Blood Brotherhood League May 15, 1932
in which PM Inukai assassinated along with Dan Takanuma head of Mitsui zaibatsu.
The old samurai police force of the Shogun was dismantled with the coming of
the Meiji Restoration and a new system was to be put into place. Toshiyoshi
Kawaji went for a tour of Europe in 1872 and returned with the influences of
France's Third Republic and Prussia's police forces as his models. In 1874,
he became the commander of the Keishicho (Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department)
and began his reorganization program. Other police and military exchanges occurred
during this time and new ideas flooded into Japan, leading to the creation of
many new departments.
The Naimusho (Ministry of Home Affairs) came into being in 1873 and with the
restructuring going on, they began to implement the new system. Formerly, Japan
had been divided into regions controlled by the ruling Daimyo. This system was
abolished in 1871 and a new division into ken (prefectures) went into effect.
The Home Ministry oversaw the nation's police activities with the Keihokyoku
(Police Bureau) and its Gyosei Keisatsu Kisoku (Administrative Police
Regulations), which established the duties and powers of the police. The police
in Japan took on a wide range of responsibilities that extended far beyond normal
criminal duties and into controlling most facets of the Japanese society.
The Kempei Tai came into being as the result of an order by the Meiji Council
of State on January 4th, 1881. It consisted of 349 men who were not only to
police the military but had civilian duties as well, especially in regards to
the new conscription laws. The Kempei Tai was divided into two sections, one
for dealing with Dai Nippon Teikoku Kaigun (the Imperial Japanese Navy) and
the Dai Nippon Teikoku Rikugun (the Imperial Japanese Army). The naval branch
was known as the General Affairs Section and concerned itself with police work
within the navy, policy, personnel, discipline and records. The army branch
was called the Service Section and concerned itself with the creation of military
police units, security and counter-intelligence.
The Kempei Tai was responsible to a number of agencies, at least on paper, and
they used these areas of responsibility to build up a power base and huge influence
throughout Dai Nippon Teikoku (Empire of Great Japan) and later the Dai Toa
Kyozonken (Greater East Asia Co-Existence Sphere). They answered to the Rikugunsho
(Ministry of War) for military matters, Naimusho (Home Ministry) for civil police
duties and Shihisho (Ministry of Justice) for the administration of law. In
addition, the Kempei Tai assisted local law enforcement officers throughout
Japan. One of their primary duties became chian iji (maintenance of order),
a catch-all phrase that came to encompass a wide variety of "crimes"
and led to the many of the brutalities carried out by the Kempei Tai. Similar
to the military police in many nations, the Kempei Tai formed their own branch
of the military, in their case, under the Heimu Kyoku (Military Administration
Bureau). They were commanded by a Provost Marshal General who answered to the
Rikugunsho. In the field, the Kempei Tai agents answered to the commanders in
those areas, while in Manchuquo (Manchuria), Chosen (Korea) and Formosa (Taiwan)
they were under the direct command of the commanders-in-chief of those regions.
In 1901, the Tokubetsu Koto Keisatsu (the TOKKO or Special Higher Police) was
established. Their main function was as a civilian counter-part to the military's
Kempei Tai, targeting any dissenters to Imperial rule and Japanese expansionism.
The TOKKO was comprised of six departments (Special Police Work, Foreign Surveillance,
Koreans in Japan, Labor Relations, Censorship, Arbitration) and had overseas
offices in Shanghai, London and Berlin. The TOKKO investigated a large number
of internal "problems" including Japanese listening to foreign music
or reading foreign books, communists, pacifists and those not showing proper
respect to the Emperor. A network of informants (the Tonari Gumi or Neighborhood
Associations) was established in every building, on every street and on every
block. By 1936, the TOKKO had arrested 59,013 people, bringing 5000 to trial
and giving about half of that prison sentences. Prisoners were forced to write
accounts of how they had become involved with "dangerous thoughts,"
rewriting these essays until their interrogators were happy with the work. These
works then were used to prove their criminal involvement. Eventually, in 1927,
a sub-bureau was added, The Thought Section of the Criminal Affairs Bureau,
to deal with these subversive actions.
In Japan and her occupied territories, the Kempei Tai was a feared organization.
They were the involved in all aspects of both law enforcement and societal control.
They were police patrolling a city block or rural region. They were the censors
watching the mail and newspapers. All their suspects were considered guilty
upon arrest and torture was a common aid to gaining "confessions."
This torture was condoned by the Sambo Hombu (Imperial General Staff)
and was a completely acceptable tool of the Kempei Tai. Torture methods used
were both varied and creative and it has been argued that the Kempei Tai were
the most accomplished torturers since the Inquisition. Under the concept of kikosaku (severe punishment without martial law involvement), the Kempei
Tai agent could become investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner
all in one. It is estimated that most, if not all, domestic servants throughout
Japan and the occupied territories were employed by the Kempei Tai as informers.
In addition to its police duties, the Kempei Tai was to become one of Japan's
foremost espionage and counter-intelligence organs. Working with the Joho-kikan
(Army Intelligence Service) and the many small regional intelligence/special
operations groups (such as the Tokumu Kikan, Hikari Kikan and Tokumu Bu), the
Kempei Tai was to fan out across the empire, fomenting unrest as far away as
the Middle East, conducting espionage in America and rooting out such famous
spies as the Sorge Ring. They would also put one of their own in the top leadership
Hideki Tojo, who would rise to become Prime Minister and virtual dictator of
Japan, had previously been commander of the Kwantung Army Kempei Tai in Manchuquo
from 1935-37 and fully supported the powers the Kempei Tai wielded.
The Kempei Tai generally recruited its permanent enlisted men from those who
held the rank of Jotohei (Superior Privates) and who met the rigorous physical
and mental requirements of the unit. If a particular soldier had a useful
skill or as more numbers were needed due to the growth of the Kempei Tai and
wartime losses, Ittohei (First Class Privates) and Nitohei (Second Class Privates)
could be recruited. The enlisted men underwent either training in military
police schools or with special units and received additional training on Kempei
Tai methods and ideology from within the unit. NCOs and Officers-NCOs (Kashikan)
and Field Officers (Sakan) were held to an even higher selection standard
than the regular enlisted, with six or more years of service in the army before
they were even accepted to the Kempei Tai as the norm. Most officers were
graduates of various military academies.
After selection, they underwent extensive training under the Kempei Tai to
turn them into police and agents. The selection process did become watered
down, however, as the war progressed and more numbers were needed. The Kempei
Tai operated a number of special schools for training its members. Before
the war, there were two main training facilities, one in Tokyo and on in Keijo
(Seoul). After the outbreak of hostilities with the west, two additional schools
opened in Singapore and Manila. There was also the Koho Kimmu Yoin Yoseijo
(Rear Service Personal Training Center) which opened at Kudan, Tokyo in 1938.
This school taught espionage methods to the Kempei Tai, including explosives,
organization of Fifth Columns, code breaking, and horsemanship. Foreign language
training tended to be substandard and the Kempei Tai relied on interpreters
in the operations. Disguise and surveillance were also taught, with students
infiltrating Japanese units to report on the troops as a field exercise.
Area Army: This would be the relevant army to which the Kempei Tai unit was
attached and technically subordinate to.
Kempei Tai Headquarters: The headquarters staff of the Kempei Tai for each
army or area. Commanded by a Shosho (Major General) with
a Taisa (Colonel) as Executive Officer.
Field Kempei Tai: These were the largest organizations of Kempei Tai in the
field and there were 2-3 assigned to each army. Each consists of
a Chusa (Lieutenant Colonel) as commander, 22 Field Officers and 352 other
Buntai (Sections): These are the next smaller units of the Kempei Tai that
make up the Field Kempei Tai groups. Each is commanded by a
Tai-i (Captain) with a Chu-i (1st Lieutenant) as his Executive Officer and
has 65 other troops.
Bunkentai (Detachments): The smallest unit of Kempei Tai, these were commanded
by a Sho-i (2nd Lieutenant) with a Junshikan (Warrant
Officer) as Executive Officer and 20 other troops.
Kempei Tai members generally found themselves placed in one of three sections
within the organization:
Keimu Han (Police)
Naikin Han (Administration)
Tokumu Han (Special Duties)
There were also auxiliary units to support the Kempei Tai consisting of regional
ethnic forces in occupied areas. These native troops supplemented the Kempei
Tai and were considered part of the organization but were forbidden by law to
rise above the rank of Shocho (Sergeant Major). They were under the command
of the regional Kempei Tai headquarters. These troops were looked down upon
by the Japanese and were frequently ill-treated, leading to them carrying out
brutality on those under them from frustration and petty revenge.
The Japanese Navy also formed a smaller and more low key group of police who
were no less brutal than their Kempei Tai counterparts. The Tokei-Tai (Naval
Secret Police) was established to keep the Kempei Tai and the Army from meddling
in Navy affairs. The Tokei-Tai was especially active in the areas of the South
Pacific, the Naval Control Area, as well as having elements in all the same
areas as the Kempei-Tai.
The Kempei Tai had grown to 315 officers and 6000 enlisted by 1937. This growth
continued through the war, with its peak strengths and their locations listed
North China: 4,253
South China: 1.094
Kwantung Army: 4,946
Central China: 6,115
French Indochina: 479
South Seas: 89
These were the members of the known, public forces. The US Army estimated that
by the end of World War Two, there were at least 75,000 members of the Kempei
Tai, figuring in undercover personnel and so on. This number might be even higher.
Much like Nazi Germany, Japan actually benefited from the patronage of the Americans
after the war and the emerging Cold War. Few of the war criminals found themselves
even brought to trial and many of those that were found themselves pardoned
after very short stays in prison. Members of the Kempei Tai found employment
in the newly reorganized police and military forces of Japan, while the infamous
medical teams found employment with either the Americans or in Japan's new technology
growth. Many of the old structures simply changed names, purged a few individuals
and continued operations similar to before. Today, they are still alliances
between the Zaibatsu, the government and military and the Yakuza. Ultranationalism
is not dead in Japan, either. Sometimes it manifests in an overt manner, such
as the Aum cult, and sometimes in just a general racism carried by certain segments
of the population. With the world's second largest defense budget, a massive
base, dwindling resources and very real regional concerns, the militarists may
yet push Japan back down a dark road towards war. . .
Kempei Tai: The Japanese Secret Service Then and Now by Richard Deacon (ISBN
Kempeitai: Japan's Dreaded Military Police by Raymond Lamont-Brown (ISBN0-7509-1566-8)
Warriors of the Rising Sun: A History of the Japanese Military by Robert B.
Edgerton (ISBN 0-8133-3600-7)
Shadows Dancing: Japanese Espionage Against the West, 1939-1945 by Tony Matthews
Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II by Yuki Tanaka (ISBN 0-8133-2718-0)
Japan's War by Edwin P. Hoyt (ISBN 0-306-80348-8)
Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army by Meirion
and Susie Harries (ISBN 0-679-75303-6)
Unit 731 Testimony by Hal Gold (ISBN 4-900737-39-9)
Japan's Secret War by Robert K. Wilcox
Handbook on Japanese Military Forces by the US War Department (ISBN 0-8071-2013-8)
The Encyclopedia of Espionage by Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen (ISBN 0-517-20269-7)
Other Works of Interest :
Sons of Heaven: A Portrait of the Japanese Monarchy by Jerrold M. Packard
Myths and Legends of Japan by F. Hadland Davis (ISBN 0-486-27045-9)
The Code of the Samurai by A. L. Sadler (ISBN 0-8048-1535-6)
Everyday Life in Traditional Japan by Charles J. Dunn (ISBN 0-8048-1384-1)
Legends of the Samurai by Hiroaki Sato (ISBN 0-87951-619-4)
Warriors of Japan by Paul Varley (ISBN 0-8248-1601-3)
Secrets of the Samurai by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook (ISBN 0-8048-1684-0)
The Coming War with Japan by George Friedman and Meredith Lebard (ISBN 0-312-07677-0)