It was 1903 and in less than a year Japan and Russia would be at war. Russian intelligence officers would have paid dearly for information that Ryohei Uchida was in Vladivostok, Russia and that Japan's first overseas judo dojo, the Urajio, was in reality a secret headquarters for the spy activities of the Black Dragon Society.
The dojo in Vladivostok was ran by six hand picked men. These men were hand picked by Ryohei Uchida to specifaically cater to young Russian military officers by exposing them to the new japanese art of judo and hopefully gain access onto the miliatry base under the quise of instructing officers in judo.
In all the annals of Japanese history there has been nothing more mysterious and sinister than this secret organization. The Kokuryu-kai flourished as a special headquarters for espionage, sabotage, revolution, intimidation and assassination.
Known to a relative few in Japan, and then only by the innocuous name of the Amur River Society, the Kokuiyu-kai was founded in 1901 by Ryohei Uchida. In the 40 years of its shadowy, cloak-and-dagger existence, the long hand of the Black Dragon Society could be found in wars and revolutions, the assassination of a queen and the abdication of an emperor, the murder of prime ministers, the overthrow of cabinets, the intimidation of statesmen, the annexation of foreign colonies and the operation of extensive overseas spy rings. It even organized and financed Manchurian bandits, Korean fanatics and Filipino revolutionaries.
Uchida was the descendant of a long line of samurai, one of whom had been exiled to an offshore island for his rebellious nature. His father, Ryogoro Uchida, served in the Kuroda clan as a bushi in the late Edo Period, and it was from his father that the young Uchida developed an ambition to see Japan expand into Korea.
Uchida's father Ryogoro, was quite famous in Kyushu for his skill in the martial arts, attaining great proficiency in the Itoryu School of kendo, the Shinto-Muso ryu School of jojutsu and the Kyushin-ryu school of jujitsu. Ryohei Uchida attained repute as a renowned marksman in kyudo at a very early age. He was also a fine sumo wrestler, while his father became his personal coach in kendo and jojutsu. Uchida also began to study judo.
As a youth, Uchida joined the Genyosha nationalist group, and soon became the leading disciple of its founder, Toyama Mitsuru. The Genyosha was active in raising funds and agitating for a more aggressive foreign policy towards the Asian mainland. When the Donghak Rebellion began in Korea in 1894, Uchida went to Korea to help the rebels.
While in Korea Uchida had taken over the tactical operation of the Genyosha and organized a subsidiary group called Tenyuko (God-Gifted Samurai) — 12 handpicked adventurers dedicated to the task of ensuring that Japan would not be robbed of the fruits of its victory over China. The 12 men hand picked by Uchida created a small riot, and in the confusion, dressed as tonghaks, but wearing masks, they successfully entered the Royal house and slew the queen, Empress Myeongseong . The tonghaks, rebellious Koreans, took the blame for the incident.
By 1895 Uchida(second from right; front row) was in Tokyo at Toyogo University studying russian language. He also worked out at the Kodokan and established a special relationship with shihan Jigoro Kano. Ryohei achieved the rank of go-dan, and some years later became master of the Keio University Judo Club. His father not only continued to coach him daily in jojutsu, but also found time to teach Navy men and police in the art of the short stick.
The young Uchida also played a part in organizing the first judo dojo in Kyushu together with Jigoro Kano in 1897. Called "Tenshinkan," it was headed by a colleague of Uchida named Hyozo Chiba who later became the first instructor to visit the U.S. to teach judo. Needless to say, the young volunteers who comprised the membership of the newly organized Dark Ocean Society and later the Black Dragon Society were given a thorough indoctrination in the martial arts as well as in the ultra-nationalistic philosophy of the two societies.
Front row Left to Right: Ryohei Uchida, K. Iizuka, Sakuzo Uchida, Ikkan Miyakawa. Back Row: Isogai, Nagaoka, Jigoro Kano (seated) Yoshitsugu Yamashita (taught Pres. Teddy Rosevelt Judo).
Toyama mapped out the policies, while Uchida directed the operations. Singly, each man was impressive and powerful in his own right, but together they made an unbeatable pair. They sent literally hundreds of their followers to Manchuria and-Siberia as secret agents.
Mitsuru Toyama was just beginning to make good headway when he suddenly locked horns with the stubborn Prince Ito who favored coming to an understanding with Russia. As the nation's leading elder statesman, Prince Ito exerted more influence on governmental policy than any other single man in Japan. Toyama realized that unless the Prince threw his support behind those advocating a war policy, there would be no war and the Black Dragon's cherished crusade of driving Russia out of all territory below the Amur River (dividing Manchuria from Russia) to make way for Japanese expansion would collapse.
One day in the summer of that year, 1903, Toyama and three burly judoka approached Prince Ito at his seaside villa in Oiso, some 50 miles south of Tokyo. By cajoling, flattering and threatening the Prince, Toyama was able to alter the Prince's war policy.
When war with Russia finally came in 1904, the Japanese Imperial Army took the Kokuryu-kai under its wing temporarily as an intelligence organ. Black Dragon agents were even attached to the army in the field as interpreters and guides.
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