The Kokuryūkai was founded in 1901 by martial artist Uchida Ryohei as a successor to his mentor Mitsuru Tōyama's Gen'yōsha. Its name is derived from the translation of the Amur River, which is called Heilongjiang or "Black Dragon River" in Chinese (黑龍江?), read as Kokuryū-kō in Japanese. Its public goal was to support efforts to keep the Russian Empire north of the Amur River and out of East Asia.
The Kokuryūkai initially made strenuous efforts to distance itself from the criminal elements of its predecessor, the Gen'yōsha. As a result, its membership included Cabinet Ministers and high-ranking military officers as well as professional intelligence operatives. However, as time passed, it found the use of criminal activities to be a convenient means to an end for many of its operations.
The Society published a journal, the Kokuryū Kaiho (Amur Bulletin) and operated an espionage training school, from which it dispatched agents to gather intelligence on Russian activities in Russia, Manchuria, Korea and China. Ikki Kita was sent to China as a special member of the organization. It also pressured Japanese politicians to adopt a strong foreign policy. The Kokuryūkai also supported Pan-Asianism, and lent financial support to revolutionaries such as Sun Yat-sen and Emilio Aguinaldo.
During the Russo-Japanese War, annexation of Korea and Siberian Intervention, the Imperial Japanese Army made use of the Kokuryūkai network for espionage, sabotage and assassination. They organized Manchurian guerrillas against the Russians from the Chinese warlords and bandit chieftains in the region, the most important being Marshal Zhang Zuolin. 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 Japanese army.
The Kokuryūkai assisted the Japanese spy, Colonel Motojiro Akashi. 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 contacts in Central Asia were maintained through World War II. The Black Dragons also formed close contact and even alliances with Buddhist sects throughout Asia.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the Kokuryūkai evolved into more of a mainstream political organization, and publicly attacked liberal and leftist thought. Although it never had more than several dozen members at any one time during this period, the close ties of its membership to leading members of the government, military and powerful business leaders gave it a power and influence far greater than most other ultranationalist groups. In 1924, retired naval captain Yutaro Yano and his associates within the Black Dragon Society invited Oomoto leader Onisaburo Deguchi on a journey to Mongolia. Onisaburo led a group of Oomoto disciples, including Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba.
Initially directed only against Russia, in the 1930s, the Kokuryūkai expanded its activities around the world, and stationed agents in such diverse places as Ethiopia, Turkey, Morocco, throughout Southeast Asia and South America, as well as Europe and the United States.
The Kokuryūkai was officially disbanded by order of the American Occupation authorities in 1946. According to Brian Daizen Victoria's book, Zen War Stories, the Black Dragon Society was reconstituted in 1961 by Ōmori Sōgen as the Black Dragon Club (Kokuryū-Kurabu) with the aim to "succeed to the spirit of the [prewar] Black Dragon Society and promote the [Shōwa] restoration." According to Victoria, the Kokuryū-Kurabu never attracted more than 150 members.
Activities in the United StatesEdit
As part of their effort to support such organizations, the Black Dragon Society sent an agent, Satokata Takahashi, to promote pan-Asianism and claim that Japan would treat them as racial equals. He would become a patron of Elijah Muhammed and the Nation of Islam, as well as the Pacific Movement of the Eastern World. Sankichi Takahashi may have also been a member.
- Kaplan, David (2012). Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld. Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0520274907.
- Jacob, Frank (2016). "Secret Societies in Japan and Preparation for the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)". Diacronie (N° 28, 4). doi:10.4000/diacronie.4738. Retrieved 2022-06-02.
- Victoria, Brian Daizen (2003). Zen War Stories. Routledge, p. 61. ISBN 978-0700715817.
- Kearney, Reginald (1998). African American Views of the Japanese: Solidarity or Sedition? New York: SUNY Press. p. 77.
- Jones, David (May 17, 2014). "Chinese Triads, Japanese Black Dragons & Hidden Paths of Power". New Dawn. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
- 1942 World War II Chronology Archived 2007-12-16 at the Wayback Machine
- Burton, Jeffery F. (2002). Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites. University of Washington Press. p. 172.
- Inada, Lawson Fusao (2000). Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. Berkeley: Heyday Books, on behalf of the California Historical Society. pp. 161-162.
- Deacon, Richard (1983). Kempei Tai: A History of the Japanese Secret Service. New York: Berkley Publishing Company. ISBN 0425074587.
- Jacob, Frank (2012). Die Thule-Gesellschaft und die Kokuryûkai: Geheimgesellschaften im global-historischen. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann. ISBN 978-3826049095.
- Jacob, Frank, ed. (2012). Geheimgesellschaften: Kulturhistorische Sozialstudien (Secret Societies: Comparative Studies in Culture, Society and History). Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann. ISBN 978-3826049088.
- Jacob, Frank (2014). Japanism, Pan-Asianism and Terrorism: A Short History of the Amur Society (The Black Dragons), 1901-1945. Palo Alto: Academica Press. ISBN 978-1936320752.
- Kaplan, David, and Alec Dubro (2004). Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 18–21. ISBN 0520274903.
- Polmar, Norman, and Thomas B. Allen (1997). Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0679425144.
- Saaler, Sven (2011). "The Kokuryûkai, 1901-1920" (Chapter 10). In: Saaler, Sven, and Christopher W. A. Szpilman, eds. Pan-Asianism: A Documentary History, Vol. 1: 1859-1920. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 121–132.
- Saaler, Sven (2014). "The Kokuryûkai (Black Dragon Society) and the Rise of Nationalism, Pan-Asianism, and Militarism in Japan, 1901-1925." International Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 125–160. doi:10.1017/S147959141400014X.