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Tōyama Mitsuru (center), Kodama Yoshio (first row, second from right) on a meeting of the Black Ocean Society (Gen'yosha), 1929

The Dark/Black Ocean Society (玄洋社 Gen'yōsha) was an influential Pan-Asianism group and secret society active in the Empire of Japan, and was estimated as ultranationalist group by GHQ in International Military Tribunal for the Far East.[1]


  • Foundation as the Koyōsha 1
  • Foundation as the Gen'yōsha 2
  • Legacy 3
  • In popular culture 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Notes 7

Foundation as the Koyōsha

Originally founded as the Koyōsha by parliament instead.

Foundation as the Gen'yōsha

The memorial of Gen-yōsha

In 1881, the Koyōsha changed its direction again. This time, the declared aims of the Gen'yōsha were "to honor the Imperial Family, respect the Empire and to guard the rights of the people". However, its true agenda was to agitate for Japanese military expansion and conquest of the Asian continent. The true agenda was reflected in its new name of Gen'yōsha, taken after the Genkainada strait which separates Japan from Korea.[3]

The tactics which the Gen'yōsha was prepared to use to achieve its goals were also far from peaceful. It began as a liberal politicians.[4]

In 1889, the Gen'yōsha strongly criticized the unequal treaty revision plan drafted by foreign minister Okuma Shigenobu. A Gen'yōsha member threw a bomb which wounded him severely.[5] In the election of 1892, the Gen'yōsha mounted a campaign of intimidation and violence with the tacit support of the Matsukata administration to influence the outcome of the election.

One of the primary targets of the Gen'yōsha were the many Chinese secret societies, some of which were very hostile to Japan. However, the Chinese secret societies had a shared goal with the Gen'yōsha in wanting the overthrow of the Qing dynasty.[6] In 1881, Mitsuru Toyama sent over 100 men into China to gather information and to infiltrate these secret societies. One of the first and most detailed histories of the secret societies was written by Gen'yōsha member Hiraya Amane, who assisted in the establishment of the Gen'yōsha's Chinese headquarters in Hangzhou. The Gen'yōsha not only provided funds and weapons to the secret societies, but also arranged for refuge in Japan for leaders exposed by the Qing government. The Gen'yosha established a large network of brothels across China (and later throughout Southeast Asia) to provide meeting locations, and also to gather information. In addition to being a profitable side-business, the brothels provided opportunities to gather useful information for the later blackmail or subversion of patrons. However, although blackmail and bribery were often resorted to, more often information was obtained by employing prostitutes highly skilled in extracting information for their clients. The Gen'yōsha even established a training school for such agents in Sapporo in Hokkaidō.

Another sphere of Gen'yōsha activity was Korea. The Gen'yōsha established a task force to prepare detailed topographical survey maps of Korea in secret, in anticipation of a future Japanese invasion. The Gen'yōsha also actively supported the Donghak Movement, knowing that the uprising was likely to draw China and Japan into a war. The assassination of Queen Min of Korea in 1895 is believed to have been conducted by Gen'yosha members, at the instigation of the Japanese Minister in Seoul, Miura Goro.[7]

Originally ignored by the Japanese military, during the First Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War, both the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy found the Gen'yōsha’s extensive intelligence gathering network throughout East Asia to be invaluable. The Gen'yōsha network was also useful for the military in conducting sabotage activities behind enemy lines.

In the Russian Far East, east of Lake Baikal, Japanese prostitutes (Karayuki-san) and merchants made up the majority of the Japanese community in the region after the 1860s.[8] Japanese nationalist groups like the Black Ocean Society (Genyōsha) and Amur River Society-(Kokuryūkai), glorified and applauded the 'Amazon army' of Japanese prostitutes in the Russian Far East and Manchuria and enrolled them as members.[9] Certain missions and intelligence gathering were performed around Vladivostok and Irkutsk by Japanese prostitutes.[10]

After the annexation of Korea in 1910, the Gen'yōsha continued to support efforts towards Pan-Asianism. Domestically, it formed a political party called the Dai Nippon Seisantō (Greater Japan Production Party) to combat the influence of socialism in worker trade unions.

Towards its later years, the Gen'yōsha was far removed from its origins as a secret society, but had evolved almost to the mainstream of Japanese politics. A number of cabinet ministers and members of the Japanese Diet were known members, and mainstream political leaders, such as Hirota Koki and Nakano Seigo emerged from its ranks. It continued to exert considerable influence on the politics and foreign policy of Japan until the end of World War II.

The Gen'yōsha was disbanded by the American authorities during the Occupation of Japan.


The Gen'yōsha was the forerunner of a number of organizations which inherited and developed its ideology. It also set the stage for the post-World War II ties between crime syndicates.

Although modern yakuza share many of Gen'yōsha's political and social philosophies, and although many of Gen'yōsha's members were drawn from yakuza ranks, the Gen'yōsha was primarily a political organization that often used criminal means to attain its goals, and was not a yakuza itself, as some authors have claimed.

In popular culture

The Black Ocean Society is mentioned several times as a front for the worldwide Cthulhu cult in game supplements released by Chaosium and Pagan Publishing in support of their Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green role playing games.

It is also presented as a Japanese intelligence agency in the appendix for TSR's Top Secret.

In the BattleTech science-fiction wargaming franchise, Genyosha is the name of a pair of elite units in the military of the Draconis Combine faction, which takes much of its cultural and thematic inspiration from feudal Japan.

See also


  • Min, Anchee (2003). The Last Empress. Houghton Mifflin.  
  • Gordon, Andrew (2003). A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. Oxford University Press.  
  • Jacob, Frank (2012). Die Thule-Gesellschaft und die Kokuryûkai: Geheimgesellschaften im global-historischen Vergleich. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.  
  • Victor, George (2005). The Pearl Harbor Myth, Rethinking the Unthinkable. Potomac Books Inc.  
  • Crowdey, George (2006). The Enemy Within, A History of Espionage. Osprey Publishing.  


  1. ^ 玄洋社社史編纂会 1977 『玄洋社社史』近代資料出版会=History of Genyosha(written in Japanese)
  2. ^ Crowdey, The Enemy Within, page 215
  3. ^ Victor, The Pearl Harbor Myth, Rethinking the Unthinkable, page 128
  4. ^ Crowdey, The Enemy Within, page 217
  5. ^ Gordon, A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, page 92
  6. ^ Harries, Soldiers of the Sun, The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army
  7. ^ Min, The Last Empress, page 203
  8. ^ Li Narangoa; R. B. Cribb (2003). Li Narangoa; R. B. Cribb, eds. Imperial Japan and National Identities in Asia, 1895-1945. Volume 31 of NIAS studies in Asian topics: Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier (Issue 31 of Nordic Institute of Asian Studies monograph series, Issue 31 of Studies on Asian topics, Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier København) (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 45.  
  9. ^ Li Narangoa; R. B. Cribb (2003). Li Narangoa; R. B. Cribb, eds. Imperial Japan and National Identities in Asia, 1895-1945. Volume 31 of NIAS studies in Asian topics: Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier (Issue 31 of Nordic Institute of Asian Studies monograph series, Issue 31 of Studies on Asian topics, Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier København) (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 46.  
  10. ^ Jamie Bisher (2006). White Terror: Cossack Warlords of the Trans-Siberian. Routledge. p. 59.  

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