This is the follow-up work of the Seagraves after their controversial book The Yamato Dynasty: The Secret History of Japan’s Imperial Family (1999).
Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold (2006) is the chronicle of how the Japanese military joined hands with yakuza and indigenous gangsters alike throughout Japan’s conquered territories in Asia to systematically blackmail, terrorize and loot civilians of valuable assets during the Pacific War. At the risk of simplifying a very complex story that took many decades to unfold, essentially the Japanese military had outsourced spying, intelligence and counter-intelligence activities to the yakuza. The yakuza in turn forged links with indigenous gangsters in occupied lands, who provided valuable information as to what wealth was owned by whom in the local areas and helped to make these blundering operations both effective and efficient. At the top overseeing these activities was Prince Chichibu, younger brother of the Showa Emperor.
An eye-opening account of the Japanese Imperial family from the Meiji Era onwards. It is explosive, controversial and fascinating. It chronicles the colourful life of the bon vivant Meiji Emperor, followed by the reign of the Taisho Emperor and whispers of his mental insanity in corridors of power, to direct war-time involvement on the part of the Showa Emperor and senior-ranking princes and their subsequent bailouts and evasions of war crimes in the post-war era, and finally to the effective hostage of the Imperial Family in the hands of Right-wing conservatives up to the present day.
Two things from the book impressed me in particular:
Reading this book was like having a long conversation with a sophisticated, level-headed observer of Japan who has spent decades digesting the country’s culture and history. Alex Kerr (1952 – present) is a rare mind who possesses a deep appreciation of Japan’s aesthetics and is nonetheless not blind to her darker, dysfunctional sides. In addition to being a Japanologist (he did Japanese studies for his undergraduate degree at Yale), he also has the unique advantage of being also a Sinologist (afterwards he did Chinese studies at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar). In addition to being a scholar and aesthete, he also has the uncommon experience of having also worked as a businessman during the Bubble Era. Only someone with his background could have had the insight and authority to say things like: