top of page
  • Val Anderson

The Footfalls of History

The Rest of the Story- Takeo Yoshikawa; from playboy spy to poverty

Takeo Yoshikawa, code-named Tadashi Morimura, wove his way into the Money Eater; Bernard Otto Kuehn and Pearl Harbor’s Final Warning because he used RCA to transmit his coded radiograms to Tokyo in 1941. He also activated sleeper agent Bernard Kuehn whose story will soon be available on Amazon. I wrote Kuehn's story while we wait to hear back from the Navy Institute about the publication of Pearl Harbor's Final Warning.

Lantern-jawed and clean-cut, Yoshikawa easily fell into his role as a carefree playboy spy while he gathered information for Tokyo in 1941. A graduate of the Japanese Naval Academy, Yoshikawa washed out of the regular navy because of tuberculosis. But, intelligence work was right up his alley because of his keen memory. He became an expert of the ships in the U.S. fleet, and studied the layout of the bases on Hawaii, Guam, and Manila. And he spoke English well. He quickly became an important asset for the Japanese intelligence services under Captain Kanji Ogawa, the Chief of the American Section for Japanese Naval Intelligence in Tokyo.[1] Yoshikawa's first undercover assignment was at the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu. There he posed as an aide for Consulate General N. Kita.

One of Yoshikawa's favorite hangouts in Honolulu was the two-story Japanese style Shunchu-ro Tea House (situated on a point jutting out from Alewa Heights) that had a telescope for the guests to use. Pearl would snap into focus with just a twist of the dial. While Yoshikawa waited for the Geisha girls to serve tea, he counted ships coming and going, PBY flying boats taking off for patrol duty, and submarines docking for duty or R&R. Other times he'd reconnoiter Oahu's defenses in disguise: as a garbage man, a plantation laborer, a tourist, you name it. He took Geisha girls flying over bases and for rides on flat bottom boats to scan the harbor. And he partied late into the night listening to details spilled by the loose lips of drunken sailors. He was so good with his cover that consulate personnel thought him a worthless lay-about. He even fooled the FBI who kept a close watch on consulate personnel. His last observation report was filed the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

After the attack, he, along with other Honolulu consulate staff members, were arrested by the FBI.[2] During the round-up, Yoshikawa was found burning papers and code books. The State Department refused to prosecute him and his fellow staff members over J. Edgar Hoover's objections. The department feared retaliation against US diplomats held in Japan. Instead, the State Department transported the lot to the mainland. There, they were detained at Triangle T Guest Ranch near Dragoon, Arizona, a retreat that had previously hosted the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts The ranch later became the set for many cowboy movies.

The State Department hosted the 23 diplomats,paying for everything. Tended to by a local doctor, housemaids and chefs, the detainees were even given money for toiletries and clothes that were purchased for them on weekly shopping trips because they were not allowed to leave the compound. Curiosity seekers were chased away at gunpoint by the U.S. Border Patrol. Yoshikawa was eventually repatriated to Japan in June of 1942, as part of a diplomatic prisoner exchange conducted aboard the ocean liner MS Gripsholm.[3]

Once in Japan, he returned to work for the intelligence division of the Naval General Staff. He also got married. When the war ended, he disguised himself as a Buddhist Monk and went into hiding fearing prosecution from Americans. However, it wasn’t until 1953 that the United States discovered that he had been a spy when he revealed his role to the world during an interview in Japan. Once the word was out, locals shunned him somehow blaming him for the atrocities that had befallen their country. Yoshikawa was unable to find work or sustain himself as a self-employed candy shop owner because of the shunning. He was forced to live off his wife’s insurance sales income in shame.[4] As the years passed, everyone but his wife forgot his glory-days as the Japanese equivalent of James Bond. He never received any recognition from Japan for his service and died penniless in a nursing home in 1993.

[1] Farago, The Broken Seal, p. 139.

[2] Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 8 December 1941, p.1.

[3] accessed 1-20-19.

[4] 1-20-2019.

153 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page