Russian intelligence penetrates Japan’s ministry and military

Very few people are knowledgeable about how Russia penetrated Japan’s ministry and military with agents feeding intelligence back to Moscow. The Russians are masters of the game of espionage, intelligence and counter intelligence. In this article, Mark Hackard takes us through this story of how Itiro Kuroba (“Asian origin” masquerading as a Japanese) and how his network of agents fed Moscow intelligence on Japan. This is why I am intrigued by this Gregory Gumo case: How he ended up in Yokohama, Japan. Gumo isn’t related to this story of espionage. It’s just that I like digging deep on connections and in Gumo’s case, there seemed to have been a connection somewhere between New York and Yokohama when he first arrived in Japan in late 2002. This is all relatively very recent with this espionage case coming to an end in 1997. When I first arrived in Japan, it was well known that Tokyo was a mecca for espionage and spying. Wonder how close I might have walked past Itiro Kuroba on Tokyo streets?

This story appeared at

Moscow’s Master Spy in Japan

August 22, 2015
Mark Hackard

Moscow's master spy in Tokyo

Moscow’s master spy in Tokyo

In August 2008 the Japanese security service revealed details of a remarkable spy saga with all the makings of a Le Carre novel, if a bit further east. A deep-cover Russian intelligence officer of unspecified “Asian origin” masqueraded as a Japanese man and ran an espionage network in Tokyo over the span of three decades. Japan’s government kept the case under wraps for a number of years, so why did it choose to shed light on this extraordinary intelligence operation only in recent years?

From 1966 to 1995, a gentleman under the name of Itiro Kuroba managed a network of agents that fed Moscow information on Japanese politics as well as military and foreign policy. The real Itiro Kuroba, a native of Honshu, disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1965. A year later, Kuroba’s Soviet doppelgänger miraculously materialized. Using the documents of his vanished predecessor, he began a career in one of Tokyo’s trade companies. The “new” Kuroba then married a Japanese woman, who hadn’t a clue as to her husband’s true identity.

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