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The secret untold story of Richard Hughes and YOLT

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#1 glidrose


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Posted 22 June 2017 - 09:44 PM

Main article: http://www.japantime...e/#.WUmZk-0rLbg

A much shorter, alternate version of the article appears in the Sydney Morning Herald : http://www.smh.com.a...610-gwoq2w.html

The extraordinary untold Japan story of ‘You Only Live Twice’
On the 50th anniversary of the premiere of the fifth 'James Bond' film in Japan, we explore spy rings in Tokyo, a secretive Sherlock Holmes society and an Australian double agent behind 007's Japanese adventure

[I'm only posting excerpts here on CBn.]

But what has remained little known to this day is that the novel [You Only Live Twice] holds the key to an even more extraordinary real-life story of international espionage that had a profound impact both on the course of World War II and the Cold War. At the heart of it was an exclusive Tokyo-based Sherlock Holmes society called the Baritsu Chapter run by an apparently boorish Australian reporter called Richard Hughes, a close personal friend and colleague of Fleming.


As a child Hughes had been a devoted fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and boasted an encyclopedic knowledge of their contents. He even met his idol, Arthur Conan Doyle, in Australia and used to sign some of his own writings “Dr. Watson Jr.”


Hughes was a widower with a young son, but nursed an ambition to live in Asia and decided to take a boat to Japan. He left his son in the care of his grandparents in Melbourne while he headed into a world – on the cusp of the outbreak of the Pacific War – seething with espionage activity.


At a time when many of his newspaper colleagues were heading to Europe to cover Britain’s struggle with Nazi Germany, Hughes opted to move to Japan. He entered a world seething with espionage activity, where the distinctions between “foreign reporters” and spies were paper thin. Among the press cohort in Tokyo, he became acquainted with Richard Sorge, a German reporter, whom he assumed to be nothing more than the hateful Nazi he appeared to be.

What neither Hughes nor anyone else suspected in 1940 was that Sorge was one of the greatest spies in history, an agent of the Soviet Union controlling a ring of 16 communist spies in Japan.


After less than a year in Tokyo, Hughes, sensing the imminence of war with Japan and keen to alert Australia and America to the danger, packed his own notebooks full of sensitive information and headed back to Australia at the beginning of 1941.

When the war ended, Hughes returned to live in Japan, now under American Occupation, and became manager of No. 1 Shimbun Alley, a rowdy foreign correspondents’ club situated next to the residential wing of the Soviet Embassy. The club was the meeting ground of reporters, former soldiers and spies, many of whom conducted illicit liaisons in its bedrooms.

The Cold War deepened in 1948 over the Berlin Airlift. Hughes was dismissed as manager of the club and swore never to return to it. At the same time, he started working as a foreign correspondent for London’s Sunday Times, under its foreign manager Ian Fleming, who had played a distinguished role in British naval intelligence during World War II and presided over many crucial covert operations.

Hughes now created his own intelligence network by founding the Baritsu Chapter, supposedly the Asian section of the Baker Street Irregulars, a Sherlock Holmes appreciation society first founded in the U.S. in 1934. “Baritsu” is the name given to a fictional form of martial art that Holmes is described as using to defeat his arch-nemesis, Moriarty, while wrestling with him at the Reichenbach Falls.


The Baritsu Chapter might have appeared as an innocuous recreational hobby for Hughes, but it was actually a cunning way of keeping in close contact with the highest strata of power and information — from U.S. correspondents close to the Occupation authorities to the prime minister himself.

Hughes had carefully absorbed the precepts of Hotsumi Ozaki, the right-hand man of spy master Richard Sorge, that the best means of acquiring information was to appear not to want to know it. In the relaxed boozy atmosphere of the Baritsu Chapter — whose papers are currently being researched by scholar Takeshi Shimizu — Hughes was bringing together some of the greatest founts of information in Occupation Japan.

When the Korean War erupted in 1950, the front line of the Cold War transferred to this corner of East Asia: Tokyo once more simmered with espionage activity. At a party, the Russians discreetly asked Hughes if he would consider selling secrets to them. Hughes notified Fleming in London, who in turn consulted MI6, Britain’s Secret Service.

Briefed by Fleming and MI6, Hughes pretended to accept the Russian approach and asked for double the money to convince the KGB of his seriousness. Hughes’ career as a double agent had begun. He set about providing the KGB information prepared by MI6 and picked as his codename “Altamont,” the alias of Sherlock Holmes when he frustrates the plot of the German spy Von Bork in “His Last Bow.”

Hughes had not just started a new life working as a double agent instructed by Fleming — he actually believed that Fleming had saved his life. When in 1950 Hughes had wished to go and report on the Korean War, Fleming had strenuously ordered him not to go. Hughes dithered until the last moment and three other journalists kept him a seat free on their jeep. Hughes finally bowed to Fleming’s wishes. The jeep went ahead without him, hit a land mine and all three journalists were killed.

Rescued from certain death, the second life that Hughes started as a double agent would see him act out the kind of espionage fantasies that Fleming ascribed to James Bond, the fictional hero whom he began to depict in his famous series of novels from 1953.


In 1955, Fleming sent Hughes to Moscow, where he stayed for three months, nominally to gain an interview with Nikita Khrushchev ahead of his first state visit to the U.K. But the greater glory would be to gain a confirmed sighting of the notorious British spies for the Soviet Union Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, who had disappeared from the U.K. in 1951 and whose subsequent movements were unknown.

Hughes could hardly believe his luck when on his last day in Moscow he was led to Room 101 of the Hotel National and introduced to Burgess and Maclean in person. Hughes returned to London the toast of Fleet Street.

By the mid-1950s Hughes had moved his base from Tokyo to Hong Kong, in order to more effectively monitor communist China and the increasing tensions in Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Hughes would soon gain a reputation as the pre-eminent “China watcher,” able through his network of contacts to discern the true situation in the communist citadel through the mist of official pronouncements during the eras of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.


They [Fleming and Hughes] next moved on to Kyoto, where Fleming showed a keen interest in the Shimabara former courtesans’ house (Fleming counted the bedrooms) and in the Jinya house in Nijo with its nightingale floor warning of approaching assassins. Hughes described it as a “house of secret corridors and sudden death.”

They then journeyed down the Inland Sea to the onsen spa of Beppu on Kyushu. Their destination was the city of Fukuoka — Hughes later regretted not choosing Nagasaki instead — which in the novel would be close to the hideout of Bond’s nemesis Blofeld, and where they inspected a provincial police station. Hughes and Fleming were accompanied by Hughes’ friend, Torao (“Tiger”) Saito, whom Hughes described as “a distinguished editor, photographer and architect.”

Fleming gorged on plates of oysters, smoked cigarettes elegantly from a holder and drank bottles of Bourbon he had brought with him. (Scotch was bad for the heart, he told Hughes, but Bourbon relaxed the cardiac muscles.) He and Hughes also drank prodigious amounts of sake.

He warned Hughes and Saito in advance that they would be appearing in the novel, which he wrote during that winter at his Goldeneye retreat in Jamaica. Hughes would be Dikko Henderson and Saito would be Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese Secret Service, depicted as a former spy and would-be kamikaze pilot.


All the more extraordinary is that Hughes managed to live twice in literary fiction. Spy writer John le Carre depicted Hughes in the guide of "Old Craw", a Hong Kong-based M16 operative in The Honourable Schoolboy, the sequel to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. He described Hughes as a "journalistic Eiffel Tower".


Still Hughes refused to admit that he was actively involved in espionage, despite being “outed” by two of the world’s most famous spy authors. When asked why he kept being depicted as a spy — despite claiming to be nothing more than a journalist — Hughes would wink and go into his habitual mocking faux-archbishop mode, claiming he could only admit to certain things inside a confessional.


This once renowned but now largely forgotten Australian reporter – the father of jazz pianist Richard Hughes and grandfather of singer Christa Hughes.


The ever-colorful and enigmatic Hughes died in 1984. He had aspired to be a second Sherlock Holmes, but through his founding of the Baritsu Chapter and his double life as the Holmesian spy Altamont, Hughes played a key role in the world of Cold War espionage.

Fleming died of a heart attack in 1964, the same year as “You Only Live Twice” — a novel obsessed with decline and mortality — was published.

#2 Dustin



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Posted 23 June 2017 - 10:25 AM

Fascinating reading, a true gem of a find. Thank you for sharing this, glidrose.

#3 ggl



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Posted 23 June 2017 - 12:56 PM

Thanks. Great article about Dikko...

#4 clublos



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Posted 23 June 2017 - 06:37 PM

Excellent article, thanks for posting