The Rash Behari Bose Story
Rash Behari Bose’s story is only marginally related to Nakamura Tempū’s, and consequently I did not included it in Heaven’s Wind. I post it here because it is pertinent to the times in which Tempū lived and people with whom he associated and also because it deserves to be told.
In 1915, a young Bengali, traveling under a name and story that made him out to be a cousin of Nobel Prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore, arrived in Tokyo. The name and story were a ruse; the man was in fact the Indian independence activist Rash Behari Bose, and he would come to be known as “the Nakamuraya’s Bose,” leaving behind as part of his legacy the introduction of Indian curry to Japan.
Bose was on the lam from British authorities in India for his attempted assassination of Viceroy Lord Hardinge and for playing a major role in the Ghadar Conspiracy. The Lord Hardinge incident occurred on 23 December 1912, just as Nakamura Saburō was beginning his third winter in the foothills of eastern Nepal. The British were transferring their colonial capitol from Calcutta to Delhi, and Bose, age twenty-six, together with a younger accomplice, chose the occasion of the ceremonial parade to lob a home-made grenade at Hardinge just as he passed in front of them atop an elephant in the Chandni Chowk market. Lost to the authorities amid the ensuing pandemonium, the men walked calmly to the nearby railway station and boarded a train; Bose was back at his civil service desk at the Forest Research Institute in the hill station of Dehradun by the following morning. Moreover, when Hardinge, who was seriously burned but survived, came to temperate Dehradun to convalesce, Bose took it upon himself to organize the welcoming dinner and, much to Hardinge’s later chagrin when the truth became known, delivered a toast in his honor.
Bose bore Hardinge no personal enmity; he had intended only to send a message to the world that not all of India was content under colonial rule, and in that, he succeeded. Five months later, however, he was found out when a second plot, this one targeting a senior British official in Lahore, went badly awry and exposed him as the prime instigator of both incidents. With wanted posters sporting his picture and a generous reward offered for information leading to his arrest, he disappeared into the chaotic underbelly of the holy city of Varanasi, from where he continued to play a central role in the underground resistance.
The subsequent Ghadar Conspiracy was largely conceived and funded by overseas Indian communities in collusion with the German Empire. Seizing on the drain of British troops to the theaters of the Great War, the initiative’s organizers planned first to incite mutiny among Indian regulars under British command and then to stage a coup; Bose was to spearhead the operation in February 1915 by mounting an insurrection in Lahore. The mutiny was a spectacular failure: British intelligence got wind of the plot and, before it got off the ground, the British Army annihilated the resistance’s foot soldiers and rounded up, tried, and summarily executed most of its leaders.
Bose, who had an extraordinary talent for escape, got away by the narrowest of margins. In Lahore, he slipped past British sentries disguised as a Sikh and traveled overnight by train back to his hiding place in Varanasi. Then, upon concluding, after several months of anguished reflection and consultation with his comrades-in-arms, that he would be of more use to the resistance from outside of India than from within, he boarded a steamship bound for Japan. With no official papers and solely on the strength of his story that he was Rabindranath Tagore’s cousin, he passed both British interrogators in Singapore and Japanese immigration authorities in Kobe.
In Japan, Bose took up residence and even gave interviews under the name P. N. Tagore. His cover was blown, however, when an arms shipment to his compatriots in India, arranged from Shanghai with the help of Sun Yat-sen, still exiled in Japan, was intercepted in Singapore. Unbeknownst to Bose, the shipment bore a paper trail that not only lead to one P. N. Tagore in Tokyo but also exposed Tagore’s true identity, and the British embassy in Tokyo, acting under the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, sued for his extradition.
At first, the Japanese stalled: Anglo-Japanese alliance aside, the majority of Japanese were unsympathetic toward British colonial interests in Asia, and compliance with these demands was sure to invite public outcry. When Bose, unaware that he had been found out and still claiming to be P. N. Tagore, complained to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police that he was being followed, he was told without elaboration that the plainclothesmen tailing him were for his own protection.
But then the British changed their tactics. Rather than suing for extradition on charges of conspiracy and attempted murder, they named Bose and another Indian independence operative named Heramba Lal Gupta, recently arrived in Japan from Berlin, as enemies of state, based on their collusion with Germany. This was a more difficult charge to ignore. On the morning of November 28, Bose and Gupta were served with mandatory removal orders and told they were to either leave the country within five days or face forceful deportation. Furthermore, the order was timed to eliminate the possibility of flight to safe-haven in either Canada or the United States; the only ships leaving Japan during the allotted, five-day window were ones that would land the men in either Shanghai or Hong Kong and thereby deliver them up to British custody.
The notice caught Bose and Gupta completely by surprise. And the man they went running to for help was Tōyama Mitsuru.
Bose had been introduced to Tōyama by Sun Yat-sen. Interpretation at the initial meeting was dependent upon Miyazaki Tōten’s rudimentary English skills, but on subsequent occasions, Tōyama called in Nakamura, and although we have no record of these meetings, Bose was almost certainly delighted to find in Nakamura someone familiar with his native Bengal. But then, neither Miyazaki nor Nakamura were on hand on November 28 when the excited Bose and Gupta showed up at Tōyama’s door. With the help of the plainclothesmen tailing them, who evidently spoke a little English, the Indians explained to Tōyama what had happened. Would the venerable Tōyama, they implored, intervene on their behalves? A fifteen-day reprieve of the removal orders would allow them to board a vessel bound for North America.
Tōyama promptly sent two of his Genyōsha associates to see the foreign minister, but their petitions were summarily rebuffed. He then took the matter to his longtime associate, the parliamentarian Inukai Tsuyoshi, who, in league with two other senior politicians, lobbied not only the foreign minister but also the prime minister, only to be likewise turned away.
Concurrently, Bose and Gupta took their case directly to the court of public opinion. The story of these two freedom fighters being given up to the British by feckless Japanese authorities captured national attention overnight and the two Indians held press conferences and gave interviews. Despite the clamor, however, the government would not be swayed.
Early in the morning of December 1, with less than thirty hours left before the Indians are to be forcefully placed aboard a steamship bound for Shanghai, Tōyama calls upon one of his protégés, Kokuryūkai leader Uchida Ryōhei, to devise a plan: The Kokuryūkai, or Black Dragon Society, is an organization known for its proclivity for drastic action, and drastic is what is now required. To Uchida, Tōyama says, “Making mochi [sweet rice cakes] is the work of a mochi vendor. Rough work is where you come in. My job will be to go to jail, should someone need to take the rap.”
Concealment of two men of color within homogeneous Japan, especially when they are already under police surveillance, is a tall order; nevertheless, by early afternoon, Uchida and his men have come up with a plan. That afternoon, Bose and Gupta are called away from a final press conference underway at the Imperial Hotel and taken to the home of an attorney of international law named Terao Tōru; conveniently, Terao, who is closely associated with the republican activities of Sun Yat-sen, lives next door to Tōyama Mitsuru. To the two plain clothed policemen escorting the Indians, it is explained that Terao will be hosting a farewell dinner; the policemen watch the Indians disappear inside Terao’s front door and, seated stoically in their taxi, wait for them to reappear.
As evening falls, a distinctively rough looking lot of guests began to arrive; most are Genyōsha or Kokuryūkai members. Almost certainly, Nakamura Tempū is among them.
The party is soon underway, and the waiting policemen can hear snippets of toasts proposed, speeches made, and laughter plied with sake becoming ever more boisterous as the evening wears on. Inside, however, a different drama is unfolding. At the height of the merriment, Bose and Gupta are whisked out of Terao’s back door and into Tōyama’s house through a corridor constructed years ago to facilitate Sun Yat-sen’s clandestine comings and goings. They are then outfitted with overcoats and brimmed hats and taken out a side door. Crossing Tōyama’s garden to an alley, they make several turns on back streets before emerging onto a larger street that, today, borders the U.S. Embassy compound. Both Indians are in stocking feet, having left their shoes in Terao’s vestibule.
At the bottom of the hill, they are placed, together with two escorts, into a waiting automobile and sped away in the direction of Shinjuku; on loan from a prominent Genyōsha sympathizer, the shiny new car with driver is guaranteed to outrun any police vehicle. That need, however, never arises, for they reached their destination, a store front and tea room named the Nakamuraya, undetected.
Inside the Nakamuraya, three men are waiting. One-on-one, the men match Bose, Gupta, and one of their escorts in size and stature, and trench coats and hats are exchanged. The three decoys, together with the remaining original escort, return to the car and have it drop them in Yotsuya-Mitsuke before it returns home to its garage. Even the driver, in the dark as to the nature of this nighttime errand, is unaware that the party he delivers to the Nakamuraya is different from the one he carries on his return.
Meanwhile, back at Terao’s, the party is winding down, and the guests, leaving. The plainclothesmen, still seated in their taxi, watch patiently for Bose and Gupta, whose shoes are plainly visible on the shoe rack in the entrance. Eventually, Terao takes pity on the men and ventures out to inform them that the guests have all left; the Indians, who have had a good bit to drink, have evidently walked off without their shoes! Realizing they have been duped, the policemen slump away to file a difficult report back at the station.
Owned and operated by Sōma Aizō and his wife Kuromitsu, the Nakamuraya sold confections and baked goods made on its premises. It was known throughout the city for its light rolls with cream filling, and the pastry usually sold out every day long before closing. In the evening, the store doubled as a salon frequented by Tokyo’s avant-garde art community.
The Sōmas were without strong political affiliation, and nothing about the Nakamuraya suggested it as a probable place of refuge for high-profile political activists. The day before, Aizō had mentioned in passing to a customer—who just happened to also be one of Uchida’s associates—that he would be willing to harbor the Indians were he given the opportunity. The comment was meant as an expression of sympathy, as well as one of disgust for his government’s spinelessness; little did he expect it to precipitate the arrival of the fugitives—by now also celebrities—on his doorstep. Kuromitsu, however, rose immediately to the occasion and took over the task of caring for their charges.
The Nakamuraya had about forty employees, and on the evening of the day following, after the store closed, the Sōmas called a meeting. Speaking in hushed voices and with solemn and resolute demeanors, they brought everyone in on their secret, while at the same time exacting oaths of confidentiality; the employees were to tell no one, not even closest family members. In testament to the Sōmas’ command of their employees’ loyalty, the secret held to the end.
Bose and Gupta’s sanctuary was a small, detached bungalow, once domicile to a short succession of aspiring artists, located behind the store and the Sōma residence. The Indians kept the blinds closed and did not venture out, except for brief moments during the depth of night. Provision of meals, doing of laundry, and bathing proved a true test of courage and nerves for all involved. The stress of confinement finally got to Gupta, who fled during the second month and ended up under the roof of Ōkawa Shūmei, a prominent nationalist and pan-Asian writer and political philosopher; Bose, however, who was already well-practiced in the art of laying low, spent three and one half months inside the Nakamuraya hideaway.
To the consternation of the police, and much to the delight of the popular press, which lit up with the story and spun theories regarding the fugitives’ whereabouts to no end, the two Indians had vanished without a trace. Luck turned at last in the Indians’ favor when a British warship fired on a Japanese steamship in the South China Sea; after forcing the Japanese vessel into Hong Kong, the British boarded it and abducted seven Indian passengers, sparking the outrage of the Japanese government. Not only did Japan condemn the act, but it also rescinded the deportation order on Bose and Gupta.
Gupta left Japan at the first opportunity for the United States, but Bose remained. In the years to follow, he married the Sōmas’ daughter, learned Japanese, and became a Japanese citizen. In 1925, when his wife died at the age of twenty-eight, leaving him with their two small children, grandparents Aizō and Kuromitsu stepped in to care for them, forging an even stronger bond with the exiled Indian. They made Bose a major Nakamuraya shareholder, and in 1927, under Bose’s instruction, the Nakamuraya added a tea salon that featured “Indian curry” on its menu. Curry of English derivation, the origin of modern Japanese curry, was already popular, but Bose’s curry with its Indian bone fides became an instant sensation and soon supplanted the store’s confections in sales. Almost ninety years later, the Nakamuraya is still a Shinjuku institution, and Indian curry, still the mainstay of its menu.
From the 1920s on, Bose became a major figure in the Indian independence movement outside of India. Initially, he was also an outspoken critic of Japanese imperialism in Korea, Manchuria, and China; however, over the years, he came to realize that, rather than arguing to deaf ears about the evils of Japan’s ways, his energies were better spent working to direct Japanese fervor against Western—especially British—colonialism. Japanese colonialism, on the other hand, he came to view as a force for change: even if its terms were less-than-equitable, it nevertheless advocated a return of Asia to Asian rule and moved the board in the direction of his goal of Indian independence. His willingness to tolerate Japanese imperialism in order to further the Indian agenda, while indispensable to that agenda in the short-term, ultimately backfired and earned him the mistrust of many of his countrymen.
As well as his fidelity to the Sōmas, Bose’s respect for Tōyama Mitsuru grew stronger over time. In August 1926, the First Conference of Asian Peoples, organized by the Japan-based Pan-Asiatic Society and chaired by Bose, was held in Nagasaki and attended by representatives from Japan, China, India, Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. By joint resolution upon its conclusion, the Conference issued letters of commendation to fifteen freedom movement leaders distributed among eight countries for their contributions to the Asia for Asians cause; among these were Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Rabindranath Tagore of India and Tōyama Mitsuru and Inukai Tsuyoshi of Japan.
The culmination of Bose’s long career came in 1942 with the establishment, under his leadership, of the Indian Independence League and the formation of the Indian National Army (INA), a liberation army whose recruits came from Indian communities in Malaya and Indian soldiers in the British Army held as Japanese prisoners-of-war. The League called in the prominent nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose (no relation to Rash Behari Bose) to serve as its president and petitioned Japan to recognize the INA as the legitimate army of the independent nation of India. Chandra Bose and the INA participated with the Japanese in an unsuccessful attempt to invade India in 1944.
Rash Behari Bose, after having spent just over half his life in exile and expending himself completely to the independence cause, died of sickness in Tokyo in January 1945. He was fifty-eight. Two and one-half years later, the British returned India to indigenous rule.
 I am indebted to Nakajima Takeshi for his biography of Rash Behari Bose entitled Nakamuraya no Bose: Indō dokuritsu-undō to kindai-nihon no ajiashugi (“The Nakamuraya’s Bose: The Indian Independence Movement and Pan-Asianism in Modern Japan”). Nakajima makes no mention of Nakamura Tempū; however, in one of the photographs reproduced in the book, Tempū is featured (but not named) among a group with Bose at its center that also includes Inukai Tsuyoshi, Terao Tōru, Ōkawa Shūmei, Miyazaki Tōten, Uchida Ryōhei, Hirota Kōki, and several others.
 Citation for Tōyama’s words is given by Nakajima to Tōyama-ō no Majime (“Earnestness of the Venerable Tōyama”), edited by Usuda Zanun and published by Heibonsha in 1932.
 I have no positive evidence of Nakamura’s attendance, but we know he was acquainted with Bose and the incident occurs during a period in which Nakamura is often in Tōyama’s company. We also know of Nakamura’s acumen for tactical deception from his years as a spy, and I strongly suspect that the orchestration of the party at Terao’s and the spirting away of the Indian fugitives was, at least in part, of his conception.
 Two years after leaving Japan, Gupta abandoned the independence movement and defected to the British.