Yoshiko Kawashima (24 May 1907 – 25 March 1948)
Yoshiko Kawashima was a Manchu princess brought up in Japan, who served as a spy in the service of the Japanese Kwantung Army and Manchukuo during the Second World War. Originally named Aisin Gioro Xianyu, she was born in Beijing as the 14th daughter to Shanqi, the 10th son of Prince Su of the Aisin Gioro Manchu imperial family and a concubine. She was given for adoption at the age of eight to a friend of her father’s, Naniwa Kawashima, who was a Japanese espionage agent and mercenary adventurer after the Xinhai Revolution. She was raised and educated in her grandfather’s home in the Matsumoto, Japan. As a teenage girl, she was raped by Kawashima’s father and later had an affair with Kawashima himself. Yoshiko was sent to school in Tokyo that included learning judo and fencing. This was followed by living a “bohemian” lifestyle in Tokyo with a series of rich lovers, which included both men and women.
Following a marriage that ended in divorce, Kawashima moved to the foreign concession in Shanghai where she first became involved with the Japanese military. While in Shanghai she met Japanese military attache and intelligence officer Ryukichi Tanaka, who utilized her contacts with the Manchu and Mongol nobility to expand his network. After Tanaka was recalled to Japan, she continued to serve as a spy for Major-General Kenji Doihara. She went undercover in Manchuria, often in disguise. The last Emperor of China was her cousin and always welcomed her at his court-in-exile, which allowed her to play a major role in persuading the last Emperor to go with the Japanese to Manchuria to establish the new monarchy of Machukuo.
When warfare broke out again between the Chinese and Japanese, she became an officer in the Manchukuo Imperial military and formed and led her own anti-guerilla cavalry force known as the Anguo Army. She cleared bandits and red guerillas from Manchuria, which made her a media sensation in Japan. She became a well-known and popular figure, which resulted in her losing her utility as an intelligence asset. This was an issue after she was wounded and unable to remain with her army. She opened a restaurant in Tientsin as a front for Japanese espionage work, and remained there till the end of the war.
After the end of the war, it was reported that “a long sought-for beauty in male costume was arrested in Peking by the Chinese counter-intelligence officers.” Kawashima had tried to return to Japan, but was captured by the Chinese republican forces and was executed as a traitor in 1948.