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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Japan's Most Valuable Stamp

What is Japan's most valuable stamp?

No! Not a hanko, but a real paper stamp—though admittedly it was NOT issued by the Japan Government, but rather it was privately-issued.I should state, however, that some stamps looked like paperbook marks and had a hanko stamp on them as the form. 

Thee most valuable Japanese stamp is known as the China Japan Gold Traders stamp, it was issued in 1847, and like the name suggests, it was a stamp used ONLY by gold traders of Japan and China.

It is also, the world's first private stamp. Japan itself did not issue a postage stamp as a nation until 1871.

The stamp was purchased for a whopping $10 dollars, though admittedly, I am unsure in what denomination.

Back in 1847, gold traders for the two countries printed a grand total of 15 stamps for gold postage to and from China and Japan.

A total of five of these stamps were used by the gold traders.

Ten of them were NEVER used. 

These stamps were only 'rediscovered' in January of 2010 via the Dr Philip Presley collection in London and are considered as world’s most valuable and rare stamps.

For reference, the United States issued its first ever postage stamps on July 1, 1847.

The first ever postage tamp is the iconic Penny Black issued on May 1, 1840.

How much is the 1847 China Japan Gold Traders stamp worth? I saw it being offered for sale for $300,000 a few years ago (I don't know if it sold) , but know that two unused stamps sold in 2010 for US$550,000 (in London, UK) - EACH. I believe another one was sold to a Japanese buyer for US$900,000.

As you can see, there is a wide range of prices being tossed around - or at least they were as of 2010.

The 1847 China Japan Gold Traders stamp is obviously a stamp, but since it was issued by a trade organization rather than a nation, I am unsure if it bears the same thrill of the chase.

It's like the fact that someone once printed 10 books of my collected short stories. Let's suppose I become more famous than god, like J.K. Rowling, does that really constitute a first printing and would it really be worth more than one professionally published?

It depends on what people want to pay for it.

Prior to publishing a comic book, back in the 1930s, publishers would, in order to copyright a preferred TITLE, would mock up comic books and have the title patented.

They might have had to create two or three of each to achieve a copyright, but despite the name on the mock-up, the rest of it might not have anything to do with the character? Is it valuable? Is it a real comic book?

It is NOT a real comic book, but it does hold value from a purely historical standpoint.

The same for the China Japan Gold Traders stamp of 1847.

Now… here's the thing… who the fugue actually printed the stamp? Gold Traders in China or in Japan?!

Considering that Japan was pretty shut off with its whole closed door policy for a 250 years, wouldn't one expect the stamp to therefore have been created in China?

In fact… wasn't Great Britain monkeying around in China and its politics back in the middle part of the 1800s? Oh yes!

But what is up with that whole $10 thing? Dollars?

While in the Shakespeare play Macbeth, there is mention of "ten thousand dollars", but Shakespeare would have used slang where appropriate, as some Scottish coins from the 16-17th centuries were referred to as 'thistle dollars'

The Gold Standard (created by the U.S.) did not actually come about until 1873…

Hong Kong, now Chinese, but ounce belonging to Great Britain… it has used 'dollars' since 1863.

I have no idea why the China Japan Gold Traders stamp of 1847 denotes dollars as a currency unit?Why is it in English?

Anyone have any theories, or better yet - facts?

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Noboko & Andrew: Head Games

Noboko was suffering from 'that time of the month' aka menstrual cramps, and had cryptically suggested the night before that despite her discomfort that maybe we could still have some adult fun when she came over the next night...

I had asked her via a phone call: "Do you want to rent a movie or something?"

"Or something. Good night. I love you," she responded.

Apparently we still have a language barrier, or things said while doubling over from her vicious cramps can not be held over one's head.

She did come over to my apartment, brought fresh vegetables and meats, and cleaned, chopped and fried it all up quicker than it took me to write about it, and we enjoyed a wonderful stir-fry dinner.

She was fairly quiet all evening, despite us both on the couch, her snuggling up tight into the crevices of my body as we watched the television that was off.

Really. My television was off. That television is always on it seems.

But, we just sat their curled up into a Canpon (Canada-Nippon) bundle, and held on to each other.

I didn't have much more time left on my third and final one-year contract as an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme. That was all we could do—a maximum of three years and sayonara (bye), but despite never having ever wanted to go to Japan, I had enjoyed my time here, and was madly in love with Noboko who was afraid to tell anyone of our love (especially her over-protective Father—though her Mom had figured it out).

I've been with one other woman who could simply say everything by saying nothing, and while I find lulls in conversation to imply that I am failing miserably in a relationship, I let my actions speak louder than words and simply sighed out loud as I gently rested my chin on Noboko's ever-blooming apple-blossom scented head.

She didn't even ask why I was sighing. I could hear her sigh inside her head as well.

Time was running out.

I was invited to go to her parent's house for dinner tomorrow, but I didn't know how that was going to end up.

I'm a planner. Schemer, even. Not in the evil sense, but rather I like to run through a plethora of possible conversational snippets in my head prior to important events, and prepare a possible response or solution.

I don't know why I bother... while the Japanese are just like every other nation on the planet, their unpredictability comes from their culture and societal rules, of which I am attempting to fathom, but in reality, I am drowning.

Add in the individual nature of a person's employment, social standing and role in the family, and I had NO clue how any conversation with Noboko's dad was going to go.

Add in the whole Japanese-language thing, and me being an idiot in the language skills department nearly three years in, well... I'm screwed.

On the plus side, I could mention to him how my two good buds who arrived in Japan with me at the same time—Jeff and Matt—had recently married or were about to marry a Japanese woman. Not the same woman, but rather one each. Two beautiful and intelligent and strong women that made me worry for my two friends just a bit, because they were obviously no match for them.

It had bothered me—just a bit—that both Matt and Jeff were getting hitched to Japanese women before me.

Yeah, I just played the race card.

Of course I was happy for them... but at least I was on the right track with Noboko. Yes... I would have to work Matt and Jeff into a conversation with Noboko's dad tomorrow evening.

Plan!

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, January 30, 2015

Cuteness And A Cute Pokemon Video

I'm not a huge fan of the Japanese 'cute' phenomenon that the country has been actively participating in for the past four decades.

I joke about liking Hello Kitty, but in truth, if it wasn't for Japan's fascination with it, I wouldn't give it more than a glance, lumping it as some stupid mascot for children that I, as an adult, don't find all that interesting.

I grew up watching Godzilla and Gamera monster movies that were on American television stations on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Sometimes they were on, other times it was some chop-socky martial arts movie of unknown country of origin. They were exciting. They were entertaining.

Now… maybe it's because I'm a boy in a man's body, but while I appreciate cuteness in people, I am less impressed by cuteness via fashion. Sure if you are eight-years-old, be cute. That woman over there - she's cute.

But dressing up in clothing and make-up to look younger and thus 'cuter' than you are? Not my cup of o-cha (green tea). I don't hate you if you do. Good for you if that's your thing. I just don't find it appealing on a personal level.

Japan… it likes its cute. Likes it too bloody much in my opinion. But that's just my opinion, and even though my opinion is correct, I may not be.

I like Pokemon. I don't get the whole card game thing, but many of you did or still do. I'm sure many of you don't understand why I collected hockey, baseball, wrestling, basketball, football, Planet of the Apes, Mork & Mindy, Star Wars trading cards, or why I now collect certain WWI and earlier tobacco card with an aviation theme. I don't care for heights and I don't fly a plane, and have maybe been in the air 20 times at the most? Different strokes, et al.

Is Pokemon, Japan's Pocket Monsters (Poke-Mon is a hybrid of the two words) cute? I suppose the monsters are… certainly the so-called good guys are.

I liked watching the animated program because the lead character Ash and his pokemon Pikachu didn't always win the battles or tournaments they entered (which surprised me), but were always good sports about it. I also was curious about what new creature or adventure they would next encounter. Why not? The creators gave the characters a pleasing personality.

Anyhow, here's a cute video of Pikachu (Ash's electric mouse pokemon that doesn't want to grow up or evolve) as an electronic piggy bank.

Despite the description on the video mentions 'tipping', just recall that tipping is NOT allowed, or rather is frowned upon in Japan.

I know… I get it… I do my job, and no one gives me extra money. But, since I know people who receive tips don't usually make a lot of salaried money, I have no issue with it. In Japan, companies perhaps pay a better salary to their employees.

Then again, I know they don't. I am very confused. How is it that despite Japan's interest in westernizing itself by cherry-picking aspects from different cultures, it chose not to utilize tipping?

Whatever. It was a cute video, but not so cute that it will cause you to spit up and get that bitter lemon taste in the back of your throat.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Japan - What's In A Name?

It's 1941, and the two kimono-clad women in this funny, but anti-British photo are having a laugh at the expense of British prime minister Winston Churchill, having this gag photo taken supposedly at a party in Tokyo.

Winston's initials are W.C., which throughout Europe and Asia (including Japan) means "Water Closet" - the toilet room - imply that Winston Churchill stinks like a used toilet.

Though the photo is from 1941, it is unclear as to whether or not it was taken after of before its official declaration of war on December 7, 1941.

All the websites I have seen with this photo always claim that these women are geisha. That shows a decided amount of ignorance.

Just because a Japanese woman is wearing a kimono does not qualify them to be referred to as geisha. Want to know what geisha are? Read THIS.

Kimono are just like sari's in India. It's the national costume, if you will.

The two women in the photo hardly look the part of a high-society honest to gosh geisha. Where is the white face make-up? The specialized lipstick? I could go on.

Back in the early days of my time in Japan, the Japanese students did have some fun with me when I mentioned a couple of names, such as my brother Ben (which means excrement in Japanese), and friend Connie (which sounds like kani, which is the Japanese word for crab).

I had a couple of classes in stitches when I mentioned those names. I still laugh thinking about the kids making pincers with their hands and snapping them at me.

W.C. is funny, too.

Being from Canada, I wasn't 100% sure what exactly a water closet was, but on many a day, I just had to find out.

If I could have held my nose and used it, I would have. It wasn't my finest hour.

Below, via YouTube, is my all-time favorite television commercial from 1974. I used to do all the voices, what's it look like?

The British Bulldog with the Churchill voice is magnificent.

For the record, I can still do the voices, and STILL have it memorized.

I guess advertising works. Oh... and it did taste better than the old version.

Kanpai
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Memoirs of a Gaijin: Emails from Japan - Book Review

I am in the process of reading yet another book on someone who went to Japan, taught English and had a good time.

I said "in the process". So why am I writing a review now?

It's because I am half-way through it, and I am waiting for something interesting to happen, and I don't think it ever will.

I've been a newspaper reporter in the past, and know that for the story - excluding thee headline - the firrst paragraph needs to bee something of a zinger to capture your attention. The second paragraph backs up the zinger and the third paragraph should be a quote to again back up the focal point of the story. Everything else after that is filler to give the reader a better view of the topic.

Granted I am reading a book and not a newspaper article, but I'm assuming that by the half-way mark, my attention should not only be smacked in the face, but I should be on the hook to want to continue reading the article/book.

That, sadly, is not the case when it comes to Memoirs of a Gaijin: Emails from Japan by author Benjamin Hesse.

It's not that Hesse is a bad writer - he's not. It's just that not a lot happens over the so-far 179 pages out of 265.

His hook, for me, was the fact that the majority of his description of life in Japan as a gaijin (foreigner/outsider) was done in the form of e-mails (I add a hyphen, but I am unsure if there is a more accepted way of writing the short-form word 'electronic mail').

I thought the concept to be inventive, so I was hooked enough to see how that would play out.

But... aside from multiple interesting tidbits of what his life was like as a teacher in a private English school for kids from age three on up to adults of whatever age, not much seems to be happening, except that people come, people leave, he has bad roommates, good roommates, makes friends, has friendships on hiatus as they leave... and all are with other foreigners. Borinnnnnnng.

Also boring are the included e-mail responses from his large cadre of family and friends who describe life back home in the U.S... boring news about the pro baseball and football teams, and god help us all, his alma mater small town university football team. Somebody just use my head as a football and kick the extra point!

There are some good tales about the wacky students he encounters at the school... but because the tales are encapsulated in an e-mail or six, they aren't fleshed out enough. It was a teaser, but after any prolonged bout of teasing, people begin to get fed up.

There was quite a good segment on his seeing a kabuki theater show - and full props on that for not understanding everything but describing it very well, nonetheless, but anyone can go to someplace and not understand things. Don't we read about Japan to learn something new or interesting about the place?

He also visits a kite museum, but doesn't explain - maybe because he never learned - why kites are a part of Japanese culture. Good grief! Even I know, and wrote about it in a blog here. 

Aside from the odd visit to Tokyo, and first-hand travel descriptions of his hometowns of Tsukuba and Tsuchiura, he doesn't appear to have done much while in Japan. Okay, he climbed Mt. Fuji, too, and while his description was decent, there wasn't constant enough diverse content on Japanese things for me, the reader.

I guess having an English degree from St. John's University in Minnesota is not a guarantee that one can have an interesting time in Japan or be able to adequately convey that with words.

Also annoying to me is that while Hesse seems pretty adventurous at traveling around his hometown by himself discovering new things, he wasn't adventurous enough to study and learn two of Japan's alphabets (hiragana and katakana) until well into his sixth month there. Plus, while I understand this, he also said he had no interest in learning the Chinese alphabet of kanji.

How can you go and live in Japan and not have any rudimentary language skills after six months? How do you even teach anyone in a classroom when you are by yourself? No wonder the kids are hitting each other - they are bored from not understanding what is going on.

And mind you, these comments come from a guy useless in Japanese language skills, but at the time I still knew hiragana and katakana - and could read parts of most sentences even if I didn't always know what it meant. As well, I did at one time memorize and learn how to correctly write over 500 kanji. Consider that to pass Japanese classes, a high school student must know the specific set of 1,942 of them - and I'm an idiot when it comes to foreign languages compared to most foreigners living and working in Japan.

In my defense, I did use those rudimentary language skills to my advantage to query Japanese people about their culture, society, history, and, who's kidding whom, to get laid.

Hesse also disappointed me by appearing to rarely be adventurous enough to sample Japan's ample cuisine... sure he ate the odd squid or octopus dish, but nothing else is mentioned... you know, like excessive amounts of corn on dumped on to pizza...

I was really hoping he would have some more exciting adventures than the thrill of finding a lost winter glove. Really. That was one of the highlights he excitedly wrote home about. It was just a lot of nothing about something uninteresting.

I'll finish the book, because that is what I do... I finish everything I begin. It's something I have been doing since I was 24. To Hesse's credit however, is that at least he wrote a book. I tip my hat to him for doing that. Starting earlier this month, I began doing that in earnest myself. I'm pretty sure I can fill a book with interesting stuff that will make a reader want to turn the page.

I can only hope that in the few remaining pages of the book, that Hesse and his story will begin to interest me as a reader. But, just like a newspaper article, if you don't grab the reader quickly, you risk the chance they won't read it.

Published by iUniverse, Inc., Memoirs of a Gaijin: Emails from Japan bears the rather hefty price tag of US$20.95.

My thanks, again, to my buddy Vince for the loan of his book.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

American Comic Book Propaganda Versus Japan - 13

Let's look at comic books as a whole, and by that, I mean the American comic book, because, let's face it, it WAS the main publishing domain of comic books during the 1940s thanks to Superman, Batman and Captain America... not to mention Donald Duck and Captain Marvel (Shazam) and others.

It was during the time the U.S. was dragged kicking and screaming into WWII on December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, however, when the production and reading of comic books reached its peak... one that has never been matched in the succeeding 70 years, unfortunately.

It was between 1941 and 1944 that comic book sales went from 10-million to 20-million sold per MONTH. Nowadays, a very popular book might do 100,000 copies.

It was a time when Walt Disney's Comics & Stories and Captain Marvel each hit the 1-million sales per month mark.

Did you know that between 1940-1945, at the military post exchanges, comic books outsold Life and Reader's Digest magazines by a 10 to one ratio.Give the people what they want!

As such, the U.S. government was watching, and realized this industry was not only a good way to maybe make a dime, but also was a genuine way to get its own view across about what it was doing in WWII.

Call it what you will, it was still propaganda.

Let's take a look at United States Marines #3: A Leatherneck Flamethrower, published by Government Enterprises, of which next to nothing is known. Sorry. Perhaps it really was a faction of the U.S. government making these comic books for public consumption.

This book and all issues in the run of 11 comics spread out even past the end of WWII, describe U.S. Marine Corp. action against the Japanese.

The cover of #3 is a beaut! We have, in my mind, the most fearsome handheld weapon ever devised by mankind (an oxymoron, if I ever heard one). Here we have a U.S. Marine with a flamethrower!

Yes, I know it was initially meant to eliminate plant life to reveal or remove possible enemy hidey-holes, but we all know that it was used to toast human beings.

The cover shows a smugly smiling soldier toasting the hideous octopus form of General Tojo Hideki (surname first), the essential leader of Japan's war machine. Wow. Great cover. Horrible, 70 years removed, but if I was a kid and saw that cover, I would buy the book.

Strange then how a mere 10 years later in the 1950s, various government commissions abounded to eradicate excessive violence in comic books, because it was poisoning the minds of young children.

I have presented below a mostly text story from United States Marines #3: A Leatherneck Flamethrower, with some choice descriptive language in the panel on the bottom right. Just click on the image to increase its size to something more readable. It's only one page from the story, but it is Page 8 from the comic book, not including covers.

This is why I call this comic book--despite real and honest (I guess) depictions of the war in other stories a propaganda initiative for the U.S. Government.

"Simian face"????

While thee term simian does indeed include the higher primates such as monkey as and apes, and even us humans, clearly the comic book was meant to imply the Japanese were ape-like.

For fun, here is the next page of the story, which tells how Japan bullied Korea in the 1890s into being friends with it, or being destroyed by it.
Why did I want to show this page? Well... there's some hypocrisy at work here. It seems as though the United States Government has completely forgotten how it once sailed into Japan's ports with these black ships and bullied Japan into opening up its borders for trade, or to be destroyed by its naval firepower.

Propaganda is about what you say as much as it is about what you don't say.

And yes... I actually own a copy of this issue. It was part of some comics I picked up at a garage sale 35 years ago for about $3. This one comic is now valued at around $250, in its current meh condition.

Scans were actually taken from the VERY cool website www.comicbookplus.com. Check'em out and read - for free - hundreds of the old comic books they have there!

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Secret Asian Man

There's a classic rock and roll song from 1966 called "Secret Agent Man" by Johnny Rivers.... a nice song, but many a person has listened to the songs without knowing the title, wondering if Rivers is really singing the words 'secret Asian man'.

You can click on YouTube HERE and listen for yourself.

Well, in that light, meet Richard Sorge, a German journalist who was a long-time spy for Russia while working in Japan during WWII—a real secret Asian agent, man. That's him in the image above.

A German going against two "friendly" Axis countries (Germany & Japan) for Russian with whom he had no affiliation?

I found out about Sorge while perusing my son's book on World War II, and noticed a U.S.S. R. (what everyone incorrectly calls Russia—including myself in the paragraphs above—but is really the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a bastion of Communism for nearly a century until very recently) stamp (I collected stamps) featuring him.

Let's find about a bit more about him.

Sorge was born in Baku, Russia, on October 4, 1895, he was the youngest of nine children and the son of a German mining engineer. In 1898 the Sorge family moved back to Germany.

When World War I started (the war to end all wars it was naively called), Sorge joined the German Army and won the Iron Cross medal for his gallantry in action.

In 1916 Sorge had both legs broken by shrapnel, and while convalescing in the hospital, he started up a relationship with a nurse - yet it was her Marxist father who influenced him more.

Unable to continue in the war, he studied at Berlin University, but was more interested in learning more about the "organized revolutionary movement."

When the war ended in 1919, Sorge did some more studying at the University of Kiel in Germany and joined the newly formed German Communist Party (KPD), eventually getting work as a journalist, moving to the USSR in April of 1925 to work for the Comintern Intelligence Division.

This Comintern Intelligence believed one must fight "by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and for the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the State."

Organized by leading members of the Soviet Union's leading communists, he must have been trusted, and was used by the Soviets to travels as a journalist to multiple European countries to assess the possibility of communist uprisings taking place - even visiting England in 1929. Communism, while often currently a dirty word nowadays, was considered by many countries as something worthwhile.

Pure communism, as an ideal - but never fulfilled in practice - is intriguing, what with everyone supposedly equal... but that is something never achievable by today's humankind. Some are always more equal than others.

A Soviet stamp honoring Richard Sorge. It was part of the 'antifascist' collection: "Heroes of the Soviet Union". One could have purchased it in 1965 for 4 kopecks - which was around US $0.01. On a positive note, it meant that it was widely available for any good comrade to purchase and use.
By November 1929, Sorge was back in Germany and told he had to join the Nazi Party, which was anything but a party, and told NOT to associate with left-wing activists... such as his communist buddies.

Well, Nazi Party member or not, Sorge was still a German spying on behalf of Mother Russia, and began to work for the newspaper, Getreide Zeitung, eventually moving to China where he met Max Klausen, another spy.

Max Klausen (or John Candy - joking)
Obviously the China of 1929 was nothing like the China of today - as it had only only just gone over to Communism in 1921 - and seeing non-Chinese there didn't have the alarm bells it would have had in later years. Besides... these guys wanted to be there as comrades in arms.

Sorge became an expert in Chinese agriculture (I assume that means rice) (and other stuff) and this afforded him to be able to do lots of traveling around China, with no questions asked, and could then also chat with the Chinese Communist Party members.
Agnes Smedley
Sorge also met another journalist there - Agnes Smedley - of the Frankfurter Zeitang - who introduced him to Ozaki Hotsumi (surname first) who worked for Japan's Asahi Shimbun (Asahi newspaper).

Ozaki Hotsumi
See - there is a Japanese link!

Ozaki agreed to join Sorge's spy network.

While in China, he married Yekaterina Maximova (Katya). In January 1932, Sorge reported on fighting between Chinese and Japanese troops in the streets of Shanghai. In December he was recalled to Moscow with his bride, where he wrote a book about Chinese agriculture

By May of 1933, the USSR wanted Sorge to create a spy network in Japan. To do this, he needed to be sent to Japan by German newspapers, and was able to get a few jobs that way, including the Nazi journal Geopolitik, but was mainly with the agricultural newspaper Deutsche Getreide-Zeitung

I love it. He's being paid by the Nazi's to spy for another country who are paying him.

It was at this time, that the USSR military intelligence gave him the code name Ramsay.

Arriving in Japan in September 1933, just as he had in England, he was told by his spymaster bosses to not talk to the Underground Japanese Communist Party or to contact the Soviet Embassy in Tokyo - he is supposed to be a German journalist, after all.

The Sorge spynetwork included:
  • Max Klausen;
  • Ozaki Hotsumi (I'll look at him in a later blog);
  • Branko Vukelic, journalist for Vu, a French magazine;
  • Miyagi Yotoku (surname first), journalist for the Japan Advertiser, an English-language newspaper;
Branko Vukelic
Vukelic and Miyagi were already Comintern members.

Miyagi, born in Okinawa in 1903, lived in California since 1919, married a Japanese girl in 1927 and lived in Los Angeles until 1932. In 1931, he joined the CPUSA (American Communist Party), and in 1932 he was recruited by Comintern to go to Japan for them on a mission - fully expecting to return home to the U.S. and his wife soon.

As German citizen living in Japan, Sorge could spend time at the German Embassy in Tokyo, and befriended some knowledgeable people, including included Eugen Ott and the German Ambassador Herbert von Dirksen, which allowed him to learn about Germany's plans against mother Russia.

Others in Sorge's network befriended politicians such as Japan prime minister Konoye Fumimaro (surname first), which gave them lots of juicy data on Japan's foreign policy.

What did Sorge's spies do?

They provided information to Josef Stalin, premier of the Soviet state on:
  • advance warning about the Anti-Comintern Pact (1936);
  • the German-Japanese Pact (1940);
  • Japan's Attack on Pearl Harbor (1941);
  • strategies for Japan for the Battle of Leningrad
And then there was Operation Barbarossa.

Operation Barbarossa was the 1941 German invasion of the USSR. Sorge's spy ring learned that Germany would attack Russia. The Battle of Leningrad was part of Operation Barbarossa.

But, even though Stalin didn't think any of that likely, the intelligence community of the USSR did, but was also worried about what Japan might do.

Sorge and the spies informed the Soviet Union, that Japan would not attack them until:
  1. Moscow was captured;
  2. The Kwantung Army (part of Japan's Army) was three times the size of Soviet Far Eastern forces;
  3. A civil war had started in Siberia.
By August of 1941, Sorge told Stalin and the boys that Japan wasn't going to attack the USSR and instead only had eyes for Asia, which enabled the Soviets to not have to split up its forces during the Battle of Moscow - and Germany suffered its first tactical loss of the war.

It is considered the turning point of World War II.

But, like all good things, they must end. Japanese intelligence soon began to think there was a spy network in their midst.

In September of 1941, the Tokubetsu Koto Keisatsu (Japanese Special Higher Police) arrested one of Miyagi’s associates, who gave up Miyagi as his spy boss.

Miyagi Yotoku
This lead to Sorge and Ozaki being followed, with Ozaki arrested on October 14, 1941, and Sorge and Clausen on October 19.

After three years in prison, Japan offered Sorge to the USSR for some Japanese prisoners - but they refused, and he was hung on November 7, 1944.

As well, conspirator Ozaki Hotsumi was also hanged on November 7, 1944. He was the only Japanese person to be hanged for treason via the Peace Preservation Law by the Imperial Japanese government during World War II.

By the way... if you think being a spy is not without stress, consider that Sorge died at the age of 49 - younger than me... he looks like hell in his pictures, and I'm pretty sure that while no longer pretty, I don't look like an old spy. 

And now you and I know more about the world than we did five minutes ago. Though admittedly it did take me a couple of hours to research and write this.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph