The biography of James Mitose, and insights into his life and personality will be forthcoming.
The most frequently asked question about James Mitose is his conviction for murder. There are some who believe nothing negative would be said of the man who introduced Kenpo to the United States. They seek, as Mitose did for much of his later life, to deceive and hide the truth. They would paint James Mitose as a saint who was falsely accused and wrongfully convicted.
It is not our intent to reveal anything in the personal lives of any karate master that does not directly relate to what he taught, or what his followers claim. Had James Mitose remained in retirement from the martial arts, none of the crimes for which he was convicted would be relevant. Mitose, however, came out of retirement in order to train a "black assassin", and after his conviction for murder, he developed a new form of Kosho while in prison.
Mitose retired from teaching Kenpo in Honolulu and moved to the "Big Island" in 1953. From there he moved to Los Angeles in 1954. Had Mitose remained in retirement any negative aspects of his life would be irrelevant. However for at least 5 years (the period for the statute of limitations on his crimes) leading up to his arrest for murder in 1974, Mitose was involved in a series of fraudulent schemes in which his victims "invested" or "loaned" him money to promote Japanese-American friendship. When his victims demanded their money back, Mitose threatened them with his "black assassins". The police investigation revealed at least 5 different "black assassins", none of whom knew what Mitose was doing. These five black men had been befriended by Mitose who helped them out financially, and employed them as his chauffeurs. They believed Mitose was a minister, and none of them knew his business, nor did any of them know each other. Mitose always instructed them to stand by the car while he did his business, and were told this was the way things were done in Japan. What they did not know is Mitose pointed these cheaufers out as his "black assassins" to no less than 60 of his victims. Each of these victims had loaned Mitose money, or invested in some project, and had demanded their money back. When threatened with "great bodily harm" from the "black assassin", each of these victims not only forgave Mitose the debt, but Mitose extorted anywhere from another $5,000 to $30,000 from each. Had Mitose not been convicted of murder, the District Attorney was prepared to bring charges against him for many of these thefts and extortions.
In 1971, Mitose first met Osamu Goeku in the store Goeku owned. Over a period of two years, Mitose convinced Goeku that he was minister, wealthy, and held great political power, he induced Goeku to sell his store and move in with him and his family. Mitose and his wife kept Goeku a virtual prisoner in their home, where Mitose beat him daily and eventually extorted over $30,000 from him before letting Goeku go. Following this, Mitose induced 61 year old Toshiko Namimatsu to live with his family so he could prevent her from having a stroke. When her 65 year old husband, Frank Namimatsu moved in sometime later, Mitose extorted over $60,000 from them and they signed their home over to 18 year old Alvin Mitose. They eventually escaped and went into hiding in San Jose. There they contacted an attorney who got their home back, and they returned to Los Angeles in January, 1974.
Osamu Goeku began to cause trouble about this time, and in the 3rd week of January 1974, Mitose went to a karate tournament looking for someone who could be a genuine "black assassin". This was Terry Lee, whom he promised to teach kenpo, in exchange for his loyalty. Two months later, on March 18, 1974, Mitose took Lee to Goeku's house then gave him a rope, knife and air pistol (to be place directly on Goeku temple to kill him) and instructed Lee to kill Goeku.
Lee did not go through with the murder. However, the following day, March 19, Mitose learned that the Namimatsu's had an appointment with the District Attorney for March 21, and he again met with Lee to order the killing of Frank Namimatsu. Again Mitose gave Lee a knife, rope and screwdriver and told him how to kill Namimatsu in the victims home. When Lee was confronted by Mrs. Namimatsu, when he broke into the home, and Lee strangled and brutally stabbed her repeatedly with a screwdriver. She was left unconscious but miraculously survived. He then killed Frank Namimatsu.
Mitose's followers claim that Mitose did not commit murder, and only took the blame because Terry Lee was his student. However, the years of extortion that followed the same pattern, and the threats made by Mitose of "great bodily harm" from his "black assassins" belies any ignorance of what Lee intended to do.
California Penal Code section 190.2 states:
"Every person whether or not the actual killer found guilty of intentionally aiding, abetting, counseling, commanding, inducing, soliciting, requesting, or assisting any actor in the commission of murder in the first degree shall suffer imprisonment in the State penetentury for life (the death penalty had been declared unconstitutional and was later restored ex-postfacto).
- While none of this bears on what Mitose taught 20 years before in Hawaii, is important today, because Mitose created a new Kosho religious cult while in prison, that while advocating non violence, has in its practice, deception and lying. The "Grand Masters" of the Kosho cult claim training they never received. Terry Lee trained with Mitose for only 2 months, and others were never physically taught anything, but were raised to the status of grand master by Mitose.
- Perhaps the most compelling reason for revealing the facts of Mitose's complicity in the Murder of Frank Namimatsu is Mitose, as well as those who claim to be heirs to his teachings, profess Kosho to be a religion that one must learn before learning its martial aspects.
- Mitose preyed upon the weak and the gullible, first with promises, then with threats. When threats were not enough, he imprisoned and beat his victims into submission, and when that was not sufficient, he resorted to murder.
- Despite this, it must be remembered that a master of the martial arts need not be a great human being and there was far more to the man than what he became that let to The Trial of James Mitose
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