Students were usually selected from among cadets or graduates of the Military Academy and had to undergo a thorough background check by the military police. The first class of 18 students reported to the school in 1938. Students and teachers were not allowed to wear the army uniform while at the school. A typical term consisted of 110 hours in cultural studies, 262 hours in spying techniques, and 495 hours in acquiring specialized skills. In their cultural studies, the students were to acquire military knowledge as well as to study history, economics, and foreign languages. They studied General Akashi Motojiro's book as a bible; Akashi was the successful Japanese army spymaster in the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War. Spying training consisted of martial arts, cipher and photography skills, and specialized subjects such as biological warfare, psychology, aircraft control, and ninja skills. Before graduation, the students engaged in a monthlong exercise in Manchuria.
After graduation, the agents executed a variety of missions, including intelligence gathering in China, Soviet Asia, and Southeast Asia and propaganda activities to subvert British rule in India and Malaya. Some of the agents landed in western Australia in January 1944 to gather naval intelligence. Lieutenant Onoda Hiroo, a graduate of the Nakano school, carried out guerrilla warfare on Lubang, the Philippine Islands, from 1944 until 1974, unaware that the war had ended.
Before the Pacific war, the school focused on intelligence gathering, and during the war its focus gradually shifted to sabotage and subversion activities. The school was abolished in 1945. A total of 2,131 students graduated from the school, and 289 of them died in the course of their missions.
Hata Ikuhiko. Nihon Rikukaigun Sougojiten (Encyclopedia of the Japanese army and navy). Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1991.; Mercado, Stephen. The Shadow Warriors of Nakano. New York: Brasseys, 2002.