Wednesday, April 21, 2004

My student told me this story about a famous Nagoya citizen. Amazing.

Sgt. Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese imperial army straggler who lived in the jungles of Guam for 28 years after World War II ended, died at 5:07 pm Monday Sept 22, 1997 of heart failure at JR Tokai General Hospital in Nagoya Japan. He was 82. Yokoi lived in a tunnel-like, underground cave in a bamboo grove until Jan 24, 1972, when he was discovered near the Talofofo River by hunters. Yokoi, who had been a tailor's apprentice before being drafted in 1941, made clothing from the fibers of wild hibiscus plants and survived on a diet of coconuts, breadfruit, papayas, snails, eels and rats. "We Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive," Yokoi said in 1972. "The only thing that gave me the strength and will to survive was my faith in myself and that as a soldier of Japan, it was not a disgrace to continue on living," Yokoi said in 1986. No one in the history of humanity, except stragglers later discovered in Philippines, has equaled his record. Few have struggled with loneliness, fear, and self for as long as twenty-eight years.

And another one...

For almost one more year, Onoda continued to live on his own. He was prepared to die on the island. Then, February 20, 1974, he encountered a young Japanese university dropout named Suzuki living alone in a tent. Suzuki had left Japan to travel the world and told his friends that he was “going to look for Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order. (He found Onoda, he could go to any big zoo to see the panda, but one can’t help but wonder if he ever found the Abominable Snowman.) Onoda approached cautiously and the two soon struck up a conversation that lasted many hours. The two became friends, but Onoda said that he was waiting for orders from one of his commanders.

Suzuki left and promised that he would return. And he did.

On March 9, 1974, Onoda went to an agreed upon place and found a note that had been left by Suzuki. Along with the note, Suzuki had enclosed two photos that they had taken together the first time that they met along with copies of two army orders. The next day, Onoda decided to take a chance and made a two-day journey to meet up with Suzuki. His long hike paid off handsomely. Suzuki had brought along Onoda’s one-time superior commander, Major Taniguchi, who delivered the oral orders for Onoda to surrender his sword.

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