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Shoichi Yokoi – the Japanese soldier who was too embarrassed to return home. He lived in the jungle in Guam for 28 years after the end of WWII

Tijana Radeska
Shouichi Yokoi
Shouichi Yokoi

One evening in 1972 two men, Jesus Dueñas and Manuel De Gracia, were setting up their traps for shrimps along the river of Talofofo. Then out of nowhere, they were attacked by a man that they previously assumed was a local villager. They never imagined that the man was a soldier from WWII, still hiding in the jungle and that the reason for his aggressive behavior was that he felt his life was in danger. However, they took the man out of the jungle to one of the villages nearby.

Shouichi YOKOI as the army sergeant.

Shoichi Yokoi as an army sergeant.

Hence, the truth was revealed: the man was a Japanese soldier, Shoichi Yokoi, who first served with the 29th Infantry Division in Manchuria and was then transferred to the 38th Regiment in the Mariana Islands. He arrived on Guam in February 1943 and was still there in 1944 when the Americans captured the island. During the Battle of Guam, Yokoi escaped along with nine other Japanese soldiers into the jungle.

Apparently, seven of the soldiers left the jungle while three of them stayed. The three men unintentionally started living in the jungle and stayed there for almost 30 years. They all lived separately but regularly visited each other, just as true neighbors do. Unfortunately, Yokoi’s friends died in a flood in 1964, so for eight years he remained alone in the jungle.

This newspaper photograph was described as Yokoi's first haircut in 28 years, but the image is also a document of his first contact with another person and a step in the transformation from solitary soldier to the role of celebrity.

This newspaper photograph was described as Yokoi’s first haircut in 28 years, but the image is also a document of his first contact with another person and a step in the transformation from solitary soldier to the role of celebrity.

The most interesting thing is that when Yokoi was captured he said that he was aware that the war was over since 1954, but he was too ashamed to return. The Japanese soldiers were taught that it is more honorable to die than to be captured by the enemy. His words when he returned to Japan became a popular saying in the country: “It is with much embarrassment, but I have returned.”

Visitors to Guam can take a short ropeway ride to "Yokoi's Cave", a tourist attraction/monument to Yokoi's life located on the site of the original cave at Talofofo Falls Resort Park. The original cave was destroyed in a typhoon.

Visitors to Guam can take a short ropeway ride to “Yokoi’s Cave”, a tourist attraction/monument to Yokoi’s life located on the site of the original cave in Talofofo Falls Resort Park. The original cave was destroyed in a typhoon.

Also, when he returned home, he addressed Emperor Hirohito even though he never met him: “Your Majesty, I have returned home … I deeply regret that I could not serve you well. The world has certainly changed, but my determination to serve you will never change.”

Yokoi was one of the three soldiers who surrendered 30 years after the war ended. After him, there were Hiroo Onoda and Teruo Nakamura.

In this book, Yokoi's autobiography is supplemented by a biographical account of his later life.

In this book, Yokoi’s autobiography is supplemented by a biographical account of his later life.

After Yokoi came back home, he got married and became a popular television personality and also an advocate of austere living. There was 1977 documentary about him, Yokoi and His Twenty-Eight Years of Secret Life on Guam, and he also wrote an autobiography about his life in the jungle.

Yokoi died in 1997 of a heart attack at the age of 82.

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