Shoichi Yokoi: The True Story of the Japanese Soldier who hid in the Jungle for 30 Years
Shoichi Yokoi had hidden in the jungles of Guam for almost thirty years. During this time he spent his days hidden in a small cave which he lined with bamboo, When night fell, he crept out to gather coconuts, papaya, frogs, toads, eels and rats for food, always making sure that nobody saw him.
It was a hard one. He had forgotten what it was like to sit and laugh with friends over a cup of tea. He could not remember the last time he had spoken to his family. But Shoichi had made a solemn vow thirty years earlier, and determinedly, he stuck to it.
He could still remember the moment when he was a young man and he had decided to flee to the jungle. He had been in the army, a Japanese sergent fighting in World War Two, when he had heard that the American army were coming and his superiors had decided to surrender.
"I will never surrender," he'd thought at the time. "I will never give in." And he and some fellow soldiers had escaped to the jungle rather than bear the shame of becoming prisoners of war.
Months passed. Some of his friends eventually returned, some of them died, and soon Shochi was entirely alone. He taught himself to make fire. He discovered that if he stripped bark from a tree he could turn it into cloth and make clothes. He taught himself how to catch fish, rats and eels for food.
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Thirty years passed slowly. He was no longer a young man, but still he was determined that he would never surrender to the enemy.
One day Shochi decided to check some fish traps he had set. "If I go and check them early then nobody will see me," he said.
But two local men were there and they wondered who this strange elderly man was, and quickly they approached him. "Who are you?" they snapped.
What should he do? "I am a soldier," thought Shochi, "I will attack!" He ran at the two men with all the might he had, but thirty years of hiding in the Guam jungles had made him weak, and he was no match for them. They soon overpowered him and took him to their home.
Shoichi was scared. What were they going to do to him? One thing he was sure of, he would never give in to them. The first question they asked surprised him.
"Are you hungry?" they said kindly. They gave him a bowl of soup and when they saw how quickly he ate it, they gave him more and more.
"Who are you?" they asked. "Why are you in the jungle?"
"I am Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi of the Imperial Japanese Army... and I will never surrender," he explained.
The men were silent for a moment, then one of them spoke softly to Shoichi.
'But the war ended thirty years ago," the men explained. "There is no need to hide anymore."
Shochi Yokoi bowed his head. "It is with much embarrassment that I will return home," he announced, "but I did my best to serve the Emperor."
When Shochi returned to Tokyo, he was welcomed as a hero. 5,000 schoolchildren turned out to cheer and greet him.
Some people thought he was inspirational, whilst others were confused and could not understand why he thought it was best to stay in the jungles of Guam for 27 years.
Shochi went on to marry and even appeared regularly on television too. He told people that living in the jungle for thirty years had taught him how to be content with a simple life and take pleasure from small things.
Sometimes, people would stop by his home and sit with him and have tea. How did you survive they asked him? "I kept myself occupied everyday," he explained. "i gained alot of delight inl earning how to survive." And he would tell his visitors how strange the modern world was and how he missed the old times he knew so well.
Other times, if people visited, Shoichi would not be there and they would ask his neighbours were he was. His neighbours would tell them that Shoichi was missing his old life, and he and his wife had taken a break for a few days by visiting the jungles of Guam which he knew so well.
What would you have done in Shoichi Yokoi's position? Do you think you could have survived in the jungle for thirty years or even thirty days? How would you have collected food? What would you do if you were bored? Let us know in the comments below!
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