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Completing A Wacky Japanese Triad

Shoichi Yokoi (横井 庄一 Yokoi Shōichi, March 31, 1915 - September 22, 1997) was a Japanese soldier and celebrity. Born in Saori, Aichi Prefecture, he was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941 and sent to Guam shortly thereafter. In 1944, as American forces reconquered the island, Yokoi went into hiding.

On January 24, 1972, Yokoi was discovered in a remote section of Guam by two of the island's inhabitants. For 28 years he had been hiding in an underground jungle cave, fearing to come out of hiding even after finding leaflets declaring that World War II had ended.

"It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive," he said upon his return to Japan, carrying his rusted rifle at his side. The remark would later become a popular saying (in Japanese, 「帰ってまいりました・・・恥ずかしながら、生きながらえて帰ってまいりました」).

After a whirlwind media tour of Japan, he married and settled down in rural Aichi Prefecture. Having lived alone in a cave for 28 years, Yokoi became a popular television personality, and an advocate of austere living. He was featured in a 1977 documentary called Yokoi and His Twenty-Eight Years of Secret Life on Guam. He would eventually receive the equivalent of $300 in back pay, along with a small pension.

In 1991, he received an audience with Emperor Akihito. He considered the meeting the greatest honor of his life. He had even prepared a speech of regret to read to the emperor. Months later, Yokoi told a Japanese journalist that he had in fact had a deeply personal reason for remaining isolated:

"I had a tough childhood, among many unkind relatives," he explained. "I stuck to the jungle because I wanted to get even with them."

Yokoi died in 1997 of a heart attack at the age of 82. He was buried at a Nagoya cemetery, under a gravestone that was initially commissioned by his mother in 1955. Visitors to Guam can take a short ropeway ride to 'Yokoi's Cave' a (very rundown) tourist attraction/monument to Yokoi's life. The cave itself is sealed off; only the entrance and airhole are visible.


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