Two More Japanese Holdouts in the Philippines?

This BBC report explains why I’ve been getting so many search engine referrals to my blogpost last August about Japanese holdouts in the Philippines.

Japanese officials are investigating claims that two men living in jungle in the Philippines are Japanese soldiers left behind after World War II.

The pair, in their 80s, were reportedly found on southern Mindanao island.

The men were expected to travel to meet Japanese officials on Friday, but have yet to make contact.

The claim drew comparisons with the 1974 case of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who was found in the Philippines jungle unaware the war had ended.

The Australian carries an update:

Kyodo News agency, citing Japanese Government sources, identified the two men as Yoshio Yamakawa, 87, and Tsuzuki Nakauchi, 85.

The Sankei Shimbun daily said the men were believed to belong to the “panther division”.

About 80 per cent of the division’s members died or went missing while battling US forces.

And the Japan Times adds an update on reactions by relatives in Japan.

News that two Japanese Imperial Army soldiers were found living in a Philippine jungle evoked both surprise and joy Friday in Japan.

“I was surprised, because I had heard he died in the war,” said Wakako Nakauchi, sister-in-law of Tsuzuki Nakauchi, who belonged to the army’s 30th Division.

Her husband, Nakauchi’s younger brother, died several years ago.

“His mother and brother would certainly have been happy to hear the news if they were still alive,” said the 75-year-old Wakako, who lives in Nakauchi’s hometown in Ochi, Kochi Prefecture.

The other Japanese who was reported alive on Mindanao Island, Yoshio Yamakawa, had a younger brother who died in April in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture [where the recent, deadly JR train wreck occurred].

Seiichi Tsurumaki, a shop owner in Amagasaki who knew Yamakawa’s brother for more than 60 years, said: “(The brother) used to tell me that his older brother fought and died in the Philippines. Had (Yamakawa) been found a little bit earlier, he would have been able to see his brother.”

Goichi Ichikawa, chairman of a group of 30th Division veterans, expressed joy over the news at his home in Higashi-Osaka, Osaka Prefecture.

“I am glad that they were able to survive for 60 years,” said Ichikawa, 89, who has been working to bring Imperial army soldiers back to Japan.

In February, Ichikawa mailed a petition to Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Hidehisa Otsuji, saying he had obtained reliable information that three Japanese men — including Yamakawa and Nakauchi — were living in the mountains on Mindanao.

The Japan Times report has been updated. Here are some new bits of information:

According to the Defense Agency, the 30th Division was originally formed in 1943 on the Korean Peninsula — then under Japan’s colonial rule — and was trained to prepare for war with the Soviet Union. But they were eventually deployed to the southern front and landed on Mindanao in 1944 to battle U.S. forces….

Yoshihiko Terashima, 85, said, “We have filed a petition (for investigations) but the government has taken no action.” He said he first received information from a local contact last August about Japanese soldiers possibly still on Mindanao.

When he visited the island in December, he received information that Nakauchi, Yamakawa and two other soldiers still lived on the island….

After the war, Sakurai reportedly provided medical service to local residents at their request, he said.

They are all aware that Japan was defeated, but are afraid of being punished as deserters, Terashima said, adding he heard there are at least 20 more surviving Japanese soldiers in the area.

Frog in a Well has more links and historical context.

UPDATE, 30 May: Doubts about the story are beginning to surface.

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Filed under Japan, Philippines, war

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