Lubang Island

Lubang Island was the home of the last the Samurai warrior of the Japanese Imperial Army from the conclusion of WWII in 1945 and for the next 29 years.

An 18 year old Hiroo

Three hours by boat from Manila in the Philippines is the Island of Lubian. Today it’s a local tourist area with about 20,000 residents. But it was once one of the hard knocks islands with the Americans and the Japanese duking it out in vicious hand-to-hand combat. At the end of the War, several squads of intelligence officers and commandos took to the jungle.

OK, a word about the term ‘Jungle.’ When I was a kid jungle meant a damp tropical forest. It was changed to the less precise ‘rainforest’ back in the 70s because some folks thought it was a slam at backward jungle dwellers and colonialism. Thanks Tarzan, ya shmuck! Can you imagine swinging from a ‘rainforest’ vine? No, never. There will be a good many jungles on our islands but few rainforests.  Jungle, jungle, jungle. There, I said it.

Where was I? Oh yes, Lubang. Eventually all of the soldiers surrendered except for four holdouts. They were convinced that the news of the war ending was a trick, so they kept on raiding and killing when the last of them, Hiroo Onoda, finally turned himself in. He said he thought that the leaflets and newspapers dropped from aircraft telling him the war was over were faked and that the farmers were soldiers in disguise. He raided farms and villages killing 30 locals until 1974, when a Japanese tourist ran into him in the jungle. Taking the story back to Japan, the tourist located Hiroo’s wartime commander who petitioned Emperor Hirohito to rescind the order he had issued decades before—to fight to the death. The officer went to Lubang, found Hiroo, and showed him the Emperor’s edict.

“I’m done.”

Still wearing his tattered military uniform, Hiroo bowed and surrendered his Samurai sword to President Marcos, who pardoned him. Hiroo returned to Japan after nearly 34 years fighting a war that had long been over. (A note on Imelda Marcos, the wife of the dictator. If you have been in Woodside as long as I have, you might recall that Imelda herself live in town on Whiskey Hill Road with her 3,000 pairs of shoes back in the 1990s. I never met her, and this is one of my great regrets; I’ve have a few.

I would love to have had her show me the shoes.  Oh sure, she had a Picasso, a Pissarro, and a magnificent Gauguin from his Tahitian period, as well as a bust and a Madonna-and-Child rendering that she creatively attributes to Michelangelo. But I wanna see-the-shooz!!!!)

Most of Imelda’s shoes rotted in warehouses from the mold in the Philippines

Where was I?…. ahhh, well, on his return to Japan Hiroo was horrified seeing the decline of morals and witnessing the main drag, the Las Vegasy, Ginza, appalled such that he moved to Brazil where he opened a jungle (or rainforest) survival school and probably resumed his diet of coconuts and rats. He returned for a visit to Lubang in 1994 and brought a donation to the families of some of the men he had killed. He is considered a national hero in Japan and, oddly, the Philippines. He died in Tokyo in 2014 at the age of 91—no doubt watching a Japanese game show on TV and longing for the good old days. (This game show is my favorite; it’s hard to see but realize that these are pork chops tied to the young women’s heads).

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