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Japanese man revisits Guam cave where he hid in World War II

HAGATNA, Guam » A 92-year-old Japanese man has returned to Guam to visit a cave where he hid for nearly a year during World War II.

Kiichi Kobayashi told The Pacific Daily News through an interpreter Monday that he’s grateful for island residents and the U.S. troops who captured him because both groups helped him survive.

Kobayashi was a 19-year-old aircraft mechanic for the Japanese air force when he was sent to wartime Guam and ended up hiding from U.S. troops in a cave with some 50 fellow soldiers, he said. The number dwindled to about 10 and Kobayashi said he was eventually the only one left living.

Many of the Japanese military men died from complications of gunshot wounds and other injuries, explained Kobayashi. He managed to stay alive by eating wild papayas and stealing food from houses he could walk to secretly, and he said the residents began leaving bananas and other food outside for him.

“They knew (I) was out there,” he said through an interpreter.

Kobayashi had planned to kayak to the cave Monday and go inside with his daughter and granddaughter, but rain and a rough sea prevented the plan. Instead, Kobayashi visited the shoreline closest to the cave, near the University of Guam Marine Laboratory. He was joined by family members and some Guam residents with Japanese ancestry.

The former aircraft mechanic explained that he thought often of his parents, especially his mother and her homemade mochi, while struggling to survive in the cave. He said through interpreters that he decided that he would honor his mom first rather than the country’s emperor if he survived the ordeal.

Kobayashi said the U.S. soldiers who eventually captured him were nice, providing him with a tasty meal and immediately providing medical care for his gangrenous gunshot wound.

He said he hopes to come back to the cave again if his health permits it. He also expressed opposition to war, saying that “it’s not good.”

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  • Remarkable man. He was smart enough to realize that his Mom’s mochi was a better incentive to live than die for the Emperor. I read a story about the American reoccupation of Guam during the latter stages of WWII. Many Japanese soldiers hid in the hills or caves to avoid capture. Once during an outdoor showing of a movie, some American soldiers turned around and about six feet away a couple Japanese soldiers were also watching the movie. When they were noticed they ran away. I often heard stories of the Guamanians leaving food out for the Japanese soldiers. They figured it was better than having them rummaging through their homes.

    • As interesting is the account of a Japanese soldier (or civilian) who took to heart the “Asia for the Asians” and “Greater East Co-Prosperity Sphere” propaganda he was exposed to during World War II. Instead of surrendering in 1945, he joined rebels in Malaya to help throw off the British or imperialist yoke. He must have been there quite a while, as one of his fond memories was of being able to keep up with the then popular Japanese TV melodrama “Oshin” via smuggled videotapes viewed in his jungle hideouts. That particular show aired in the 1980s, which should tell you the level of his commitment.

  • Hunger pangs overshadow allegiance to Emperor. Survival instincts superior to indoctrination by militaristic training? Cultural beliefs and training sustained his survival? “yamato-damashi” masculine spirit or soul of each individual Japanese- survive for nation in his situation?

    • not to cause any trouble and I’m not a studious person at all from what you could gather on my posts. But, he thought about food while hiding out but he cherished his mom more than the Emperor and as his thoughts of War, “it’s not good”.

      I guess everyone could decypher words/sentences in different ways, Just saying

  • Great story, but I’d have liked to see a photo or two. Surely the family members and Guam residents present when he visited the shoreline had cameras or smartphones?

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