Hiroo Onoda, 84, is a former member of an Imperial Japanese Army intelligence unit, an elite commando during World War II who was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines in 1944 to conduct guerrilla warfare and gather military intelligence. Trained in clandestine operations, his mission was to sneak behind enemy lines, conduct surveillance and survive independently until issued new orders. He did exactly that for the next 30 years. Long after Japan’s surrender in 1945, he continued to serve his country in the jungle, convinced that the Greater East Asia War was still being fought. He lived on mostly bananas and mangoes, evading many Japanese search parties and the local Philippine police, all of whom he believed were enemy spies. In March 1974, at age 52, a Japanese man who had run across Onoda brought his former superior to the island with instructions that relieved him of his military duties. After a brief return to Japan, he moved to Brazil where he became a successful rancher. He came back to Japan in the 1980s and established the Onoda Nature School with the goal of educating children about the value of life. His incredible adventures on Lubang are detailed in his book “No Surrender: My Thirty-year War.”
If you have some thorns in your back, somebody needs to pull them out for you. We need buddies. The sense of belonging is born in the family and later includes friends, neighbors, community and country. That is why the idea of a nation is really important.
Some dreams are best not to wake up from. On Lubang, I believed I was defending Japan by making the island into a stronghold as best as I could with my two comrades, Shimada and Kozuka. When they both died, I continued my mission alone. When World War II ended for me in 1974, the past all seemed like a dream.
People cannot live completely by themselves. If you have any doubts about this, just imagine being truly alone. Can you find all your food, make a fire, sew your clothes and take care of yourself when you get sick or injured? Can you make it?
One must always be civic-minded. Every minute of every day, for 30 years, I served my country. I have never even wondered if that was good or bad for me as an individual.
History is written by the victors. Since the end of WWII, the Japanese history taught in our schools has been based on a U.S. program to promote war guilt and on left-wing propaganda. I don’t blame the United States for this. They wanted a weak Japan, and their mission is accomplished; Japanese educated after the war do not have any confidence in their culture or in themselves.
Japan was forced to participate in WWII. The ABCD Powers (America, Britain, China and the Dutch East Indies) imposed such strong sanctions on Japan that we had no way to import oil, steel or anything. We were going to die or we were going to be invaded and enslaved.
Japanese political leaders were wise in the past. All Asian nations except Thailand and Japan were colonized. In our case, the Tokugawa Shogunate made a smooth transition to the first Meiji government in order to save us from colonization.
Once you have burned your tongue on hot miso soup, you even blow on the cold sushi. This is how the Japanese government now behaves toward the U.S. and other nations. We are so careful and let others devour so much, yet they are always hungry for more from Japan.
Without a huge shock, the sleepy-head, ignorant Japanese will never wake up. The situation today is similar to what we had in 1853 when [Commodore] Perry’s Black Ships arrived. Unless Nodong or Taepodong missiles fly over our heads, we do nothing to protect ourselves.
Parents should raise more independent children. When I was living in Brazil in the 1980s, I read that a 19-year-old Japanese man killed his parents after failing the university entrance exam. I was stunned. Why had he killed his parents instead of moving out? I guess he didn’t have enough confidence. I thought this was a sign that Japanese were getting too weak. I decided to move back to Japan to establish a nature school to give children more power.
Men should never give up. I never do. I would hate to lose.
Men should never compete with women. If they do, the guys will always lose. That is because women have a lot more endurance. My mother said that, and she was so right.
Never complain. When I did, my mother said that if I didn’t like my life, I could just give up and die. She reminded me that when I was inside her, I told her that I wanted to be born, so she delivered me, breastfed me and changed my diapers. She said that I had to be brave.
Parents should remember that they are supposed to die before their children. Nobody will help them later on, so the greatest gift parents can give their children is independence.
Life is not fair and people are not equal. Some people eat better than others. At our nature school, children participate in survival games. For example, they must prepare their own dinner from ingredients they find. Bartering is allowed but still some children will have a feast compared to others.
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