Japanese vets arrive in Philippines to investigate World War II holdout
MANILA (AFP) Nov 20, 2003
A group of researchers from Tokyo arrived in the Philippines Thursday to check on unconfirmed reports that a few Japanese soldiers were still hiding out in the jungles here more than half a century after World War II.

The group arrived in Manila airport and included two Japanese Imperial Army veterans who wore their old uniforms and three officials from Tokyo's ministry of health and labor, immigration officials said.

They are to check on the possibility of looking for surviving relatives of a former Japanese general and his men who allegedly once lived near a Manila suburb and pretended to be Filipinos.

"We have received information that a former Japanese soldier had lived in a village in the suburb of Manila, pretending to be a local resident, and the man apparently contacted a few Japanese still hiding in a jungle before he died in 1996," a ministry official said in Tokyo on Wednesday.

If the reports prove true, it would be the first confirmation of Japanese holding out since 1974, when a former Imperial Army second lieutenant, Michio Onoda, returned to Japan after surviving for three-decades in a jungle having refused to surrender.

One of the Japanese veterans told reporters here that they would try to interview Yolita Buado, a 67-year-old Filipina who had earlier claimed she had married a certain General Yamakawa.

Yamakawa according to earlier published reports here died in 1996 at the age of 115. But before he died, Yamakawa reportedly told Buado that he knew of two other stragglers in the jungles near Antipolo, a hilly suburb north of Manila.

Some 4,000 Japanese soldiers reportedly refused to surrender and decided to go into jungles in the Philippines after the end of the war.