In early 1945, with Japan facing certain defeat in the Second World War, Emperor Hirohito dispatched troops to the small Philippine island of Lubang in a desperate last roll of the dice to try and curtail American advances.
It was a suicide mission, and the soldiers knew it. Most surrendered, others were killed, but Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda and three other soldiers were determined to stay and fight.
Retreating to the jungle and surviving on shrubs and bananas, they took pot-shots at American patrols, disrupted supply lines and, believing them to be enemies, assassinated innocent locals, also burning their crops and nicking their cows.
When, six months later, the war ended with the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no one told Onada and his twig-nibbling chums, and they continued their guerrilla warfare.
In 1950, ‘come home’ leaflets were air-dropped into the jungle, but Onoda dismissed them as sneaky American propaganda. He also refused to believe letters from his family, the Philippine government and even a signed testimony from Hirohito himself.
By 1972, all of his companions had been killed, but Onada carried on fighting a war that had ended 25 years previously, oblivious to the assassination of John F Kennedy, the building of the Berlin Wall, the moon landing, and Queens Park Rangers winning the League Cup in 1967.
After several failed attempts to find him (jungle was massive), Onada was finally tracked down by an eccentric, self-styled ‘adventurer-explorer’ called Norio Suzuki. Suzuki was, by all accounts, a few sushi rolls short of a bento box, but after just four days wandering around the jungle repeatedly screaming Onoda’s name, he discovered the long ‘lost’ lieutenant.
The unlikely duo stayed in the jungle for weeks, discussing all the world events that Onada had missed – most notably QPR overturning a two-goal deficit and scoring three times in just 18 minutes to become the first Third Division team to win a Wembley final. That the final goal of a remarkable comeback was scored by a player called Lazarus simply blew Onada’s mind.
He finally believed the war was over when his commanding officer returned to Lubang and relieved him of his duties. Onada, emaciated, his uniform in rags, saluted and broke down in tears.
Roaring crowds greeted Onoda on his return, but sadly, he simply couldn’t hack it in his modernised homeland. The nation he’d been fighting for had changed too much and, in 1980, he moved to Brazil, where he died aged 91 – not before returning to Lubang and giving $10,000 to a local school.
*A bottle of this costs around £50k and is rarer than a new-born Gary so we suggest the absurdly reasonably priced Toki – a blend of whiskies from three different Japanese Suntory distilleries – Chita, Yamazaki and Hakushu.
Serve it in a Mizuwari, a Japanese long drink consisting simply of whisky cut with water and served over ice.
How to Make a Mizuwari?
Fill a glass with ice and let it chill.
Pour Toki whisky in to taste.
Stir well (13-14 times) and let chill.
Top up the ice and add mineral water (1 part whisky to 2-2.5 times mineral water).
Gently stir with a bar spoon 4 times.
This story is taken from our new book “Thinking Drinkers Almanac – Adventurous Drinks and Eccentric Tales For Every Day of The Year”