Yokoi’s Cave in Guam is unlike any tourist destination anywhere in the world. It is just a tiny hole in the ground. It is not even a real cave. What’s amazing about this site, however, is not its appearance, but the extraordinary story behind it.
In 1941, right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese troops attacked Guam. The tiny island-nation tried to fight back but after two days of strafing, Guam’s governor finally surrendered the US territory. What followed was what Guam locals call the “darkest years of the country’s history”. After three years, American troops returned to reclaim the country and to liberate the rest of Asia Pacific. It was a one-sided fight, and Japanese soldiers found themselves retreating to the lush jungles and outgrowths of Guam. This is where Yokoi’s Cave comes into the picture.
The cave was named after Japanese combat Sergeant Soichi Yokoi, a brave and loyal soldier of the Japanese Empire. He fought valiantly against the Americans and its allies but eventually he and two of his closest comrades had to retreat. They escaped into one of Guam’s southern jungles near the Talofofo Falls. Just ten minutes away from the base of the falls, the three Japanese soldiers dug a simple hole where they crammed inside to hide from the invading Americans. Their plan worked as they remained hidden inside their self-made cave for several years.
The three managed to survive for many years, long before the war was over. Yokoi’s comrades, Jiji and Nakahada, died from food poisoning in 1962, 18 years after the war. It was actually a blessing in disguise for Yokoi because then he had the tiny hole all for himself. He hid himself very well: in fact, he might have even done it too well, because he ended up being in voluntary isolation for 28 long years. Somehow he survived that long in the jungle and for obvious reasons missed any news about the war having ended. Later, though, he claimed to have figured that the war has ended but was too afraid to come out.
In 1972, local Talofofo farmers discovered him while he was fishing for food. His discovery was announced and he became an instant celebrity. Local officers of Guam kept his hand-made tools, implements and worn-out clothes and are now on display at the Guam Museum in Hagatña. Yokoi was sent home to Tokyo and was welcomed as a World War II hero. He later moved back to his home town in Nagoya, got married and raised a family. He died on September 23, 1997.
Today, a replica cave near Talofofo Falls has been constructed to honor this brave soldier’s determination and perseverance. The actual cave that Yokoi and his two comrades built have long collapsed and is now covered with lush outgrowths.
Japan is only 3 hours away by plane, and today, hordes of Japanese tourists regularly visit Guam. They come to enjoy the beaches, warm weather, delicious foods, and relaxing amenities, but they never miss to pay a visit to Yokoi’s Cave. To them, Yokoi was a hero. Beside the replica cave is a shrine and memorials to honor Yokoi and his two fellow soldiers.