AN IMAGINARY HERO: A BOOK BY TSUDA SHIN
by Searching For Onoda
You may have heard of Hiroo Onoda, the WWII soldier who famously refused to surrender for thirty years, hiding in the jungles of a small island in the Philippines. When he returned to Japan, he was hailed a hero.
Onoda’s memoir No Surrender My Thirty Year War was published just months after his surrender in 1974; it portrayed Onoda as an heroic figure, a dutiful soldier unaware the war had ended.
Tsuda Shin, the ghostwriter of the memoir felt guilty for his role in creating the hero narrative, so he penned An Imaginary Hero as a sort of antidote to Onoda’s memoir. Never before has this publication been printed in English.
An excerpt from Chapter 4: Doubting the Thirty Year Long War
“Did Hiroo Onoda not know about Japan’s defeat? Why didn’t he respond to his family’s calls to him? These questions formed the focus of the memoir, and as I mentioned before, they were part of the reason why I took on this ghostwriting assignment. However, I don’t think that readers of the Onoda memoir were convinced on these crucial points. The reason is that even I, the ghostwriter, wasn’t satisfied with my subject’s answers, and I simply carried on writing while evading my own misgivings as convenient. Of course, I repeatedly questioned him when his story didn’t sound right to me. I called his attention to things so persistently even I found myself annoying. But no matter how much I asked him about his perception of the defeat, his explanation was full of contradictions. The more I heard, the more suspicious I became.”
WHY IS THIS BOOK IMPORTANT?
There is a resurgent interest in the story of Hiroo Onoda, evident in recent works like Werner Herzog’s novel The Twilight World, and French filmmaker Arthur Harari’s 10,000 Nights in the Jungle. The problem with these portrayals of the infamous WWII soldier lies in what is not written or shown on screen.
An Imaginary Hero takes us through the three months the ghostwriter spent with Hiroo Onoda writing his memoir, detailing the oddities and contradictions of this soldier who claimed to not know the war was over. Importantly, it questions why the deaths of civilians were omitted from the memoir, who it benefited and ultimately why the ghostwriter regretted his part in creating this hero narrative . This book provides important insight to the true cost of Onoda’s thirty year war, and asks what everyone wants to know: Did he know the war was over?
This book is an accompaniment to the documentary Searching for Onoda, which features interviews with the filmmaker’s own family members who grew up and still live on Lubang Island. The documentary, which also includes exclusive interviews with Tsuda Shin’s sons, does not sanitize or romanticise Onoda’s thirty year war the way the works of Herzog or Harari does.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Your 100% tax deductible donation will go directly to covering the costs of a translator, subeditor, and original cover art. Once the manuscript is ready, any extra funds beyond that will go towards publishing or self publishing.
Any additional donations beyond producing the book will be transferred directly towards post production funds for the documentary Searching For Onoda
*Publishing deal pending.
ANY DONATION ABOVE $100 WILL RECEIVE AN EARLY COPY OF THE BOOK, PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR EMAIL AT CHECKOUT.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT.
In late March 1974, writer and war veteran Tsuda Shin was asked to write a series of articles about Lt Hiroo Onoda, the WWII officer who had recently returned to Tokyo after hiding for 30 years on Lubang Island the Philippines, refusing to surrender. After hesitating, Tsuda Shin packed up and relocated to Ito in the Shizuoka prefecture where he stayed for three months with Onoda. It was there they wrote Onoda’s Memoir No Surrender, My Thirty Year War.
In this memoir, Onoda details his fateful orders that sent him to Lubang Island as a 24 year old intelligence officer, and how he and his small group of soldiers survived over the years and decades, and evaded the many attempts to convince them the war was over.
The memoir portrayed Onoda as an heroic figure, a soldier loyal to his country and determined to follow his orders to “never surrender’, and it no doubt contributed to his popularity in Japan and internationally. There were depictions of Onoda as a samurai, and he received thousands of marriage proposals.
Tsuda Shin felt guilty about his role in perpetuating the hero narrative, and so he wrote Imaginary Hero as an antidote, exposing the contradictions and lies he observed during his three months living with Onoda. One the most shocking omissions in the memoir is the shootings and violent killings of innocent civilians.
Fast forward to 2015 when filmmaker Mia Stewart discovers the blog of Jun Yamada, Tsuda Shin’s son. In his blog, Yamada claims that Onoda told him he knew the war had already ended, and that his father also believed the same, details of which he published in his book. This was the first time Mia heard of Imaginary Hero and she knew straight away she had to include this in her documentary Searching For Onoda. After initially rejecting her requests for an interview, Yamada accepts and they meet in 2017 and again in 2018. Yamada has since granted Mia permission to translate and print an English version of his father’s book, and it will include a message about her documentary and list the names of the victims from her mother’s hometown reportedly killed by Onoda and his fellow soldiers.
This appeal has ended.