|Hiroo Onoda walks out of the Philippine jungle to surrender in 1974. Photograph: AFP/Getty|
Onoda, whose sole remaining companion was killed in a shootout with Philippine troops in 1972, held firm until two years later.
Onoda wept uncontrollably as he agreed to lay down his perfectly serviceable rifle.
He was later pardoned for the killings by the then Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos. In his formal surrender to Marcos, Onoda wore his 30-year-old imperial army uniform, cap and sword, all of which were in good condition.
He returned to Japan in March the same year, but after struggling to adapt to life in his homeland, he emigrated to Brazil in 1975 to become a farmer. He returned to Japan in 1984 and opened nature camps for children across Japan.
Japan’s top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, praised Onoda’s strong will to live, telling reporters on Friday: "I vividly remember that I was reassured of the end of the war when Mr Onoda returned to Japan."
Onoda was one of several Japanese soldiers who remained holed up in their former battlegrounds long after the war ended.
Onoda, like Shoichi Yokoi, a soldier who was found on the island of Guam in 1972, dismissed reports declaring the war’s end as Allied propaganda. On his return to a hero’s welcome in Japan, Yokoi famously
said: “It is with much embarrassment, but I have returned.”
In 2005 there were unsubstantiated claims that two former Japanese soldiers in their 80s were still in hiding in the mountains on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The men were reportedly afraid that they would be court-martialled for desertion if they gave themselves up.