On Nov. 25, a great man you’ve never heard of died at the age of 90. I would never have heard of him either if he wasn’t my wife’s grandfather. I only met him twice, but he impressed me so much I figured he was worth a mention here.
Toshiharu Goto was a soldier, a police detective, a farmer, and a family man. My wife told me that he regularly went on long hikes up in the mountains, well into his late 80s. He was a guy who as a young man fought in the Japanese infantry, facing God only knows what horrors (like many war veterans he never talked about it). After the war, he became a police detective in Nagoya and was known for being tough and fair. He once led a search party up in the mountains to capture a notorious criminal nicknamed “Tarzan” who would terrorize people in their homes at night and escape to the mountains where he hid out. Tarzan evaded the police until Toshiharu finally told his men they were going up and not coming down until they had their man, dead or alive. Needless to say, Tarzan was captured and brought to justice.
I remember the first time I met Toshiharu 4 years ago. He would have been around 86. I knew he was a former Japanese soldier and I wasn’t sure how he would receive me. Think about it. His granddaughter was bringing her future husband over, a future husband who very well may be the grandchild of one of the Americans he faced down so many years earlier. He shook my hand and asked me if I can do any push-ups. He suddenly dropped to the ground and knocked out 10 push-ups. I was impressed. He then asked me (this is all through translation, by the way – he didn’t speak a word of English) if I knew who MacArthur was. Of course I did, I said. He told me MacArthur was a great man who really helped Japan after the war and he is a main reason why Japan is such a great and stable country today. That blew me away. And it showed me how strong of a man Toshiharu was. Instead of harboring anger, resentment and guilt over the war, he went on to create a wonderful life for himself and his family.
Last year, the second time I met him, his health was beginning to fail and he spent much of his time in bed or in pajamas. When he heard I was coming over to visit, he insisted on getting dressed in a suit. There was no way his granddaughter’s husband was going to see him in pajamas. He thought it would be disrespectful to me. It was probably one of the last times he ever wore that suit.
And believe me when I say this. His property in the mountains two hours from Nagoya is beautiful! There are pristine steams, rolling hills, rice patties and even monkeys in the trees! Yeah, I’m trying to figure out a way to end up there when I retire.
So, goodbye to a warrior. A good man who faced the devil and found heaven.
Sayonara, old man. You will be missed.