Japanese diplomats were trying to schedule a meeting on Saturday with a pair of Japanese Imperial Army soldiers -- now in the 80s -- who have reportedly been hiding in the mountains of the southern Philippines since the end of World War II.
The two men reportedly have lived on the restive southern island of Mindanao since they were separated from their
division, staying on for fear they would face court-martial if they returned to Japan.
On Friday, a day of waiting at a hotel in General Santos city, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila, turned to disappointment for the diplomats.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's spokesman, Yu Kameoka, said in Tokyo the men were apparently reluctant to meet with the officials because of the large crowds, including at least 50 Japanese journalists, waiting to see them.
Diplomats were trying to schedule another meeting through a Japanese mediator, who had contacted the country's
embassy in Manila about the men. But prospects grew increasingly dim with each passing hour.
"You should know this type of information comes in all the time," embassy spokesman Shuhei Ogawa said, confirming
reports that the unidentified Japanese mediator was relying on information provided by a Filipino contact, who got word about the mystery men from yet another Filipino.
"We really have no idea if these two people exist," he said.
The story created huge interest in Japan, particularly among veterans marking the 60th anniversary of the war's end.