Expedition Yamashita

Not sure what triggered off this idea for exploration. James said it’s the Metal Detector that I procured recently. I kinda agree with him but I believe added onto this was probably the story we heard of hidden treasure recorded during the last world war.

Disclaimer – This post serves as a record of what we saw. We are not stating any facts or presenting our deduction of our find. We have no intent to “miswrite”  history either.

We did some planning and shopping weeks before the execution. We even sat down at the Marina Club and went through the checklist over dinner. Must say I was really impressed with how meticulous James and Steve were.

Finally set out early in the morning on 7th January 2011.  After a good breakfast, Karyn was kind enough to ferry us around and dropped us off at the start-point. Finding the shrine was not difficult. With the help of our iPhone GPS apps, we managed to trek our way in. Cutting through the bushes took some effort. Fortunately, thanks to James, we had the machete.

Along the way, we came across a few spots where blocks of concrete stump were found. Could not verify what they were. Did however marked them on our GPS Apps. When our phone 3G signals were strong, we marked positions and sent out several times to our facebook wall.

Just before we reached the shrine, we came across a big hole. Thought initially that it was the shrine itself but found out later that it was still some distance away. The hole was about 5 x 5 m wide and 2 stories down from the ground surface where we stood. It looked like it had also been deliberately concealed with mud.  On one corner, there was a void that went deeper.  That’s when we tried out our metal detector. We tied the Garrett Pro-Pointer to a nylon string and lowered it into the hole but did not detect any sign of metal.  We lowered our digital cam and snapped a few shots of the inside view with the camera built-in timer.  On the ground, we set up the AT Pro and combed the surrounding area. We found only an iron pipe.  There were several smaller holes in close proximity. Stuck our AT Pro into those holes but detect nothing. One was filled with plastic-ware packed in the usual black trash bag.  I scanned the concrete floor & steps and realized that unlike those floor slab we have in present time, those made then were without any reinforcement bar.

The shrine itself was big. Dotted around the site was a stretch of high retaining stonewall, a huge granite cleansing tub, long and short steps etc. There was also what looked like freshly dug holes scattered in a few area. One was right below the cleansing tub. Believe there were others before us looking for the same hidden “treasure”.

Thinking back I thought it was very funny, while we were deep in the wood working our way in, we kept questioning (jokingly) why on Earth did we leave the comfort of our office or home and ended up in that situation. While we working our way out, I believe the same question also popped out. The recovery was more taxing on us physically. We had our lunch before we set off but like a drained out battery, getting out after the early half of the expedition, seem more straining on our muscle.  What looks like a direct route out turned out to be a long and winding trail.  Incidentally, our iPhone was also down to just one ( after spare battery recharged ) and a half out of the three we brought into the wood.

Overall, I know myself and I believe my other 2 comrades felt the same, that it was a very satisfying experience. We planned, prepared and executed the expedition like a pro ( humbly proclaimed ). We reached the target ( the shrine ) successfully and we came out “alive”. We also managed to try out my newly procured metal detector and found an interesting use for the pro-pointer when we explored the sunken hole.  We learned from this trip what was best suited for an expedition like this and we aim for a better experience the next time round.  As for the gold…it’s probably nested deep in the forest of a neighboring country.

BTW we also found a hidden ( Geo) cache within the shrine compound.  Left our mark in it and put the cache back to where we found it…Nice.


It was through the collecting of stamps, postal covers, postcards etc that often lead me to discover more about history, of critical events that had taken place in many parts of the world.

I had never known what Syonan was all about nor taken an interest in it until KH mentioned about an auction on a cover commemorating the first anniversary of the surrender of Singapore, dating back to 1942.  Like many times before, I started digging into that online, on eBay and other online sites. Discovered many things along the way and started building up another collection on that part of history.

One thing leads to another, I found and bought a used book named ” The Syonan Years – Singapore Under Japanese Rule. 1942-1945.  Among many other interesting events mentioned, I came across a small section which relates to the shrine. In it, it states that the Ise Shrine was said to be the model for Syonan Jinja built in Macritchie Reservoir during the Occupation.  Realized then the significance of that site in history in this part of the world.  Guess the next step would be to visit the Ise shrine in Japan, considering that “The Syonan Shinto Shrine changed to smoke in the blast of an explosive charge.”, a sentence by Tsuji ( a Malayan Campaign planning officer), as mentioned in the book.

A Shinto Shrine


The Syonan Collection



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