I was talking with my dad on the phone this morning about my upcoming conversation with Obon 2015. He was mainly just wanting to make sure I wasn't getting scammed and sending the flag off to someone who's going to split and run the moment it arrives.
He also told me that he's found these flags all over online. He said people are selling them for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars on eBay. So I did some searching myself and found a handful of search results pretty easily. Turns out they're quite prevalent.
Both of these flags were from the same seller. Maybe he's a collector trying to turn a quick buck? I don't know. There's nothing wrong with trying to make money, as we all have bills to pay. But these flags are more than just flags. More than 1.3 million Japanese soldiers are still missing from World War II. In many cases, these flags are all these soldiers's families have left of their loved ones. So in a sense, they're not flag. They're the remains of the soldiers themselves.
OBON 2015 told me that whenever the family members of the soldiers receive these flags they can feel the spirit of the their lost family member within the flag. I'm sure it's on par with what we feel when going through a deceased loved one's belongings and reminiscing. But to be robbed of that experience would be painful, especially if you saw the only remaining connection you had to that loved one being sold for a quick buck.
I'm not condemning the people on eBay for doing this. They probably don't know the significance behind these flags. But I'm hope that by sharing my journey of returning this flag a few other people will learn the significance behind the yosegaki hinomaru. And if they have one in their possession, I hope they will choose to reunite it with the soldier's family.