EBAY

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.

 

REACHING OUT

I woke up to a text from my mom, "Your dad did see the website [Obon 2015]. He still wants to research more; doesn't want someone to take the flag. He is not very trusting, ugh!!!" She ended with the little caveat, "You can do what you want." A classic case of 'if dad says no, ask mom'. Although in this case I didn't ask my mom. She just gave me the go ahead on her own.   

Her thumbs up was good enough for me, so I've reached out to Obon 2015, Northwestern University and the Field Museum. I've already gotten one response from someone at Northwestern University. People are amazing. 

In the mean time, I'm going to keep sending emails and calling until I can get some responses. 

THE BEGINNING

This past Sunday I came home, spread the flag out on my apartment floor and took a picture of it and blasted it out to all 600+ of my closest Facebook friends. I really didn't expect much of a response, seeing how it wasn't a picture of a baby, cat or cat baby. Within a few minutes I got a handful of responses. The following day, people continued to message me and reply to my post. Some responses were simply words of encouragement and intrigue, while others were people doing whatever they could to help me find answers. I've lost track of where images of the flag are being shopped around but am grateful for every single one of those efforts. 

Then, yesterday evening I received a response from a woman by the name of Lisa. Her cousin, Namiko, is Japanese and was able to make out some of what was written on my blurry little photo. She pointed out what was written at the top: 武運長久. Namikio said it's a common phrase for wishing continued luck in the fortunes of war. She also informed me of a group by the name of Obon 2015. Their mission is to return all yosegaki hinomaru by August of 2015 because that's the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. And the best part? They'll help you return the flag! How cool is that? I'm glad she found this group, because I'm a horrible Googler and never would have found them. 

I haven't emailed Obon 2015 yet, because I'm waiting to hear back from my dad since technically this is his flag. Or rather, he's the one holding onto the flag until we can get it back to where it belongs. But if I don't hear back from him soon, I'm going to go ahead without him. I'm getting antsy. 

Over the next few days, I'm going to be reaching out to universities to see if I can locate people willing to sit down with me to try and figure out what's written on the flag. 

One other thing I learned is that the handprint on the flag is not from the soldier it was taken from. It was probably from his wife or child. That just breaks my heart. Watch the video below for some more details about yosegaki hinomaru.