THE STORY OF TOMIO AIKAWA

It has been a few days since I've posted anything about the yosegaki hinomaru that belonged to Mr. Ueda. That's because I haven't really had anything new to share, seeing how the flag has been on a transcontinental journey for the past few days (although I just found out it safely arrived today). Last night OBON 2015 sent me an email to tell me about a different flag they reunited with the family of a man named Tomio Aikawa. Here's that story:

Hello Michael, 
While we await the arrival of your flag and preparations for the search to begin, I thought I would share with you a recent story of one flag. The history and identification of the people [are] as accurate as we can be, for now. We might gain more specific information during our next visit to Japan.

We are not sure of the date when Tomio Aikawa was drafted into the Navy, but we guess it was sometime in 1943. Below you will see a photograph of him with two Yosegaki Hinomaru tied across his chest. Perhaps one hinomaru was from his family and the other may have been from workers at his place of employment. Or maybe one was from his family and the other from his wife and children. Some Japanese received two or three hinomarus. Behind him are two unknown gentlemen, however, next to him is his wife, Tomiko, dressed in a traditional kimono. She is resting her hands on the shoulders of their eldest son.

Image used with permission courtesy of  OBON 2015

Several months later his wife gave birth while Tomio was away in the service. This child was their second son. Tomio was given leave over New Years 1944. He returned home to see his family. On January 3rd, 1944 he was photographed holding in his arms his new born son, Hiroshi, who was only one month old. The eldest son is in the center of the photo; his wife, Tomiko, is behind him smiling. The other people are not known at this time.

Image used with permission courtesy of  OBON 2015

Six months later, on July 8th, 1944, Tomio was killed during the battle for Saipan.

Approximately sixty-seven years later a Japanese woman, Michiyo Ando, who teaches Flamenco dance in California, was visiting a friend. This woman's children were playing with a Yosegaki Hinomaru given to them by their grandfather. One child sat on it while the other pulled him across the floor like a sled. Michiyo Ando was horrified.

Image used with permission courtesy of Bridge USA

Michiyo told her friend it was a precious personal family item that belonged to someone. Her friend took it away from the children and gave it to her. Michiyo [then] contacted OBON 2015. 

Image used with permission courtesy of  OBON 2015

Image used with permission courtesy of  OBON 2015

OBON 2015's researchers and scholars studied the details and deciphered the names. Fortunately there were numerous clues that led to one specific family. Within ten days OBON 2015's researchers had found the family.

The soldier's wife, Tomiko, had passed away, as had the eldest son. However, that second son, Hiroshi, who had been photographed in his father's arms on January 3rd, 1944, was alive. He had turned 70 years old a short while before he was contacted by OBON 2015.

He was stunned.

Image used with permission courtesy of  OBON 2015

A simple return of Tomio's remaining item to the family occurred at a nearby shrine. Local priests conducted the appropriate ceremony.

Image used with permission courtesy of  OBON 2015

For the first time in his life, Hiroshi gazed at the hinomaru of the father he never knew. His wife, by his side, gazes at her father-in-law's only surviving possession.

Image used with permission courtesy of  OBON 2015

Image used with permission courtesy of  OBON 2015

Although torn by the California children's rough-house play, this precious remaining item of Hiroshi's father will be a lasting memory of the man who once held him in his arms many years before.

As you can see, these flags have real lives attached to them, lives that are no different from yours or mine. My only hope is that we're able to track down Mr. Ueda's family as easily as Mr. Aikawa's.