From Battlefield Souvenir to Family Heirloom

I have to start by admitting that this post is a little late, about a month late to be exact. Part of that is my fault, but I've also had a lot going on in my life having recently moved across the country for a new job. Excuses made and out of the way, I can continue on with this post. 

I began this blog over a year ago to share my journey of returning this flag to its rightful owners. And to be quite honest, I didn't know what to expect. However, I've since learned that my blog has helped several people return flags of their own. 

At first the posts were fast and furious, several times a week in some cases. But after identifying the family of Mr. Ueda, the posts came to a grinding halt, the last of which was on September 25, 2014. At that time, the family of Mr. Ueda had been taken surprise by his military service and was unsure of what to do next. In an email I received from OBON 2015 on February 26, they said the family had become "confused and distraught." Imagine the years-dormant emotions it must have awakened. 

I'm happy to announce that in that same email, OBON 2015 said that Mr. Ueda's wife told them, "I would like to possess the flag of my husband." And on March 1, the flag was returned to Mr. Ueda's wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandson. You can see them all in the photo below. The grandson has a "keen interest in [this] era of history," according to OBON 2015. Now he has his grandfather's flag in his possession. How cool must that be for the little guy?

(from left to right) OBON 2015 associate in Fukuoka, Sukio’s daughter, Sukio’s wife (Sachiko), Sukio’s grandson and Sukio’s son-in-law

(from left to right) OBON 2015 associate in Fukuoka, Sukio’s daughter, Sukio’s wife (Sachiko), Sukio’s grandson and Sukio’s son-in-law

Maybe I was being a little too nosey, but I asked OBON 2015 why the family was so distraught over the flag (a stupid question, I know), but they gave me some historical/cultural context. So I'm glad I asked. Here's what they said: 

The Japanese do not reveal much about their emotions, even to other family members. So what went on here will never be known to us. But, piecing together what we do know, and what I have learned from reading history,….when the soldiers returned home alive they were not welcomed. In many cases the Americans were already occupying their cities before they arrived. Night clubs were being set up, dancing, drinking, prostitution and parties. The returning Japanese veterans were outcasts; their leaders were in prison ready for criminal trial. Many men starved to death on the streets. It was very rough.
He survived. Whether through strong will, a good supportive family or friends…somehow he survived and pulled his life together. He married and had a daughter.
He did not tell his wife or daughter about his war experience. They did know he was in the service, but whether he was a sailor or soldier…..mechanic or cook no one knew.
All they did know was that on some occasions he drank a little sake and would sing some song from the war era. It is apparently a well known song that everyone knew. His daughter remembers sitting on his lap and hearing him sing many times.
So, this was apparently a black hole in his history that the family never ventured into.
When the flag became known it caused some conflict within the family. The wife had been sick and was recovering….the grandson was studying history and was intrigued. They behaved as one might expect the Japanese to behave……wait patiently and the answer will present itself.
So after several months they came to the conclusion to receive the flag.
(Oh, by the way, in the year 2040 the Japanese will celebrate their 2700 Imperial birthday. You, as a nation, do not survive for 2700 years by rushing into decisions)

I'm grateful for the context, because I didn't know that Japanese veterans were not well-received by their country and faced such adversity. Either I wasn't paying attention in history class (which is very likely), or this was something I never learned. 

So, I guess that's the end of the line for this story then. My plans are to keep the blog running because it has helped so many people over the past year. OBON 2015 sends me a monthly newsletter about other flags they're working to return. I may begin posting those so readers will have fresh content. (I honestly don't know why I didn't start doing that sooner. It was a no-brainer, really.) 

Thank you to everyone who has shared this journey with me.