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Flag Translation Please


1 Aug 2020
I have two Good Luck flags my father brought home from WWII. I would appreciate help translating them.
Photos are attached. There are two flags, with three photos of each -- full size, then each half for a closer view.

The flags are probably from the Philippines since he spent the most time there, but he was also in New Guinea and some smaller islands.

I'm aware of the Obon Society, which tries to return Good Luck flags to the soldier's descendants if they can locate any. If there are identifiable names on the flags I'm considering sending them for return. Does that seem like a good idea?

Thanks for any help.


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I should have mentioned that I can take closer in photos and/or reorient the flag if that would help.
Sometimes I wish the writing on them told their story instead of just names & slogans. I loved the Clint Eastward movie "Letters from Iwo Jima".
Flag #1

At the top of the flag (flag should be oriented so that this is horizontal, at the top of the flag)
Good luck in battle

Vertically, on the right side
Nobui Nariaki-kun (other readings are possible). Nariaki is the person to whom the flag was presented.

Everything else on the flag is a name, plus a couple of patriotic slogans
Flag #2
Again, at the top of the flag, the same "good luck" slogan, only this time it is written in reverse (right to left). So in reverse order it looks like

Vertically, on the right side, again the name of the person to whom the flag was presented. This time, with a location

Presented by (name of organization) of Sawaguchi village, in Kita Akita county, Akita prefecture, to Mr. Suzuki ??.

I'm not sure of the organization that is doing the presenting. It looks like some rifleman's association, but it could be a veteran's group or some other group supporting the soldiers. I'm fairly certain the name is Suzuki, but I can't pick out he first name of the addressee.

Edit: the name could also be 岩木 (Iwaki) using an old version of the kanji 岩. In the online phone directory I note a few families with this name living in this area.

To me, this would be an excellent candidate to provide to the Obon society, because the location is very specific. We have a village name, and a recipient's name, and again, signatures of people who live around that village. This area is very sparsely populated - maybe a few thousand people (both then and now). Sons and daughters of the signers of the flag may still be living in that area. If you ask me, this would be a slam dunk for the Obon society.
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The village was absorbed into a larger municipality, and the name was changed. But there is still a very small, local post office that retains the name of Sawaguchi.
Thanks very much for your help, I'm happy to find out.

Since there's a good chance of the flags being returned to family, I will send them to the Obon Society. I'd be thrilled to learn that they made it to a relative.

My wife said she thought my father (deceased in 2006) would be in favor of returning the flags. I don't know for sure how he'd feel. He hated the war and spoke very little of it, and never about the fighting. But he didn't seem to hold a grudge against the combatants, not that he ever said. In any case it's up to me now, and I think returning them is best.

Thanks again!
1. 國体ヲ護ル Protect the national polity (country + emperor)
2. 至誠一途 Wholeheartedly (lit: completely with sincerity)
3. 撃ちてし止まむ Don't give up until (the enemy) is completely destroyed
4. 兄貴頑張レ Hang in there, brother (looks like a personal message, either from a little brother, or younger colleague at work/school)
5. I didn't number this, but next to the name on the right side is 至誠奉公 Give everything (for your country)
flag slogans.jpg
Regarding your father's feelings, I agree completely with you and your wife.
Returning the flag would be a great way to pay tribute to your father, and to the fact that he bore no ill will to those whom he once called enemies.

Flag #1 may be harder to place, since it has no location. The family name on the flag (Nobui) is unusual enough that it might be all that is required to trace the family. But I think it may be slightly difficult.
Flag #2 as I said has name and location, and the location is a small village, so there isn't a lot of detective work that the Obon society has to do.

If you do end up one or both of them successfully, let us know the outcome. I don't think we've ever had a complete "homecoming" story for war relics. It would be fascinating if you can send this back.
Thank you so much! It's amazing to find out after all these years.

The flags were in a box in my family's attic. I had known about them when I was young but forgot completely. My sister had been storing the box since my parents sold their house in 1986. She gave it to me last year, and I'd been meaning to do something with the contents since then but just got to it now due to sequestering for the pandemic. There were also some other papers in the box: a couple currency bills, what appears to be an exercise routine, a booklet with photos (of the royal family?), and a newspaper sheet. Photos attached of everything, but only a few sample pages of the booklet. No need to translate anything; I'm just posting them as a matter of interest.

I'll let you know if the Obon Society succeeds in returning a flag. I have no idea how long it might take though.

Thanks again!

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Very cool stuff.
The bank note is from China. It is a People's Republic of China 10,000 yuan note from 1949-ish. Worth a few hundred bucks today if its in good condition.

The sheet with the illustrations of the girl in the kimono is a dance guide to the traditional folk song "Tankō Bushi". It is typically played and danced during summer festivals - about right now actually (early - mid August). But some places hold their festivals earlier, and some hold them later in the season. Now, as then, the festival would take place in a large public area, a park or riverside, and the town will erect a small two-story tower as a centerpiece, decorated with red and white bunting, with lanterns strewn around the tower. Around the festival grounds there will be stands with carnival games, and stands selling various cheap foods; grilled chicken, grilled fish, corn-on-the-cob, sweets, etc.. There will be loudspeakers on the tower, and when a folk song like Tankō Bushi is played, people will gather round the tower and dance to it. It remains one of the delights of Japanese summer, although this year I fear it is a pleasure that will have to be foregone.

The video below captures a bit of what it is like. This one is from a festival in Tokyo, and uses the song Tankō Bushi, although there are a lot of traditional songs like this.

The newspaper is from December, 1952.
Supplement to Majestic-san's translation;

Flag #1
There is one more slogan on the lower side of the flag.

Go for the final battle

Flag #2
The name of the organization is 澤口村銃後奉公会, an organization for services to the country at the home front.
The given name of the recipient of the flag would be 為治 Tameharu (or Tameji).
Thanks for the additional information. My father was in both WWII and Korea. He was doing his mandatory service in 1941 when war broke out, so he was in for the duration. He served 6 months in occupied Japan and was discharged from active duty in 1946. But the rules back then were that you were on inactive reserve for 5 years after your discharge, and he was involuntarily recalled to active duty for Korea in November 1950. He was married with a toddler and an infant so tried to get out of it, but they wanted experienced combat officers, which he was, so they ordered him in. The Chinese currency and the newspaper must be from his Korean service.
There are two bank notes. Unfortunately they're not in good condition (creased and stained) but thanks for the tip -- maybe I'll try to sell them anyway.
Thanks for the video, it's very interesting to connect the document to a real performance.
My father also brought home a third flag that's completely blank. That one may have come from his time in Japan, though I don't know for sure.

Thank you for the additional translations.

I had no chance of making out anything on the flags. I'm so glad I found this website.
Thank you. He was in Japan for about 6 months after the war ended so he had ample opportunity to get it there.
I sent the flags in and got this reply:

OBON Society Office
Dear James,
This short email will hopefully serve two purposes.
First, we want to reassure you the items you sent have arrived and are safely in the hands of OBON SOCIETY staff.
Secondly, we sincerely would like to thank you for your trust and confidence in our ability to search for and find the families that belong to these items.

After we process and catalog the items we will begin the search. This search might take as long as several years.
If and when we find the families you will be the first person to know.
Thank you for your generous heart.

Randy Puseman & Lloyd Bowler

This is a send only email. Please respond by going to: www.obonsociety.org

OBON SOCIETY is a gift dependent
charitable initiative. Your generosity
helps make our work possible.

I thought it might take a while but I didn't expect several years.
Well, I'll post again if I hear back.
Thanks much. I wouldn't be discouraged. As I said, they have everything they need to make a fast discovery. Often the only clue they have is a name, and it would require a lot of research to identify the exact owner. Your item (one of them, anyway) has all kinds of concrete clues on it, so I imagine the search will be much shorter. Anyway, hang in there and let's hope for a quick response.
I spoke with a rep of the Obon Society today. They said they have a name and prefecture from both of the flags. It's a good start but a long way to go yet.

They asked if I'd be willing to talk with them about whatever I knew of the flags' history and how I decided to contact them, which I did. They said if they do find any descendants of the flag-bearers they will offer me the opportunity to write a letter to them.
I heard back from Obon and they found a home for one of the flags:

It gives us pleasure to report to you that OBON SOCIETY has found the family in Japan that belongs to one of your flags.
Below is the information:
Soldier's name: xxxxx
Location of death: Philippines Islands
Date of death: 3/11/1945
Name of found relative: xxxxx
Relationship to soldier: Niece
Resident of: Kyoto Prefecture

The Japanese family is eager to receive this remain.
We are preparing your flag now to send to Japan.

Some families ask us if they can send a letter or message to the Japanese families.
Some even send photos of their family members, father or grandfather.
If you would like to write some message, we will pause the shipment until your letter or photos arrive.
OBON SOCIETY will translate your words into Japanese and enclose them with the returning item.
If you plan to write something, please kindly inform us by reply to this email so we hold the shipment until your letter arrives.

(I removed the name of the soldier and his family member for their privacy, since I don't know if they would want it public.)

I wrote a brief note and sent it with a couple photos.
The other flag will be more difficult because it has less information but at least there's one sure success.
Excellent news. I think this may be one of the first times that the forum has seen success with Obon Society. Good luck with the return, and let us know if the family has any comments that would be interesting or encouraging to other people thinking of making a similar gesture.
I heard today from the Obon Society that they found a recipient for the second flag. It's a nephew of a soldier from the Akita prefecture. He was killed in action January 20th, 1945 in Luzon Philippines.

Rex, the Obon admin, said they occasionally receive 2 or 3 flags from someone but it's rare that they find descendants for more than one of the group, so this was lucky.

I haven't heard anything back from the family of the first flag. I don't know if they will respond or not, but I'll let you know if I hear from either.
Latest Update:
One of the flags is back home. I received this letter (names omitted for their privacy):

I'd like to express my deep gratitude that you have returned the flag of my uncle, __________.
I believe it must be the destiny that I received his flag because my grandmother
used to tell me the story about him almost every day in my childhood.
When I think about my grandmother who died in 1980 at age of 92, my heart
aches for her because she had only information about his death in war that he
lost his life in Baguio, Philippines. However, now I feel relieved because of the
return of his flag.
Thank you very much.
From _____________

The letter was sent in Japanese and Obon provided the translation.
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