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Help With Japanese World War 2 Flag Souvenirs

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12 Oct 2013
From time to time posters send pictures of Japanese flags with writing on them, asking for help with translation or other information about the flags.

Such flags are called Yosegaki Hinomaru (Good Luck Flag - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia flags, or often "Prayer Flags" or "Good Luck" flags. During the second world war, it was common for family members, classmates, co-workers, etc. to write messages of good-luck and patriotic slogans on a flag and present it to a newly-enlisted soldier. Typically one finds the words 武運長久 (Good Luck in Battle) written in large characters across the top of the flag. This slogan may be written left to right, or right to left as was common at the time. Each flag is different and there may be other slogans, or no slogans at all written on the top. The flag may be made of cotton, silk, or rayon, and is usually presented horizontally, with names and slogans radiating out from the red disk in the center. Many allied soldiers brought back such flags as war souvenirs. There is a market for such antiques among collectors of war memorabilia, and they can be found circulating on the web auction sites. There are also sites in Japan which provide information on repatriating such flags to surviving Japanese family members (see the Wikipedia entry for more information).

Fake Flags

There are many fake flags in circulation. Such flags may be contemporary flags "doctored" to look like war relics, or may be modern counterfeit items. Fake flags are usually identified by the following
Imitation or poorly-rendered kanji (i.e. Japanese characters written by people unfamiliar with Japanese)
Incongruous names or slogans (names of well-known war figures - Tojo Hideki, phrases such as "World War II")
Various slogans or names all written in the same style, or by the same hand.
An abundance of writing that doesn't radiate from the center. Exclusively horizontal or vertical writing.

Note that servicemen may have unknowingly acquired such counterfeit flags during their service in the Pacific, and brought them back after the war believing they were actual war souvenirs. Family members coming across such souvenirs may be surprised to learn that these keepsakes are not from the battlefield. Those on the receiving end of such a keepsake may be interested to read some of the comments in the following thread.

WWII flag translation | Japan Forum

JREF is happy to assist translating slogans or offering advice on the authenticy of such memorabilia. Note that JREF is comprised of volunteers, and any advice given should not be taken as an authoritative verification of the autenticity (or otherwise) of the item submitted.


Yosegaki (寄せ書き) literally "gathering writing". Name given to items presented as parting souvenirs to classmates or workmates, usually containing the signatures of the friends of the person leaving, as well as messages of good luck. In the context of the second world war, it usually refers to flags given to soldiers about to depart for war. May be combined with the word Hinomaru, as in Yosegaki Hinomaru.

Hinomaru (日の丸) literally "sun disk". A synonym for the flag of Japan, as the red circle or disk in the center of the Japanese flag is representative of the sun (which is commonly rendered as red in Japanese art, as opposed to western art where the sun is typically redered as yellow).

Patriotic/Military Slogans Commonly Seen on Yosegaki (many thanks to Toritoribe-san)

Please help me with kanji translation of WWII Yosegaki Hinomaru | Japan Forum

  • 義勇奉公
    Giyū hōkō
    Serve for the nation with loyalty and courage.
  • 祈健在
    Inoru kenzai
    Wishing you good health
  • 勇奮玉砕
    Yūhun gyokusai
    Courage for honourable death
  • 行け聖戰
    Ike seisen
    Go to the holy war
  • 國威発揚
    Kokui hatsuyō
    Display national prestige
  • 立テ祖國為
    Tate sokoku no tame
    Stand up for the nation
  • 忠勇
    Loyalty and bravery
  • 堅忍
  • 祈成功
    Inoru seikō
    Wishing you success
  • 祈武運長久
    Inoru Buunchōkyū
    Praying for good luck in battle
  • 征戦
    military expedition
  • 日本男子の本懐なり
    Nippon danshi no honkai nari
    (To go to the war is) the true worth of Japanese men.
  • 貴君ノ戦功ヲ祈ル
    Kikun no senkō wo inoru.
    Wishing for your military exploits
  • 七生報國
    Unfailing devotion to country
  • 唯前へ
    Tada mae e
    Go only forward.
  • 誠忠
    Sincere loyalty
  • 赤心
  • 頑張れ
    Go for it/Persevere/Good luck
  • 進めよ征馬
    Susumeyo seiba.
    Advance/Send your (war) horse forward
  • 唯忠
    Only loyalty
  • 盡忠報國
    Give all for the country
  • 見敵必殺
    Destroy all enemies in sight

Samples of flags that appear to be authentic:

Please help me with kanji translation of WWII Yosegaki Hinomaru | Japan Forum

WWII flag - Album on Imgur

Samples of flags thought to be counterfeit/fake:


(above taken from this thread Need help translating WWII battle flag | Japan Forum

Please help me translate this flag | Japan Forum
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