September 2, 2023, marks the 78th anniversary of V-J Day, the day America received the official surrender of Imperial Japan.
For this special anniversary, we decided to do something a bit different and display a unique artifact in our collection.
This is a “Good luck” flag or Yoseiaki Hinomaru.
Good luck flags were given to deployed Japanese soldiers by their families.
Family members would write messages for their soldiers on these flags, and then these flags would be carried for good luck on the soldier’s person whether that be in a bag or a pocket.
The design of the flag had the Japanese “rising sun” in the center while the good luck messages were written around the sun to look like sun rays.
While it isn’t known when this tradition exactly started, it is assumed that the tradition started during the Sino-Japanese War.
World War Two Marines, Army, and Navy veterans would find these good luck flags on the bodies of deceased Japanese soldiers. They would collect them and bring them home.
For many years, these flags would be stored in attics or military footlockers only to be found by veteran’s children after they had passed away.
These ceremonial flags would then be passed to museums for research and display purposes.
It is the duty of museums to educate and display history as it happened, thus these flags were an important addition to exhibits teaching about the Pacific War helping people understand both sides.
However, recently, a non-profit organization called the Obon Society. This organization is dedicated to returning the non-biological remains of military members back to their families. This means that they have been receiving donations of the “yosegaki hinomaru” flags, deciphering the inscriptions, and finding and returning them to surviving family members.
Most recently, the museum associated with the U.S.S. Lexington has worked with the Obon Society to return one of the flags in their collection.
The Obon Society was able to locate the family and return the flag. It was a healing moment for all involved.
Looking back 78 years ago, both America and Japan have experienced a lot. And as the years went by, the wounds carried by both countries have healed. America helped Japan rebuild her country and even helped restore her as a superpower on the world stage. Relations between the two are equal partners instead of competing entities.
It is a miracle wrought by time and the commitment of both nations to a better future.
The yosegaki hinomaru really is bringing good luck as the process of returning them home is bringing further healing to the nations and families involved.
Remember V-J Day today, and the sacrifices of those on both sides that brought peace.