A Japanese flag belonging to a Japanese soldier who died in the Battle of Okinawa was returned to his family Saturday, 68 years after his death.
The surprise return was coordinated by the U.S. soldier who took the flag home, a Japanese woman living in the United States and an officer with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.
Toni Hoshi, who was an officer at Senju police station in Tokyo, died in June 1945 at the age of 28. His remains have not been found.
The U.S. soldier found the flag in a cave near Shuri Castle in Okinawa Prefecture.
The former army engineer, now 87, kept the flag in his home, but this March he asked a 24-year-old granddaughter to look for its original owner because he was ill and preparing to enter a care facility.
The granddaughter first approached the Japanese Consulate for information. When that failed, she consulted Aki Suzuki, a 39-year-old Japanese teacher at a U.S. university.
Messages from Hoshi’s boss and colleagues on the flag suggested it was a present given before he went to war. So, Suzuki called the Senju police station after finding its name on the flag.
Nobuya Kogure, a 55-year-old lieutenant who answered Suzuki’s call, managed to find the name of Hoshi’s son, Tadataka, 71, in old personnel records.
“I cannot say other than that I’m deeply moved that a trace of my father was found,” Tadataka said when he was handed the flag at the station by Suzuki, who is on a brief trip back to Japan.
“I was 3 when my father died. I only have dim memories that I was held by him,” he said, adding that only several pictures of his father are left.
“The miracle resulted from my father’s strong wish to come back home and the warmth of the people involved,” Tadataka said, getting choked up.