Lifelines back to the 1900s

by and

With 2009 so far looking bleak, here are some queries from around the world that take us into the past with the hope of finding positive solutions for the present.

T o start, two letters concerning war memorabilia. The first is from R.B. in Minnesota, who has a World War II Japanese noncommissioned officer’s sword that his father brought back from either New Guinea or the Philippines after the war. Now he is thinking that he would like to return it to the family of the soldier who carried it into battle. He asks, “Is there a Web site I can go to that can track it back to the owner? It has a serial number on it that may help.”

Also, the editor of Hourglass, the periodical of the 7th Infantry Division Association in the U.S., saw an article on JT Online about the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo and it brought to mind the following problem.

“An association member has some World War II Japanese ‘memorabilia’ that was seized on a battlefield and he would like to return it to the family of a soldier killed in or near Okinawa. There is an autographed flag and some personal photos. He has a name and I was wondering who I could contact to try and find the family of this soldier who died in his country’s service so long ago.”

In such situations, often a Japanese newspaper will pick up on the story in the hope of connecting those involved. The Foundation for the Japan War Bereaved may be able to help, but you will need to speak Japanese to make inquiries on (03) 3261 5521. Their site ( www.nippon-izokukai.jp/index2.html ) is in Japanese, but does have limited English translation.

Another option is to go through the voluntary organization Japan Helpline, which is based in Tokyo but operates worldwide. They can act as a link between those wanting to pass on memorabilia and Japanese groups working in this field. If you choose to go this route, first send detailed photographs of the items by e-mail to help@jhelp.com. After the items have been checked, Helpline staff will then arrange for someone to interview you. They may then be able to find the family members concerned and arrange for the handover.

A reader is trying to contact a pen friend of many years ago.

“His name is Hitoshi Niwa, and he lived at 342 Kasai, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. I have tried to contact him before but have not been able to find him. My name is Bev Priest (it was Bev Phillips until I married) and I live in Orange, New South Wales, Australia. I do hope printing this will help me find him.”

Hitoshi, make contact and we will put you in touch.

Roberto Almeida is also desperate to find an old friend in Japan.

“I met Shigemi Sakamoto in Hawaii in 1981. Then she went back to Tokyo and I to Brazil,” he writes.

Roberto accepts that they are both older now and their lives have moved on, but if anyone can help him, he would really appreciate it. “It means a lot.”

We have a message for Susan Kay Gawne-Neeb, from Stacey Hayward and her husband, Nicholas, in Ontario. Susan wrote to us last year looking for relatives of Tomie Kay Endo-Gawne of Sendai.

“We would like Susan to know that Nicholas and his twin sister, Courtney, are the children of her brother, Richard Gawne. They never knew their father and always wanted to know about him.

“Nicholas and I had our first child last year and it would be nice to know what ethnicity Richard is for our baby’s sake. We have one picture of Richard, but it’s hard to guess what nationality he is. Can you please contact me through this newspaper with any information on your family? We would really appreciate it.”

Brenda Kerry Weiss is looking for her half sister, Michi Aoyama. “My family and I very much to contact her. Apparently she was a famous singer in the 1960s. Can anyone help us find her?”

Ken Joseph Jr. directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com or on (03) 000-911. Send questions, queries, problems and posers to community@japantimes.co.jp