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A Hinomaru flag of a Japanese soldier found in the Philippines during World War II and kept in the United States has been returned to his kin.

The flag bearing messages of encouragement for the soldier was in the possession of the late U.S. Army Col. Jack Blair for more than 60 years. Blair’s relatives and friends contacted Japanese authorities following his death to fulfill his wish to return the flag to its original owner.

The Japanese government recently determined that the flag had belonged to Masayuki Kosakadani from Toyama Prefecture. He took the flag to battlefields in the South Pacific and was reported to have died on Leyte Island in the Philippines shortly before the end of the war.

The flag was returned to his relatives last week during a ceremony in a show of bilateral friendship held at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Naomi Matsufuru, Kosakadani’s 56-year-old niece, said she “would like to say ‘welcome back’ to the flag,” adding she would like to thank the numerous people involved in the saga of its return.

The Hinomaru, measuring 80.5 by 68 cm, bears the message “hissho” (“secure victory”) addressed to Kosakadani. Even today, the message often appears on bandannas worn by political candidates and college exam-takers.

At the big red circle in the center of the flag are some 30 signatures of relatives and acquaintances in Osaka, where Kosakadani had worked as a barber before going to war.

“I wonder how my uncle felt when he was sent to war with the flag, because I heard he was very sad when people saw him off,” said Yoshio Kosakadani, 67, the soldier’s nephew.

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