A World War II Hinomaru flag left in the hands of a gift shop owner by a Dutchman has been returned to a relative of the original owner, although the circumstances behind its wartime origin remain unknown.
The flag bears the name of Naosuke Takahashi of Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture.
A Dutchman in his 20s or 30s left the flag in early June with Yoichi Koizumi, the owner of Koizumi Gishido, a gift shop in front of Sengakuji temple in Tokyo.
Takahashi died in 1984 when he was 75. On Aug. 10, Koizumi sent the Hinomaru flag to the 68-year-old nephew of Takahashi, who lives in Shiroishi.
"I am relieved that the owner has been found," said Koizumi, 63. "I want to inform the Dutchman should he visit the shop again."
An individual who played a major role as a go-between in finding the relative of the rightful owner of the flag was Yuichiro Dazai, 75, who is chairman of the Shiroishi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to Dazai, an individual read the article published in The Asahi Shimbun's Aug. 4 Tokyo edition about Koizumi searching for anyone who knew about the owner of the Hinomaru flag that was left to him by a Dutchman. The reader called Shiroishi Warehouse Co. on Aug. 6. Dazai is chairman of that company.
There is writing on the Hinomaru flag referring to a company named Shiroishi Koku Denki (Shiroishi aircraft electric equipment). That was the name used by Shiroishi Warehouse when it served as a munitions plant during World War II.
Dazai thought the Naosuke Takahashi whose name appears on the flag was the same individual who worked for the company during the war, and he searched for his surviving family members.
Because Takahashi died 28 years ago, the reason he was given the flag as well as his military record are not known. The writing on the flag indicates it may have been given to an Imperial Japanese Army soldier who left for the war front on what was likely July 29, 1944. The messages on the flag are ones of encouragement.
"There were names on the flag of much senior members of the local business sector," Dazai said. "I am glad it has been returned to its rightful place."
Koizumi said the Dutchman named Robin who wanted to return the flag to its owner obtained it from a relative, but did not know how that relative had obtained it.
He said the Dutchman was a fan of the "Chushingura" drama about 47 "ronin," or masterless samurai, who made huge sacrifices to avenge the death of their master. The actual samurai who carried out the vendetta are buried in Sengakuji, and Koizumi's shop has many items related to those samurai and the drama.
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