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Okinawan owner of wartime good luck flag sought

Date Posted: 2004-01-15

A Japanese tourist visiting Australia discovered a wartime flag with many names signed on it in a flea market. He bought the flag, and upon returning home, handed it over to Susumu Kikumoto, the chairman of the Solomon Island Survivors Association, a Japanese war veterans’ organization for those who served in the southern islands. Such flags were customarily handed to departing soldiers as lucky charms during the war, with family members, friends and neighbors signing their names on them.

The flag was handed to a soldier named Kamezo Matayoshi. Based on that and the names signed on the flag, Kikumoto thinks that it is very likely that Matayoshi came from Okinawa. “A Kyoto man who was on holiday tour to Australia recently discovered this flag at a flea market. It is in very good condition, so he bought it and brought it to me,” Kikumoto explains. “The flag has ‘We pray for Kamezo Matayoshi for his safety and return’ written on it. Such persons as Shimabukuro, Umeroku, Tamaki, and Morinaga on signed it. All names seem to be Okinawan.”

Kikumoto says that he visited Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, but Matayoshi’s name was not there. “That means that he did not die during the war, and he might still survive,” Kikumoto says. He said that he would like to return the flag as soon as possible. “This flag must be the most memorable thing he ever received. I hope I can locate either him, or at least some of his surviving kin,” Kikumoto concluded.

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