The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) and OBON Society are in the process of returning a rare Japanese “Good Luck Flag” to its rightful family. OBON Society provides reconciliation between American and Japanese families through the return of personal items acquired during World War II.
A Grand Rapids resident donated the flag, along with a WWII newsreel and a map of Iwo Jima, to the GRPM in 2015. The items were possessions of the donor’s deceased father, a former American soldier, who collected the flag during the war.
The flag is decorated with messages from family members, friends and community members that wish victory, safety and good luck for the soldier. Through extensive research, the GRPM was able to connect with OBON Society to share high-resolution images of the flag for translation. Volunteer Japanese scholars interpreted the messages, which revealed the soldier’s origins, name and location of death. The information allowed OBON Society to locate the deceased soldier’s younger sister, who is still living in Japan.
“We are creating a space for people who fought, suffered and grieved because of the war to enter in conversation and have the opportunity for healing and reconciliation,” said a spokesperson from OBON Society. “When news of our work travels around the world, we have witnessed the profound effect it can have on humanity.”
At this time, the flag is in the process of being returned to the soldier’s sister in Japan through OBON Society. The GRPM currently has possession of four more Japanese “Good Luck Flags,” which are logged in the Museum’s Collections database, accessible at grpmcollections.org. The GRPM has provided details about the remaining flags to OBON society, who will continue to search for the family members.
“The GRPM is honored to take care of these important heirlooms,” said Alex Forist, Chief Curator at the GRPM. “It is our hope they will be returned to families in Japan who may not have any other tangible connection to their loved ones who were killed in combat.”
Grand Rapids Public Museum
The Grand Rapids Public Museum is an invaluable, publicly-owned institution that is home to more than 250,000 unique artifacts that tell the history of Kent County and beyond, houses the only planetarium in the region, and is responsible for protecting The Mounds, a national historic landmark. The Grand Rapids Public Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, with its main location in downtown Grand Rapids, MI at 272 Pearl Street, NW. For additional information including hours of operation, admission fees and exhibit/event listings, please visit www.grpm.org.