Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take to find a family?

A: This is a great question, but difficult to predict. Once we found a family in two days; another family took 18 months of hard searching, which means we had people on the ground in Japan knocking on doors throughout neighborhoods.

And, quite frankly, some families have disappeared….some soldiers were the only child to parents who are now deceased.

However, OBON SOCIETY is becoming better known in Japan and now grandchildren are visiting our sites looking for their lost grandfathers. This search from the other direction opens many doors and gives us great hope for the future. Thus far we have reunited two flags in this manner.

2. What do you do with the flags you can’t return?

A: OBON SOCIETY never stops searching for family. Every flag we receive is given the full attention of our scholars who make every effort to find the family. If they have no success on the first try, they try again. The search never ends.

Sometimes we have located the community where the soldier came from and the flag has been received by the local community and respectfully kept in a shrine.

3. Can I send a letter to the family along with the flag?

A: Yes. OBON SOCIETY welcomes this communication. We will translate your letter into Japanese and make every effort to get it to the family.

4. Can I personally return the flag to Japan?

A: Sometimes this has been done. However, it is entirely dependent on the family in Japan, their situation, health and acceptance. Many years have passed; some recipients are elderly, others are in deep grief and do not feel it is time to socialize.

But if this is your request every effort will be made to communicate this wish to the family, and then convey their response to you.

5. Can I keep the flag during OBON SOCIETY’s search?

A: No. Our policy is a guaranteed return; we must have possession of the flag before the search begins. This makes sure the item will be returned without delay when the family is found. Also, it is often necessary for our scholars to analyze details written on the flag that require special photographic access, which only our professional staff can accomplish while working under the direction of the scholars.

6. Why do you use the U.S. Postal instead of Fed Ex or UPS?

A: The U.S. Post Office in Astoria, Oregon is secure. They handle and keep every item with care. The various door to door delivery companies do excellent work, however the U.S. Postal has been our preferred means to ship these precious items for more than six years and we have never experienced a single problem.

7. Do you return other things besides flags?

A: American soldiers returned home from the war with a wide array of ‘souvenirs’ ranging from rifles, helmets and swords to photographs, diaries, family letters and the “good luck flags” known as Yosegaki Hinomaru.  Our main interest are the personal flags, but we have been sent photographs, diaries, family photo albums, letters and swords. Every item is a challenge, but we accept them all and will try our best to get these possessions back home.

OBON SOCIETY is a gift dependent
charitable initiative. Your generosity
helps make our work possible.

PO Box 282
Astoria, OR  97103

OBON SOCIETY is a 501(c)3 affiliate;
Your donations are tax deductible:
AVA (Astoria Visual Arts)
Fed. Tax ID 501(c)(3) #93-1010234