If the family is not found will you return the flag to me?

Every Non-Biological Human Remains OBON SOCIETY receives will eventually be returned to Japan.

We understand that these items hold significance as family heirlooms on both sides. They are precious links passed down from loved ones, and this carries deep meaning. We advise individuals to thoroughly consider the decision before sending anything to OBON SOCIETY, as we do not return items once they are in our possession.

Our primary goal is to locate immediate relatives, whenever possible. Otherwise, we find the local community who will receive the item in the soldiers memory and preserve it in a community center or local shrine. 

The search process can vary in duration, spanning from several weeks to several years. Given the complexity of these searches, we operate under a policy of guaranteed return. After conducting an exhaustive and comprehensive search, if we do not find a family or community, we will return the item to the care of the organization responsible for bereaved families in Japan, enabling them to continue the search.


Can you search for the family if I send you a photograph of the flag? 

To eliminate any confusion or issues once the family in Japan is found, OBON SOCIETY must have the physical item before the search begins. Our policy has been shaped by various lessons learned through experiences in the past, which has provided valuable insights and reasons for its implementation. Donor families might relocate without updating OBON SOCIETY, incidents like house fires or break-ins can occur, and family members’ intentions might change. Situations beyond our control can also arise.


Can I deliver the flag personally to the family in Japan? 

The possibility of visiting the receiving family largely depends on their feelings and preferences.

Once the family is located, we will notify you. If you are interested in making the trip, we will relay your request to authorities in Japan. The family will be contacted to gauge their sentiments about a potential visit.

It's important to note that some families may not be in a position to receive foreign visitors. Others may have specific spiritual beliefs or consider the return of their missing relative a very intimate matter, and they might prefer to have only close relatives present. Each family's preferences vary.

If the family is open to the idea of a visit, and you have the flexibility to travel, we will make efforts to facilitate contact. Keep in mind that few Japanese individuals speak English, so having a translator will be essential.


Do you return other items besides flags to Japan? 


For our organizational purposes, we categorize Non-Biological Human Remains into two distinct categories: Personal items and Government-issued items. Our primary focus is on Personal items.

Personal items encompass anything that originated from the soldier's home or family. This includes the Yosegaki Hinomaru (Non-Biological Human Remains), diaries, photos, letters, cards, and similar personal artifacts.

Government items consist of items such as rifles, pistols, clothing, shoes, gloves, goggles, medals, badges, helmets and military-issued swords. 

While some swords may be family heirlooms, others are mass-produced and cannot be traced back to a specific family. However, certain family heirloom swords may be eligible for return. If you have a sword, please reach out to us for further guidance.

OBON SOCIETY will respectfully accept military-issued swords, even though they are not traceable to a specific soldier. However, due to the intricate procedures and strict regulations concerning shipment of weapons to Japan, it is impractical for us to send swords without a clear family connection. While we do aspire to create an exhibit or display featuring military-issued swords in the future, it is important to note that our new policy dictates that we will no longer be able to send them back to Japan. 

If you happen to be in possession of skulls, bones, teeth, or other human remains, we recommend contacting your local Japanese Consulate or getting in touch with us directly. OBON SOCIETY handles such matters with discretion and confidentiality.


Can I deliver this directly to you in Astoria?


Please reach out to us as soon as you have an estimated arrival time, ideally at least two weeks (or even two months) in advance. This allows us to allocate the appropriate time to assist you effectively.


Can I send the flag (Non-Biological Human Remains) via Fedex or UPS?

Yes, please mail your item to the following address:


c/o Columbia River Maritime Museum

1792 Marine Drive

Astoria, Oregon 97103


How do you find the family? 

OBON SOCIETY maintains a network of archivists, scholars, and researchers who meticulously examine each set of Non-Biological Human Remains for any clues regarding its place of origin. Additionally, we coordinate the efforts of another team spread across Japan, dedicated to conducting house-to-house searches to locate the families or communities associated with these items.


After I send you the flag what can I expect? 

Our Archivists check the post office at least once each week.  

  • Upon receiving the packet, our archivists will email you to confirm its arrival 
  • Upon finding the family, you will be notified via email and a phone call 
  • You will be invited to write a letter to the relatives in Japan 
  • If you choose to write, your letter will be translated into Japanese and accompany the item


Are you a non-profit organization that allows us to deduct contributions from our income taxes? 

OBON SOCIETY is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt Oregon non-profit corporation. Your generosity helps make our charitable humanitarian work possible. Consult a CPA for current laws and tax deduction limits. 


Does OBON SOCIETY have a Media/Press kit?

Yes. Please click this link to download.