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Original WWII captured Japanese silk Shinto prayer flag (Hinomaru flag)

Militaria Tips by Donald K. Burleson

November 2010

The Japanese silk prayer flag was carried by almost every Japanese soldier in WWII.

The Japanese prayer flag was a common spoil of War trophy captured by a US soldier in the South Pacific in 1942-1944 because they were made by the hundreds of thousands and they fit into your pocket.

These signed flags were farewell presents and the text is like signatures on a “best wishes” card, like you might give to a departing employee.  They are called prayer” flags only because the word “prayer” is synonymous with “best wished”, wishing the soldier everlasting fortune in their battle against the American imperialists (the Yankee “Gaijin”).

In sum, Japanese prayer flags were a Bon Voyage souvenir, carried by hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers during WWII.

These signed Japanese flags are properly called Yosegaki flags. Yosegaki means “gathered writing” in Japanese.  When the Kanji appears on the Japanese red dot national flag (the rising sun, or “meatball” flag), the prayer flag is properly called Hinomaru (sun orb flag) Yosegaki.  The large signature is often soldier’s squadron commander.

Original WWII Prayer flags always show signs of wear

Traditionally, the Yosegaki was given by family when soldiers went to the front.

An original WWII prayer flag in excellent condition has a 2010 value of $200.  Beware of fake Japanese prayer flags.  A real Japanese prayer flag will have fixing and holes because it is 70 year-old silk.




Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

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