Professor gets global recognition, makes overseas connection

SPSCC Associate World Languages Professor Aki Suzuki gained national news coverage after reuniting a Japanese man with his father’s war flag. She received the flag from a student whose grandfather had brought it home from Japan after World War II.

Soon after returning the flag, Suzuki was contacted by many Japanese newspapers, as well as Komo 4 News, The Olympian and ABC News. Without thinking the story would be this big, Suzuki did several interviews, including one with ABC.

The reaction in Japan, however, was much bigger. All the news stations and newspapers featured some mention of Suzuki and Hoshi.

The flag belonged to a Japanese soldier Touji Hoshi, who died in battle, leaving behind a wife and a two-year-old son, Tadataka Hoshi.

Tadataka Hoshi, after those 68 years, still craved some contact with his father, though all he had was five grainy photographs. “Growing up, he needed that connection [with his father] sometimes,” said Suzuki.

Before her trip to Japan, Suzuki contacted Tadataka Hoshi over Skype. She said that, when Tadataka Hoshi heard the news of his father’s flag being found, he got very excited and was moved nearly to tears.

Suzuki delivered the flag to Tadataka Hoshi in Shenju in July. She said he hung the framed flag in his bedroom, and everyday he talks to his father’s spirit in meditation.

It was common practice for Japanese soldiers to receive a Japanese flag from their family and co-workers when deployed for war. Touji Hoshi was given such a flag when he left for battle. He stashed his flag in a cave near Okinawa before battle.

Herb McDougall, an American soldier in the war, found the flag. He returned to America with the flag, leaving it in a small candy tin for 68 years. His son discovered it in May tucked in dresser.

At that point, McDougall wanted to find the true owner of the flag and finally return it, but he could not read the many writings on the flag. His granddaughter, Jennifer McDougall, had taken some Japanese language classes at SPSCC with Suzuki, and McDougall thought Suzuki would be able to read the writings.

When McDougall brought Suzuki the flag, she instantly recognized the name of her home town. She realized that she was from the very same area as Hoshi, the Shenju neighborhood of Tokyo.

“It was very amazing; I got a goose bump. I know this place; I know this town. It was a weird connection I had here, so I had more [of an] obligation to find this family!” said Suzuki.

Suzuki contacted the police station. With the help of an employee there, she found Tadataka Hoshi.

Suzuki said she was filled with honor for connecting these people, grateful for being part of it. She said, “Healing people like this … it’s a very amazing miracle and phenomenon to me.
Suzuki said her father knew how hard it was for people to find their family again after the war, and so he was moved by the fact that people do connect again overseas.

Suzuki has had even more opportunities to connect people overseas since five more people from around the U.S. have sent either emails or actual flags to Suzuki after reading about her in the newspaper or seeing her on TV. Though none of these new flags have as easy a mark to find as the first, she said, she is working hard to find their true owners.

Suzuki said her goals are to connect these flags with the families they belong to and ultimately to capture the attention of Hollywood. She said she hopes that this story will be adapted into a movie, preferably featuring Brad Pitt.

But failing that, she said she hopes the government can get involved and create an agency bringing back together people from all nations with objects like these flags. She also said she hopes the president will get involved in the relation of these flags between America and Japan.

“Countries were enemies, but the people are not enemies; people are friends,” said Suzuki.

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