13th Annual Lantern Floating Hawai'i

May 31, 2011
Ala Moana Beach Park, Honolulu

Over the past month we have been making preparations for the 13th annual Lantern Floating ceremony. We've documented that process and have included a few hightligts below.

April 27, 2011

As the waters of the Pacific merge with each ocean to touch the shores of every continent around the globe, prayers and wishes for peace and the happiness of all are sent out from Hawai'i. Every year on Memorial Day tens-of-thousands of people gather at Ala Moana Beach to honor and pray for those who sacrificed their lives in war, for loved ones who have passed away and to aim for a harmonious and peaceful future.

Even amidst the crowd, people commonly describe experiencing a very personal and private moment of warm connection with loved ones. It is an experience that somehow transcends any human division of culture or belief. In that moment, there is only peace, harmony, understanding, compassion and warmth without any boundaries of race, religion or lifestyle. A participant once said, "It's not a Hawaiian thing or a Japanese thing. It's not a Buddhist thing. It's a 'Human Thing'."

We come to understand how interconnected we all are as each and every one of us experiences common feelings of love and loss, no matter where we are in the world. The purpose of the ceremony naturally helps us to feel connected to those who have gone before us and can be a means to cultivate a heart of being grateful, respectful and caring in those who will succeed us. The collective nature of the event leads us to be supportive of others around us who may also be on a similar journey of healing.

Toro Nagashi, or "lantern offerings on the water" is a time-honored Buddhist rite traditionally observed in Japan to pay respect to ancestors and offer comfort to spirits of the deceased. Candle-lit lanterns carry prayers for those who have sacrificed their lives in war, for victims of water-related accidents, natural disasters, famine and disease, as well as loved ones who have passed away. In Shinnyo-en, lantern floating ceremonies are always preceded by the Mizusegaki, or "Water Consolatory" service where spiritual consolation and merit transfer to the spirits of the deceased is performed.

Lantern floating ceremonies symbolically ferry the spirits of the deceased back to the spiritual realm to mark the completion of Obon, the Buddhist tradition of welcoming spirits of family members back to celebrate with and be honored by the living. Obon observances are traditionally held during the later summer months. In Japan, Shinnyo-en holds a traditional Obon service, Mizusegaki service and lantern floating ceremony every year during this time.

Memorial Day in America is a day when people remember and honor those who have died in service to their country. In Hawai`i, with its diverse population, traditions become easily adopted and assimilated into its rich cultural fabric. It is the norm for people in Hawai`i on Memorial Day to place flowers and offerings on gravesites of loved ones who served their country as well as those of others who have passed away.

On Memorial Day 1999, Shinnyo-en officiated the inaugural Lantern Floating Hawai`i ceremony. Through 2001, the event was held at Ke`ehi Lagoon on the south shore of `Oahu. In 2002, the ceremony was moved to Ala Moana Beach Park at Magic Island near Waikiki where it has been held every year since.

At sunset, lanterns are set afloat from canoes with the volunteer assistance of local canoe paddling clubs. Lanterns are also released from shore by community volunteers as well as by individuals whose personal remembrances and prayers are written onto dedicated lanterns. Each year the number of lanterns has increased to accommodate public demand.

Lantern Floating Hawai`i engages hundreds of volunteers each year. Volunteers have an opportunity to offer themselves in service to give someone a chance to honor and remember their loved ones. Many volunteers express that this act of offering is rewarding and healing for themselves as well.

May 12, 2011

Toro Nagashi, or "lantern offerings on the water," is a time-honored Buddhist rite traditionally observed in Japan to pay respect to ancestors and offer comfort to spirits of the deceased. Candle-lit lanterns carry prayers for those who have sacrificed their lives in war, for victims of water-related accidents, natural disasters, famine and disease, as well as loved ones who have passed away.

Every Memorial Day thousands of people gather in Honolulu at Ala Moana Beach Park for the Lantern Floating Ceremony led by Shinso Ito, the spiritual head of Shinnyo-en. The ceremony remembers those who gave their lives in conflict, allows for reflection on the memories of loved ones and dedicates prayers for a peaceful and harmonious future.

May 19, 2011

Final preparations are underway for Lantern Floating Hawai'i 2011. Watch video of Shinnyo-en's Head Priest, Shinso-Ito, welcome guests and introduce last year's ceremony.

May 24, 2011

Lantern Floating Hawai'i 2011 will conclude with the launching of the lanterns that have been inscribed with the prayers and hopes of the participants.

Media Highlights

Lantern Floating Hawai'i 2011 attracted over 13 million print impressions and 15 million broadcast impressions over the Memorial Day weekend, 2011. Coverage highlights include:

LATIMES.COM - May 18, 2011
Honolulu event will light up the night on Memorial Day

SFGATE.COM - May 27, 2011
Honoring tsunami victims, loved ones in Hawaii

TRICYCLE.COM - May 30, 2011
Memorial Day Lantern Floating Ceremony

WASHINGTONPOST.COM - May 30, 2011
High divers, Rolling Thunder, Memorial Day and more in the day in photos