At sunset on Mon., May 28, Memorial Day, some 3,500 glowing lanterns will illuminate the waters edging Ala Moana Beach Park’s Magic Island on Oahu.
Inscribed with messages to loved ones who have passed away and prayers for a peaceful future, the lanterns—perched atop miniature floating boards—will be launched before a shoreline crowd expected to top 40,000 at the 14th Annual Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony.
If you’ve never taken part in Honolulu's version of Toro Nagashi, a Japanese Buddhist tradition, which translates as “lantern offerings on water,” we recommend checking out this poignant Hawaii tradition.
The Toro Nagashi ceremony was founded by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist order in 1952. In Japan, it is traditionally held in July or August, coinciding with the end of annual Obon festivals, which honor the spirits of ancestors as well as those of family members who have recently passed away. Hawaii's Shinnyo-en order officiates the ceremony on Memorial Day to also honor lives lost in war.
This year’s free ceremony will get under way at 6 p.m. with music performances followed by an address given by Her Holiness Keishu Ito, head of Shinnyo-en. The event is presented by Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order of Hawaii and its secular, community-building arm, Na Lei Aloha.
Organizers describe the symbolism of the drifting lanterns as “an experience that transcends all human divides of culture or belief. In that moment there is only peace, harmony, understanding, compassion, and warmth, without boundaries of race, religion or lifestyle.”
If you would like to float a lantern during the sunset ceremony, plan to swing by the beach several hours earlier. A limited number of lanterns will be distributed, beginning at 1 p.m., and will be snapped up quickly.
There will be free parking at the Hawaii Convention Center, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Ala Moana Beach is a short walk from there. Between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., a free shuttle will make trips to Magic Island. Return shuttle trips are slated for 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Hawaii television station KGMB9 will broadcast the event. Click here to watch Lantern Floating Hawaii live online, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Monday. Also, the ceremony will be televised live on KGMB9, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with a rebroadcast scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sat., June 2.
For additional information about the annual Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony, click here.
Photos: (top) David Hume Kennerly (middle/bottom) Shinnyo-en Hawaii