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“Ritual is something we use that moves us gently from one thing, one feeling, one experience, one mindset into another feeling, or experience, or mindset.” ~Rabbi Pearl Barlev

Lantern FloatingOn this Memorial Day, an estimated 40,000 people will gather along the shores of Ala Moana Beach Park on the Hawaiian island of Oahu to participate in a Toro Nagashi, a “lantern offerings on the water” ceremony. It’s a way for the living to honor and remember lost loved ones.

Toro Nagashi is a Japanese ritual developed by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist order in 1952. The Memorial Day ceremony made its way to Hawaii in the late 1990s. Participants adorn floating paper lanterns with hand-written messages. And, at dusk, the lanterns are released into the water.

Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike take part in the Hawaiian ceremony, which is now in its 13th year. Where the Water Meets the Sky, the half-hour documentary featured above, offers a window into the lives of people who are drawn to participate.

The Toro Nagashi ceremony provides a way for individuals to publicly grieve a personal loss together with strangers, and to commemorate the links binding past, present, and future generations.

“The ancestors belong to a world beyond which we can imagine,” says UC Berkeley Japanese Studies professor Duncan Williams, who appears in the film. “And you use the lanterns to communicate to those who are in the other world.”

Memorial Day Lantern Floating Festival(photo: Alex Porras/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

About the image (top): A young girl holds a glowing lantern inscribed with messages to a mother. (photo: Ryan Ozawa/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)


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4 Comments

Thank You for This. It's a reminder that perhaps others really do understand,

I would like to travel to Hawaii to participate in this.  It's so heavenly to see the lighted lanterns on the ocean and imagine the music accompanying them, being with others who are there with open hearts.

Thank you for posting this.  This is an example of one of the things I loved and appreciated about growing up in Hawaii.  The cultural practices of symbol and story that speak to the heart.  

Beautiful, but can't this be a fire hazard if the winds pick up one of those lanterns and blow it ashore into trees or brush?  

apples