In America we celebrate Memorial Day.  In Japan, bon or obon is the Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of the ancestors during Jul or Aug.  In Hawaii bon is celebrated by the various Buddhist sects in Jun, Jul and Aug with bon dances and tōrō nagashi.

Lantern Floating is a cultural festival that was celebrated by many of the Japanese ancestors who arrived in Hawai’i between 1850-1924.  I remember going with my aunt to bon dances on Kauai and my grandfather to the tōrō nagashi at the Hanapepe River.  My grandfather was Catholic, but that didnʻt stop him from participating in the cultural event.

Lantern Floating in Japan is called “tōrō nagashi 灯籠流し, spirit boat procession” and is part of the last day of the bon festival.  This guides the spirits of the departed back to the other world.  

The First Lantern Floating Cross Cultural Event

The first Lantern Floating Hawai’i, a cross cultural event, was held at Ke’ehi Lagoon on Memorial Day 1999 in response to community demand.  Shinnyo-en and the Na Lei Aloha Foundation (the secular, community-building arm of the Shinnyo-en Buddhist community in Hawaii).

©Apr 2018                       Honolulu County Coordinator Doreen Harunaga-Ewing