With its aloha spirit and location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii welcomes people of all nationalities and beliefs. On Memorial Day, Lantern Floating Hawaii invites all to gather for a moment of remembrance and reflection. It is a day to come together to offer gratitude to those who have gone before us.

In America, Memorial Day honors veterans who have died in service to their country. During Lantern Floating Hawaii, families honor veterans as well as all of their deceased loved ones.

Origins of Lantern Floating Hawaii

To understand Lantern Floating Hawaii, you must first understand its origins in Japanese culture.

Lantern Floating Hawaii has roots in a Japanese Buddhist tradition called Toro Nagashi. Translated into English as “lantern offerings on water,” Toro Nagashi takes place at the end of the Obon season in Japan.

A Japanese Buddhist custom, people believe that their ancestors’ spirits come back to their homes to reunite with their family during the Obon season. They place lanterns outside their homes to help guide their ancestors’ spirits back to them. Families gather together as they prepare for the ceremony by making special foods and altars.

At the end of the season, it is time for Toro Nagashi. People place lanterns into rivers, lakes, and seas to help guide the spirits of their loved ones to the spiritual world. Along with the paper lanterns, people also send prayers, messages, and wishes.

Toro Nagashi helps guide the spirits of loved ones and provides spiritual healing. It is also a way to respect and honor those who have passed away.

Participating in Toro Nagashi helps families feel connected to those they love. As many people come together to perform this ceremony, it also provides a sense of community and oneness.

Lantern Floating Hawaii

Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head Priest of Shinnyo-en, officiated the first Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony on Memorial Day, 1999.

With the goal of creating cultural harmony and understanding, Lantern Floating Hawaii has become on of Hawaii’s most popular traditions. Approximately 50,000 people attend each year. This year, there will be over 7,000 lanterns.

Although the end of the Obon festival is usually in July and August in Japan, Hawaii’s Shinnyo-en order holds Lantern Floating Hawaii on Memorial Day to also honor lives lost in war.

In this way, the traditions of Japan’s Toro Nagashi and America’s Memorial Day are combined to create something truly unique and hauntingly beautiful. No matter where you are from, you are welcomed and encouraged to participate in this beloved tradition.

Memorial Day 2017

This year, Lantern Floating Hawaii will take place on Monday, May 29, 2017, at Ala Moana Beach. The pre-ceremony taiko performance will be at 6:10 pm HST, with the ceremony occurring from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm HST.

Lantern Floating Hawaii will live stream the ceremony on their website. It will also air on Hawaii News Now KGMB. Afterward, you can also view the entire ceremony online.

If you want to float a lantern, go to the Lantern Request Tent between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm on May 29. Get there early because only a limited number of lanterns will be available. They are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. If you receive a lantern, you can write messages on it. You can even tape pictures to it if you wish, and you will be able to place it in the water yourself.

Please note that the ceremony organizers ask that you take one lantern per family or group, which enables more people to receive lanterns. More importantly, sharing a lantern with your family and friends adds to the sense of community that the ceremony organizers hope to inspire.

The day is a chance to be surrounded by the love, understanding, and support of others – including strangers. Lantern Floating Hawaii reminds us that we are strengthened as a community as we reach out to support others. This helps us build an understanding of our common values and experiences.

You can also bring a remembrance to the Collective Remembrance Tent between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Volunteers will place these messages into a collective remembrance lantern.

If you cannot attend the ceremony, you can click here to write a message in remembrance of your loved ones. Volunteers will hand-transcribe your message and place it in the collective lantern.

Learn more

For more information about Lantern Floating Hawaii, including information about parking and frequently asked questions, click here.

If you are interested in cultural experiences like these, be sure to check this blog for more information about events taking place in Hawaii. Also, feel free to give us a call so we can help you plan your trip. We’ll be happy to let you know what cultural experiences are happening during your Hawaiian vacation.


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