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May 25, 2017

This is How We Remember

Photos by U.S. Marine Corps | Photo by Cpl. Brittney Vella/Released

The art of remembering lost loved ones is a telltale sign of humanity.

It's something every human has done for thousands of years. We often go to great lengths to remember the lives of the loved ones we've lost. We plant trees, frame flags, light candles, build shrines, patch quilts, hang photos—all as a means to never forget.

Here in Honolulu, with our diverse melting pot of culture and ethnicities, we've been known to beautifully blend traditions to create something iconic. Look no further than our annual Memorial Day Lantern-Floating Ceremony as an example. Held annually at Magic Island, this symbolic and soul-stirring night brings together tens of thousands of people to remember the lives of the loved ones we've lost. Visually, the sight of thousands of Japanese lanterns gently drifting out to sea—paired with the thousands of people lining the beach and wading into the calm waters—paints a heart-warming picture of humanity.

According to Larry Sakagawa, an official with the event, more than 7,000 lanterns will be sent into the water this year. "The significance of the lantern is for everybody, no matter what denomination, to express their feelings for the people that passed before us to kinda let them go," he told Hawai'i News Now.

As a ceremony, the event traces its lineage back to the late 1990s and Her Holiness Shinso Ito. As a Shinnyo-en Buddhist Master, Ms. Shinso Ito held the first event in 1999 at Ke'ehi Lagoon simply to create "cultural harmony and understanding." In 2002, the ceremony moved to Ala Moana Beach Park, where it has been observed every year since.

Undeniably beautiful, the event begins with the sounding of the kani pū, or Hawaiian conch shell. From there, taiko drummers summon the attendees for a peace prayer "with hope that people reach out in the spirit of creating harmony to support one another." Ms. Ito will also address the audience before she participates in the Light of Harmony ceremony. Following a handful of other gatherings and rituals, the participants will release thousands of lanterns into the sea, marking the night. The ceremony concludes at 7:30 p.m. and all of the lanterns are collected by volunteers. Hawai'i

Free parking is available at the Hawai'i Convention Center from 7 a.m. to midnight on the day of the event. A free shuttle service will also be available to Magic Island from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., returning to the Hawai'i Convention Center after the ceremony until 9:30 p.m.

Those wanting to personally float a lantern will be able to receive a single Individual Lantern at the Lantern Request Tent on the day of the event between 10 a.m. - 4:00 p.m, or until lanterns run out, on a first-come, first-served basis.

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