During the last days of Obon a festival of sorts is held to commemorate the passing of the dead. People from all over Japan, go to the rivers carrying their hand made lanterns filled with love and prayers for their beloved ones who has departed this world.
Once that lantern is lit, it is then released to the river to be carried by the currents. A parade of floating lights that seems to dance in the distance create a spectacular view.
Hand Made Lanterns
All the lanterns that is used in the Toro Nagashi are handmade. These lanterns are usually made up of Yupo translucent papers, but other similar papers can be used as well.
They can be shaped into different designs (round, square etc.) however, the most common are the cylindrical ones. Each lantern contains written messages (prayers and wishes) to the dead and at times, the living as well.
Floating Lantern Ceremony
The Toro Nagashi is not only practiced in Japan, but in many countries around the world as well. This traditional ceremony is of Buddhist origin and dates back to the 7th century.
During the Obon, the season in Japan on which they believe that the souls of the dead once again roam the earth to visit their loved ones. It is a season of reunions on which families get together to remember their love ones who had died.
They visit their graves to clean it and offer prayers. Then at the end of Obon, they send of lighted hand made lanterns (candle lighted) on the rivers to safely guide the souls of the departed back to the world of where they rest. To those who haven’t seen this tradition before, it is a beautiful yet emotional experience.
There are times when hundreds, even thousands of these lighted lanterns flock the rivers at a given time. On clear nights, when the moon is not seen and only the stars light the sky, the parade of lanterns on the river’s surface is a majestic and surreal sight to behold.
Toro Nagashi to Commemorate the Hiroshima Bombing
The Floating Lantern Ceremony is also used to commemorate tragic events on which many people had died. One of the most historical event in Japan is the Hiroshima bombing that happened during the Second World War.
To remember the lives that were lost during the war, the Toro Nagashi is held on the Motoyasu River in Hiroshima. The lanterns floating on the river not only symbolizes the prayers and hope of the Japanese, but also a wish for peace all throughout the world.
Motoyasu River, Hiroshima
Get off Hiroshima Station via JR Sanyo Shinkansen Line. At the station, take a street car that heads off to Genbaku Dome-Mae. The travel time is approximately 20 minutes.