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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sea of remembrance, peace

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

A lei floats alongside lanterns memorializing loved ones at the eighth annual Lantern Floating Hawai'i ceremony. This year's event allowed some people to launch personalized paper lanterns.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Event security workers were surrounded by lanterns during yesterday's festival at Magic Island, which combined Japanese obon traditions and Memorial Day.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Canoes at Ala Moana Beach prepare to launch wooden lanterns, many of which carried names of loved ones, including those lost to natural disasters and war.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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With a brilliant sunset as a backdrop, lanterns were set afloat at Ala Moana Beach Park yesterday in memory of the deceased and victims of natural disasters and war.

The eighth annual Lantern Floating Hawai'i ceremony drew thousands of people to Magic Island and Ala Moana Beach Park. There was food and entertainment, but the highlight was the launching of 1,150 lanterns with the names of relatives and friends who have died.

The event was sponsored by Na Lei Aloha Foundation and the Shinnyo-en Hawai'i Buddhist organization. Although the ceremony has Buddhist origins, thousands of people from various religions took part yesterday with a message of hope and healing.

For the first time, people were allowed to obtain individual lanterns and launch them with the names of loved ones. The 250 paper lanterns proved popular and sold out early.

People also were able to place names on wooden lanterns that were sent off from shore as well as at sea from double-hulled canoes.

Anthony Alvarado of Kailua and Autumn Broady of Michigan took part in their first lantern ceremony yesterday. The couple will be getting married in a few weeks and were lucky enough to get a paper lantern.

"We decided it would be a good way to start off our union together and remembering our grandparents who aren't here and unfortunately can't be here physically for the wedding, but at least in spirit," Alvarado said. "It's a good chance to remember those who are no longer with us."

Barbara Tatei of Waipahu also took part in her first lantern ceremony. She did so, she said, because she recently lost her parents.

"I'm just honoring my parents," she said. "I hope they're happy where they are and peaceful."

The lantern-floating ceremony began on a small scale eight years ago at Ke'ehi Lagoon. But as the popularity of the event grew, organizers needed to find a bigger and more centrally located venue.

Harold Karimoto, an organizer with Shinnyo-en, said the ceremony allows people to get together for one common reason.

"We combined the traditional Japanese obon lantern-floating held in August prayers for the deceased and the American Memorial Day. We brought them together to offer prayers for our loved ones, for all the deceased, not only in war," Karimoto said. "It's also a cultural activity where people of different races, cultures and religions can come together in harmony. Together the prayers for the deceased will be prayers for world peace, which is something that we as human beings all share."

The thousands were entertained by taiko drummers, singers Nalani Olds and Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom and 'ukulele stylist Jake Shimabukuro.

At last year's event, many people asked if they could launch their own lanterns, which Karimoto said led organizers to provide the individual paper lanterns for a donation. He said he was surprised that these lanterns were claimed so quickly.

"People really have a deep sense of wanting to offer this type of prayers for their loved ones and it extends to this level where they would actually want to do their own launching," Karimoto said. "This is the heart that is being expressed by these people."

Gary Brookins had hoped to write the names of his father and other people who were important in his life on a lantern. But the Honolulu resident arrived too late to do so.

Still, Brookins said he was glad he went to the festival.

"We'll listen to the taiko drums and enjoy the evening and the sunset. It's still a blessing to be here," he said.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.