Every year up to 40,000 Hawaiians and tourists gather at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu to participate in the Lantern Floating Ceremony. Held since 1999, it was the first Shinnyo-en lantern festival held outside of Japan. Its goal is to commemorate loved ones and create hope for the future. The floating lantern festival is accompanied by Japanese and Hawaiian music. You can watch this beautiful tradition from a distance or participate by floating your personal lantern. Those who attended this event describe it as a powerful and enlightening experience.
The ceremony is held on the occasion of Memorial Day, when people remember and honor servicemen and women who gave their lives for their country. In Hawai‘i, on this day people often put flowers and offerings on gravesites of loved ones who served in the army as well as those of others who have passed. The Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony was initiated by Shinso Ito, Head Priest of Shinnyo-en, in 1999. At first, the ceremony was held at Ke'ehi Lagoon on the south shore of O'ahu. However, in 2002, the event was moved down the coast to Ala Moana Beach.
The ceremony always starts with Pū or Hawaiian conch shell. This is a traditional signal for Hawaii people that gathers the community together and informs about the commencement of the important ceremony.