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40,000 jam Ala Moana for floating lantern ceremony

By Star-Advertiser Staff

LAST UPDATED: 9:20 p.m. HST, May 30, 2011


Prayers and messages for the dead and suffering drifted out to sea on floating lanterns from Ala Moana Beach Park tonight.

Organizers of Lantern Floating Hawaii produced an extra 1,000 lanterns this year — for a total of 3,000 — for the 13th annual ceremony to keep up with demand.

An estimated 40,000 people lined the shores of Magic Island and Ala Moana Beach Park this evening as Her Holiness Keishu Shinso Ito, head of the Shinnyo-en Buddhist sect, launched the first lantern dedicated to the victims of March’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe in japan.

There were songs, hula and a fusion of a traditional Buddhist chant and western choral harmony.

Beyond the public performances, however, were individual moments of grief and remembrance.

The event was first held at Keehi Lagoon in 1999 and moved to Ala Moana in 2002 as a combined observance of the upcoming Obon season and Memorial Day. In July or August, Buddhists welcome the spirits of deceased loved ones and ancestors with bon dances and other Obon traditions.

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