History of Lantern Ceremonies
Historically, lantern floating has been part of the nationwide tradition in Japan of paying respect to ancestors during the Obon festival season.
The first atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945 on Hiroshima, Japan. Although many people were killed instantly, some survived. Many were burned, enduring such unbearable heat and pain that they threw themselves into the rivers. In 1948, the survivors and citizens of Hiroshima floated lanterns on the rivers to mark the anniversary of the bombing, praying that their parents and friends killed by the A-Bomb may rest in peace. It is now an annual event, drawing tens of thousands to float lanterns on Hiroshima’s rivers in memory of the A-Bomb survivors. The second A-Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
Traditionally, the Japanese write a victim’s name and their own names on a lantern. But these days, many participants write prayers for peace or draw pictures on the lanterns and float them.