Written by Chiara Mischke
Hiroshima Peace Message Lantern Floating And Peace Memorial Ceremony
Every year on August 6th, the day the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, the city holds a memorial service and a lantern floating event in the Peace Memorial Park in memory of the victims and the importance of peace.
August 6th - A Day of Remembrance in Hiroshima
On Monday, August 6th, 1945 at about 8:15, the first atomic bomb used against humans was dropped on Hiroshima costing thousands of lives and destroying the city. Survivors suffered from the after-effects of this fateful day all their lives due to the nature of the bomb.
To this day, August 6th is a memorial day in Hiroshima. Thousands of people from all over the world travel to the Peace Memorial Park on this historical day to honor the victims and give them a promise of peace.
8:00 - Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony
Every year since 1947, Hiroshima city holds a Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6th from 8:00 until 8:45 am in front of the cenotaph containing the names of the atomic bomb victims. Noteworthy figures of Japan hold speeches and lay down flower wreaths.
At 8:15, approximately the time the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, everyone joining this event holds a moment of silence remembering the tragic events of that day. After this short time of contemplation, white doves are released to signify the wish for peace.
Visitors often leave water at the memorial sites on August 6th in memory of the fact that the survivors suffered incredible thirst due to the lack of clean water after the bombing.
Everyone is invited to join this event and to lay down flowers after the main event. Schedules are handed out written in Japanese and English so it is easier to follow along even if you don't speak Japanese.
I have been told that the Peace Memorial Ceremony is mainly visited by the families of the atomic bomb victims as well as the survivors. August 6th is not a holiday in Hiroshima, so many people have to go to work while the Peace Memorial Ceremony is held.
Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony
Origin of Hiroshima's Lantern Floating - Consoling the Victims' Souls
When the atomic bomb was dropped the area of the Peace Memorial Park was a normal part of the town where people worked and lived. Not everyone in close radius to the bomb was killed immediately. Many people were severely burned by the heatwave created by it but still alive. Most of them could not bear the pain and heat from the burns and started to throw themselves into the river for relief. Unfortunately, most of them did not survive this action.
Around 1948, some citizens started to float the first lanterns to console the souls of their friends and family members who had possibly passed away in this river and express their wish that they may rest in peace. Floating lanterns in memory of lost loved ones is a long tradition stemming from the Obon festival. By 1961, up to 30.000 lanterns were being floated in the span of three days from August 6th every year.
Part of the Celebration of the Revival of Hiroshima
In the later 1950s Hiroshima steadily grew and improved as a city. The citizens started to pray for the victims in the daytime of August 6th, followed by a festival celebrating the revival of Hiroshima in the afternoon. This festival even included fireworks accompanying the floating of lanterns. However, the festival grew too big to be held in the small area of the Peace Memorial Park, so the firework display was merged with the Hiroshima Port Festival. Only the Peace Memorial Ceremony and the Lantern Floating Ceremony continued to be held in the Peace Memorial Park.
From Freely Floating Lanterns to an Organized Event
When the lantern floating event started it wasn't officially organized. People would just freely float their lantern from one of the many stairs that lead to the rivers. However, the stairs are very narrow and if too many people gather on them it is very dangerous. In 1950 Hiroshima city and the local shopping mall started to organize the event and launch participants lanterns from small boats.
Since 1996, the participants have the options of launching the lanterns from a platform beside the river, also known as free-floating, between 18:00 and 21:00 in addition to having then launched for them from the boats. About 10.000 lanterns float past the A-Bomb Dome in the Motoyasu river every year on August 6th.
Float Your Own Lantern
Choose a Paper for Your Lantern
From around noon on August 6th until 20.30, you can purchase a lantern for about 600 yen at the reception besides the Motoyasu River.
They have different lantern colors for the participants to choose from as well as a recycled paper lantern made from the paper cranes donated to the Children's Peace Monument in the Peace Memorial Park. This recycled paper is also used in a couple of goods you can purchase at the Peace Memorial Museum.
Decorate the Paper
Traditionally the name of the victim that was your friend or family member as well as your own name was written on the lantern before floating them. However, nowadays many people send peace messages with their lanterns.
The overall message of this ceremony is the wish for peace. Feel free to draw and write anything that conveys peace and happiness in your heart and mind.
Assemble and Float your Lantern
From 18:00 staff members along the river bank will help you assemble your lantern by giving it a wooden frame and light a candle in it. You will only have your piece of paper until you reach the river bank.
As soon as your candle is lit you can bring your lantern to the river and let it float. The friendly staff submerged in the water will make sure that your lantern getting on the right track.
You will see many of the lanterns clustering up which looks like they are making friends as they float down the river. Our MATCHA lantern ended up traveling its path of peace with a new pink friend.
Silently Floating for Peace
The lanterns passing by the A-Bomb Dome dipped into an eerie light are a beautiful yet heartwrenching sight to behold. The river around the A-Bomb Dome is filled with people watching the lanterns traveling downstream while live violin music is quietly playing in the background.
If you get a place close to the river, you can observe what people wrote and drew on their lanterns. Some of the victims and survivors families still join the lantern floating event and every once in a while you will see lanterns with only names or dates on them.
As mentioned before, you can also have your lantern be floated from a boat. This is also a great option should you not be able to join the actual floating event at night. You can decorate your lantern during the daytime and give it back to the receptions staff to launch it for you.
You might be thinking these are a lot of lanterns floating into the ocean. Don't worry, all the floating lanterns are collected in the lower reaches after floating down the river to make sure they don't cause any environmental issue.
Virtual Peace Message Lanterns
In the case that you can't make it to Hiroshima but still want to send a peace message lantern you can create one online, floating on a virtual river. The website http://message.tsuguten.com/ is offering a service in English and Japanese in which you choose a lantern by color and write a peace message to travel with your lantern.
After you wrote your message you can release the lantern into the virtual river and watch all the peace messages floating through your computer screen. This service is available on computers, smartphones, and tablets.
August 6th - A Day of Remembrance and Peace
Hiroshima stands for peace and remembrance. If you visit the city you will see its scars but also its love and wish for peace. It is a place like no other in Japan, especially on August the 6th.
Why not visit the Peace Memorial Park to pay respect to the victims, donate a paper crane, float a lantern, and carry the message of peace through the world?
In cooperation with Hiroshima
|Address||Hiroshima and Nakajimacho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima 1-1|
|Business Time||18:00 - 21:00|
|Accepted Credit Cards||Not Available|
|Menu/Pamphlets in Other Languages||English|
|Nearest station||Genbaku-Domu Mae (A-Bomb Dome)|
|Access||From Hiroshima Station, take the tram line 2 or 6 to Genbaku-Domu Mae|
|Price||600 yen for a lantern|