Two weeks after the Obon Festival, a Buddhist holiday to remember and celebrate one’s ancestors, during which spirits are said to come home to visit the family for two weeks, comes the Toro Nagashi, a Buddhist ritual to send our visiting ancestors back on their way to the realm of the spirits.
It is a beautiful ceremony, held at sunset at water’s edge, with Japanese American ladies in purple robes chanting, a Buddhist priest saying prayers, younger folks performing taiko drumming and song. Individual paper lanterns are dedicated to family members, lit, then towed out to sea by a small boat.
The ancestors who have been home visiting their families in the world of the living follow the bobbing lanterns down the river and out to sea, which helps them find their way back to the land of the spirits.
One could make a bad joke here that although we all like our relatives to visit, we do not like them to stay too long.
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