On a wave and a prayer


POSTED: Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Erika Chisarik stood at water's edge with tears in her eyes, holding a paper lantern bearing tiny photos and names of dead loved ones. The tears were especially for her father, who died Aug. 2.

“;He had cancer and it was just very fast,”; the 37-year-old Honolulu woman said.

Hers was one of 2,200 lanterns put in the ocean yesterday at Shinnyo-en's 10th Anniversary Lantern Floating Hawaii event, which has grown to about 40,000 attendees, including 1,600 from Japan.

About 1,200 at Ala Moana Beach Park memorialized the dead with names and remembrances on lanterns. They sent the candle-lit lanterns out to sea as the sun set in a vivid orange and purple sky. Volunteers floated 1,000 for people from 20 countries.

Last year, donations for lanterns amounted to $18,000, given entirely to the city.

Those on the beach watched the program on a giant screen, while those in Japan watched it televised live. Others worldwide watched it on a live webcast.

McCully resident Masae Meyers shared the Japanese tradition with her daughter, Chanel, 19.

“;In Japan it's more quiet, and they try to assume the spirit, try to feel the person that passed away,”; she said. “;Here it's more like basketball.”;

But as the sound of taiko (drums) beat, she said she felt “;chicken skin”; just the same.

Hisae Oda, 36, of Kanagawa prefecture remembered her father, who died when she was 11. Her husband, Tomohide, 44, a 30-year devotee, dressed in shorts and T-shirt, said the Hawaii event is casual and friendly in contrast with the formal ceremonies in Japan.

He explained in halting English why he attends the ceremonies: “;Lantern is not only one time, many times over and over so that people become like Buddha.

“;Some dead people still cry,”; so repeated prayers and remembrances can make them happy, he said.

The lantern floating is part of the Buddhist Obon season honoring the dead.