//The Water Lantern Festival

The Water Lantern Festival

By Will Freeney | memo247365@gmail.com

Here it is, November. Fall is underway. Leaves have fallen and seasonal holiday merchandise has been placed on the shelves. If you enjoy dressing up for Halloween or decorating the house and welcoming guests for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or any other upcoming holiday, this may be your favorite time of year. If, on the other hand, you dread the holidays as The Invasion of the In-laws and pray for the grace to withstand paying for presents for, preparing food for, and cleaning up after people you may not see again until this time next year, this may be your least favorite season.  If you worry that you will be by yourself, with all the restaurants closed, Thanksgiving and Christmas probably aren’t on the top of your annual event list either.

     Here’s a season-improving tip regardless of which category you belong in: Water Lantern Festival.  The spirit of all these holidays is to bring joy to children, gratitude, and appreciation to adults, and familial bonds for all. Right?  Well, the Water Lantern Festival is a modern, American development of Toro Nagashi (“Floating Lantern” in Japanese) which is held at the end of Obon (honoring ancestors) in August every year.  The lanterns are made of wood and paper and set alight and afloat, to send the ancestors back, with good fortune, after their annual visit for Obon. (Sound like loading your relatives with leftovers as they get in their cars after Thanksgiving dinner?)  Toro Nagashi was instituted as a post-War “Festival of Recovery” in Tokyo beginning in 1946 on the Sumida River. It continued there until 1965 when new flood walls got in the way and resumed in 2005 when waterside terraces were constructed along the river.  The popularity of the event led to the participation of thousands of locals and visitors.  Its propagation beyond Obon now includes celebrating other memorial events, such as the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the first and to-date only strategic use of nuclear weapons summarily ended World War II in the “Pacific Theater,” but it was also the death knell at the end of a long symbolic death march for the Japanese populace.  The ongoing traditional bombing had compounded the privations forced on the people as part of their “contribution to the war effort.”  The landscape of Japan was a hellish rubble of destruction.  Coming back from that was what the “Festival of Recovery” was about.

     Well, now Toro Nagashi has been replicated and expanded as the Water Lantern Festival (happening at multiple locations nationwide – from Long Island to Los Angeles, Dallas to Detroit) at Woodward Park on Saturday, November 10th.  

Shinzen Friendship Garden, a pocket of stately and serene beauty in the form of a traditional Japanese landscape garden, is located in the middle of the otherwise typical rolling hills that constitute Woodward Park, at the edge of the San Joaquin River.  Entering the park from the East Audubon Drive entrance, bear right at the fork of Yosemite Road, passing the driveway for the Rotary Amphitheater parking lot on the left.  Shortly after that on the right is the parking lot for Shinzen Friendship Garden.  Parking in that lot is limited, so arrive early or be prepared to do a little walking. 

For $30 ($40 day of event) you receive admission to the Festival, your own lantern, a marker to decorate it, a commemorative bag, a wristband, and an opportunity to make new friends, listen to good music, eat from a variety of food trucks, and send your loved ones who won’t be joining you in person this year your thoughts, prayers, and love in a serene, joyous ceremony that will become an incandescently beautiful memory. When you toast those not at the table this year for Thanksgiving and all the following holidays, you can think of your water lantern, sending light and love from you to them, wherever they are.

The Water Lantern Festival is a part of One World LLC, that has been hosting events all over the world since 2012.  This year, they wanted to host an event to promote unity, love, remembrance, and peace while bringing the community together for an unforgettable night.  The Water Lantern Festival accomplishes all of that.  As Water Lantern Festival spokesperson, Mike Schaefer, put it, “This is a time that we can come together, love one another, heal ourselves.  Reflect on your life, share your dreams, and feel the peace of all those around you, as you observe the lanterns’ reflection upon the water.”

Sound like your kind of party?  Gates open at 3pm, providing access to the festivities – music, food, merriment.  Lantern decorating begins at 6pm, with launching from 6:30 to 7:30.  The event concludes at 9pm.

Visit the website to see photos of the Water Lantern Festivals past and to get your tickets for this year’s Water Lantern Festival at Woodward Park.  https://www.waterlanternfestival.com/index.php. Jumpstart your holidays with some luminous love.

If you want to make it a Shinzen Weekend, come back for Champagne Brunch in the Garden from 11:00 – 1:00 on Sunday, sponsored by Shinzen Garden and Cultural Arts Rotary Club. $35 ($45 day of) will provide you with a complimentary glass of champagne and brunch, including orange juice (mimosa anyone?) and coffee.  Proceeds benefit the Garden, Educational & Youth Cultural Arts Programs. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit the Shinzen Garden website: http://www.shinzenjapanesegarden.org/.

If you’ll be out of town on the 10th or have friends and family elsewhere with whom you’d like to share this unique opportunity to start a new family tradition and bonding experience, check out the full list of locations:  https://www.waterlanternfestival.com/index.php#locations