Ritual: Tōrō Nagashi Ceremony


Looking for a way to remember the dead that doesn’t involve skulls?* This ancient Buddhist ceremony, dating back to the 7th century, is one of the more beautiful rituals we’ve come across. According to that most infallible of sources, Wikipedia, “traditional Japanese beliefs state that humans come from water”. Participants in a Tōrō  nagashi ceremony send lanterns floating down a river to signify bodies returning to the water from which they came.

In March 2012, TDP hit Pismo Beach for a working-adult twist on the Spring Breaks of our youth. After dinner one night, we piled onto the beach, homemade lanterns in hand, to try out the ceremony for ourselves. It being our first try, the theory was a bit more graceful than the practice: The sea was rough that night, so we opted to send them across a mini-estuary leading out to the water instead, only to discover that wind and lit candles don’t mix. We gave it our best shot, and after a few minutes watching the two hardiest lanterns slowly bob near the edge of the water, we danced in the sand instead.  

For tips on making your own DIY floating lanterns, click here

*We’re big fans of Dio de Muertos, btw. But we also believe in remembering the dead on any day you choose.


Posted on July 17, 2013 and filed under Rituals.