On a quiet, chilly Saturday evening, I serenely watched a collection of lanterns illuminate the misty air as they floated across the north end of the lake at Berkeley Aquatic Park to commemorate the victims of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Held on the Saturday closest to Aug. 6, the date of the first bombing, the annual Bay Area Peace Lantern Ceremony is a free event for the community. Families can decorate lanterns to remember the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Historically, lantern-floating is a part of a Japanese tradition of paying respect to ancestors during Obon Festival season. The first peace lantern ceremony occurred in 1948 as the survivors and citizens of Hiroshima floated lanterns down rivers, praying their parents and friends killed by the atomic bombs may rest in peace. This was the first time I went to a lantern ceremony, and I was immediately met with a sense of awe as I observed the the flickering lanterns go out into the water. In a busy college student’s schedule, it’s difficult to take time to stop and experience powerful cultural moments. But watching this tradition, it wasn’t the freezing air that immobilized me. I stayed past sundown to remember the lives lost and make sure their tragedy is not forgotten.