In Japan, small lanterns or ships known as "soul ships" have long been floated on bodies of water in a ceremony paying respect to ancestors. This was derived from an early ceremony performed by maritime people, sending their ancestors' souls to heaven on these "ships," then known as "obon lanterns."
On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, followed by August 9 by the bombing of Nagasaki. Many people were killed instantly. Many otheres were horribly burned. Due to the unbearable heat and pain, they threw themselves into local rivers. Around 1948, people began floating lanterns on these rivers, praying that their friends and loved ones killed by the bomb might rest in peace. This lantern floating had its roots in the tradition of "obon lanterns." On August 6th, countless lanterns floating in Japan unite the prayer for souls and respect for ancestors in an affecting display.
Dedicated to the memory of the late Mayor Iccho Itoh of Nagasaki