Lanterns from the 2019 Toro Nagashi.

SAN FRANCISCO — In 2019, Sokoji Temple in San Francisco’s Japantown held its first Toro Nagashi (floating lantern) ceremony.

Sokoji invited both temple members and members of the general public to come together to design their own lanterns and launch it in a handmade river at the temple to remember loved ones who have passed away.

This year, Sokoji will sponsor its second annual Toro Nagashi virtually. The ceremony will be recorded to be viewed on Sokoji’s website ( and on YouTube on Saturday, July 25, at 7 p.m.

Traditionally, Toro Nagashi takes place at the end of the Obon period in late July or late August. It is said that our ancestors come back to this world to visit us every year around this time. We clean family graves and decorate the altars in our homes with special symbolic animals to wish the ancestors a safe journey here and then light a path for them to return safely by lighting and launching the toro.

Sokoji will create and launch toro to represent all of the lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

Although individuals will not be able to personally create and launch their own toro this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, Resident Minister Koshi Kurotaki will write the names of each family member on a toro and launch them individually on behalf of the family. Rev. Kurotaki will conduct a service after all of the toro have been launched into the pond.

The cost for the toro is $30 and Rev. Kurotaki will write the ancestor’s name on each of the specially designed toro for this occasion. The deadline to place an order for a toro is July 18. To place an order or for more information, contact Sokoji at (415) 365-7540 or by

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