As Peace Boat's chartered vessel Ocean Dream begins to rumble beneath the feet of the participants onboard, people wave at their family and friends, screaming "Ittekimasu!" (Good bye, see you!). The 1000 participants on board Peace Boat 91st Global Voyage will return to Yokhama in July enriched by 106 memorable days navigating the planet.
Taking a route known as "Silk Road of the Sea", the Ocean Dream will sail through three oceans, heading to Northern Europe, Canada, the Caribbean Sea and finally Hawaii. With 23 countries and 30,000 nautical miles ahead, everyone was enthusiastic to take part to the two wonderful departure ceremonies. The ship left Yokohama in April 12 and reached Kobe the following day to welcome more people onboard. Plenty of cultural exchanges, stunning landscapes and irreplaceable World Heritage Sites are just around the corner, waiting to be discovered.
"Creating a new society" is the theme of this 91st Global Voyage. Peace Boat aims to be a community-based, interactive, non-hierarchical experience which brings people together across all ages, cultures and backgrounds. "It is extremely important to visit the world, meet the local people face-to-face and create a network of friendship across the globe," explains Tanaka Yosuke, the Voyage Director onboard the 91st Voyage. While onboard, participants will be able to learn from more than 20 invited guest educators, who are experts in their fields, journalists, activists and artists and will explore many themes as diverse as sustainable development, migrant workers' rights, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, the current refugee crisis in the mediterranean, conflict prevention and peacebuilding, renewable energy, ethnic minorities, sustainable agriculture and gender equality.
In addition, participants are invited to organize their own events to share their experience, skills and knowledge with each other. "We live in a global society and everything is interrelated. Please go around the world and take this opportunity to think deeply: the planet is our classroom!," encourages Peace Boat Director and Co-founder Yoshioka Tatsuya to the volunteers before the departure. "I am sure that the people ... will come back with a stronger belief in the power of people to change the world for the better and determined to be part of that change themselves," says John Gee, founding member of the NGO 'Transient Workers Count Too' who is onboard as a guest educator.
The representative of the Embassy of the Boliviarian Republic of Venezuela, Gonzalo Vivas visited Peace Boat in Yokohama and bid the participants farewell. In Venezuela, Peace Boat will call at the port of La Guaira, where 50 talented young musicians of El Sistema symphonic orchestra will join the voyage all the way back to Japan. They will play and teach music to Peace Boat participants, using music as a universal, transformative tool. Then, in Tokyo the musicians will perform at a commemorative Venezuelan Independence concert. "In Venezuela people know about Peace Boat and they are excited to welcome you back," Gonzalo Vivas told the participants.
While the majority of the participants are Japanese, members of more than 50 nationalities are present on board. English and Spanish teachers, Communication Coordinators (interpreters) and the Ocean Dream crew come from more than 40 countries and create a very international atmosphere. "Our aim has always been to connect people at a grassroot level across culture, religion, nationality and language. There will be a lot of opportunities to share your culture and learn foreign languages," commented Matt Douglas, International Director.
Many of the people onboard are keen to learn or improve their foreign language skills. Suzuki Akira, from Tokyo was on board a Peace Boat voyage 5 years ago, but he was keen to come back: "Learning languages, music and drawing helps me make new friends. I still keep in touch with the people I met on my last voyage. Also, interacting with the youth on board gives me lots of energy and this voyage is my way to figure out my dreams and purposes in life." Suzuki Akira is not the only participant who decided to come back. "We say "welcome", but also "welcome back". Forty percent of our participants have joined us before," reveals the Voyage Director, Tanaka Yosuke.
Oshima Emiko from Hiroshima Prefecture, joined the Voyage from Kobe: "It is the first time for me to take such a long cruise, but I know that there is more to Peace Boat than just sightseeing and there is the possibility to meet local people and bring goods and support." Another aim of the voyage is to deliver goods collected through campaigns and donations to partner organisations around the world including for this voyage in Germany, Venezuela, Curacao, Panama and Guatemala. Peace Boat is thankful to all people who have contributed, including the Yokohama Bay Stars baseball team.
Every participant has different reasons to join the Peace Boat experience and for some, like Serina Moe Rush (25) from Aichi prefecture, this Voyage is a dream-come-true: "When I was only 8 years old I saw the Peace Boat poster in a barber shop, and I told to my mother "I want to go to this boat!." I studied, worked and now finally I made it! Japanese youth rarely talk about world news, instead I would like to see what is happening around the world, how people live and learn. Moreover this is my chance to experience Venezuelan music and to visit the house of Anne of Green Gables." For the very first time, Peace Boat will visit Prince Edward Island in Canada, the set of the famous novel and TV animation.
What are the energy sources of the future? What is happening in the Middle East? What can we do to create a peaceful society? And finally what is the role of the media? Answering these questions will be a roadmap to create a new society. Participants will discover this and more on board of the 91st Voyage! They are off to an unforgettable experience!