April 12, 2017 saw the start of Peace Boat's 94th Global Voyage for Peace. Departing from the port of Yokohama, the voyage began with an official departure ceremony. This gave an opportunity for participants to say goodbye to loved ones and mark the start of the circumnavigation around the globe. Waving to friends and family on the shore, participants were filled with excitement and expectation of what the voyage might hold. The ceremony saw Tamura Miwako, the Voyage Director for the 94th voyage, give a speech welcoming participants onboard. "The bonds that we forge, the ties that we make with other people, and these friends that we make on our voyage around the world - these ties themselves, I truly believe will create peace", she said.
Peace Boat was founded in 1983 when changes in school textbooks were taking place regarding Japan's actions in the Asia Pacific during World War II. One such example was the change of the word ‘invaded' to ‘advanced,' about Japan's military aggression in region. These changes caused huge discontent in neighbouring Asian countries which had been occupied by Japan, worsening relations between nations. Peace Boat's Founder and Director, Yoshioka Tatsuya, along with three other students at Waseda University, wanted to know why people from these countries were angry, and thought they could only find out by visiting people in these countries. They therefore decided to embark on a journey to visit neighbouring Asian countries to meet people directly, and learn first-hand about the impact of Japan's war of aggression in the region.
With global voyages, Peace Boat continues to initiate people-to-people exchange both onboard and in ports. Peace Boat's 94th Global Voyage welcomes more participants from Asia, including participants from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Korea onboard than ever before, building the international community and deeper understanding and cooperation in East Asia.
A group of 20 young musicians from the Caracas Municipal Orchestra in Venezuela will also be onboard from Yokohama to Caracas. Most of them are graduates from the Venezuelan social music education programme, The Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra, also known as ‘El Sistema'. Peace Boat has worked with this organization for more than 8 years, facilitating exchange based on music and donating musical instruments collected by Peace Boat volunteers in Japan to participants in Venezuela.
During the departure ceremony, His Excellency Ishikawa Seiko, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Japan, added that the Venezuelan musicians are spreading the message "that another world is possible, based in co-operation, based on solidarity and based on music, beautiful music". While onboard the musicians will organise music workshops with participants and take part in various activities in ports including performing at a special concert for refugees at Skaramagas Refugee camp in Athens, Greece.
With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) logo painted on the side of the vessel, this voyage will continue Peace Boat's work to promote these goals and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, including bringing an end to poverty, promoting peace and respecting the environment.
During the 94th Voyage, the United Nations Ocean Conference will take place in New York between June 5 - 9, 2017. The conference is being co-hosted by Sweden and Fiji, and will be looking at the health of the world's oceans. With this voyage stopping in Sweden just a few days before the conference, a series of events onboard will focus on the conference and its outcomes.
The 94th voyage also sees Hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) join the ship. The Hibakusha project will see the survivors give personal testimonies about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and call for nuclear abolition. This is taking place at a historic moment, as the world's governments negotiate a treaty to ban these weapons at the United Nations this year.
After leaving Kobe, this northern circumnavigation around the globe will take in 23 further ports in 22 countries before returning to Yokohama in Japan on July 25, 2017. With five first-time ports for Peace Boat including Cagliari on the island of Sardinia, Italy and St Georges in Bermuda, the 94th Global Voyage looks to be an adventure of new explorations.
In Kobe, more participants came on board the ship; with more participants joining in Singapore and Greece, there will be approximately 1,100 participants in total. Hyo Inn from Korea is excited about the voyage, saying "I look forward to going to other countries and having new experiences". Staff member Ito Yuki, the Culture School Coordinator for the voyage, joined the speeches with the message that one of the characteristics of this voyage "is the many nationalities and diversity. We are lucky to have passengers from Malaysia, Singapore, Shanghai, Taiwan, and Korea". The people-to-people global exchange begins!