On March 7 and 8, 2018, mere days after its most recent journey to the Oceanic region, Peace Boat departed from the ports of Kobe and Yokohama on its 97th East Asia Voyage. Kicked off in Kobe by a trumpet sounded from the deck of the Ocean Dream, Peace Boat's cruise vessel, the first of two departure ceremonies included a welcoming speech by Ms. Ito Yuki, a staff member of the onboard Culture School, as well as Cruise Director Mr Toda Yoshiaki. Both spoke of the experiences that await Peace Boat's current participants on their adventure of a lifetime: unparalleled natural wonders, unforgettable friendships, and the opportunity to learn about the diverse cultures, languages, and people of the Asiatic region.
The 97th Voyage will visit ten countries in the Western Pacific Ocean over 47 days before returning to Yokohama, Japan on April 23, 2018. Notable highlights of the journey include visiting the world-renowned Buddhist temple ruins of Semarang, Indonesia, returning to Timor-Leste for the first time in 17 years, and a scenic cruise around Halong Bay. Onboard and in-port programming will explore the colonial past of the Asiatic region, connecting its complicated history to its presence so as to build more sustainable, self-sufficient, and equitable community networks. International guest educators will board the vessel to teach participants about these issues, using the Ocean Dream to create the international spaces of dialogue necessary for building a culture of peace and reconciliation.
Voices of youth are vital to these discussions. For this reason, Peace Boat is especially honoured to welcome four Palau youth to the 97th East Asia Voyage who will remain on board from Yokohama to Palau. During their stay, they will introduce their country and its culture to participants and reiterate the importance of recognizing and combating climate change and its effect on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Palau.
Although rainy weather required the Yokohama departure ceremony to be held indoors, nothing could dampen the spirits of the participants as they threw brightly coloured confetti in the air and joined the ship's captain in a celebratory champagne toast. For the next 47 days, these participants will join together to become a floating community, though each guest has their own unique reasons for coming onboard.
"This is a trip to find myself," said first-time participant Hyodo Hikari, age 21. "I haven't travelled a lot, so I want to learn about other cultures first-hand to see how they differ from that of Japan." 68-year-old Fukai Sachiko is returning to Peace Boat for the second time. "I'm very interested in Peace Boat's work supporting ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate). On the last voyage, I heard the testimony of Hibakusha (survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings) which made me want to return for another journey with Peace Boat. I hope to learn more about these topics on this voyage." As the participants of the 97th East Asia Voyage explore the Asiatic region, they will expand their horizons in unimaginable ways. Through exchanging reflections on the past and hopes for the future, may they bring us one step closer to a peaceful, sustainable, and nuclear-free world.