On May 8th, 2018, the Ocean Dream departed from Yokohama for the 98th voyage of Peace Boat. The chilly weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of the attendees at the opening ceremony, who gathered to celebrate the start of the long-awaited voyage. The 98th voyage of Peace Boat is comprised of 1000 of participants. It will visit 23 countries throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas. The Ocean Dream will travel southwest from Japan down below South Asia, head up through the Red Sea, cross the Mediterranean and circle back over Northern Europe, cross the Atlantic to Canada, and travel south to pass through the Panama Canal before making its final stop in Japan on August 22nd.
This voyage's theme is "No One Left Behind". Throughout the journey, the Ocean Dream will stop at several ports with an aim to bridge growing divisions in the modern world. The route contains several stops in Europe, a continent that currently faces many challenges. Though the European Union experiment has been remarkably successful in certain ways, such as in the prevention of internal war, fissures have emerged in it in recent years, particularly with the influx of refugees and the 2016 Brexit vote. To gain a better understanding of these topics, participants will visit a refugee camp in Greece, and hear from Michael Bruder, an expert in voter psychology.
The May 8th departure ceremony from Yokohama opened with a speech by Niwako Tamura, the Director of the 98th Voyage. She was followed by Captain Viktor Alymov, who remarked on how he hoped the voyage would deepen the passengers' appreciation of the joys of seeing new lands, but also the joys of coming home after a long journey. The ceremony also featured speeches by Yoshioka Tatsuya, Peace Boat founder and director, and Kawasaki Akira, an ICAN International Steering Group member. Yoshioka spoke of how proud he was to have seen the organization grow so much since 1983 when he was a university student.
During the ceremony, Kawasaki presented a very special token the Ocean Dream has the honor of carrying for the duration of the voyage: a medal for the Nobel Peace Prize Prize, which was awarded to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons in 2017. Peace Boat serves alongside several other NGOs as part of ICAN's International Steering Committee, and sent a delegation of Peace Boat representatives and hibakusha, atomic bomb survivors, to Oslo to receive the award last year. There are three hibakusha onboard the Ocean Dream for the 98th voyage. Kawasaki was followed by His Excellency Carlos Miguel Pereira Hernández, the Ambassador of Cuba to Japan. He commented on the historic relationship between Cuba and Japan, and expressed how he happy he is that the 98th will make a stop in Cuba's capital, Havana.
May 9th saw the Ocean Dream's second and final departure from Japan from the port of Kobe. After another series of heart-felt speeches, including one by a Peace Boat participant who is 93-years-old, the Ocean Dream pulled away from Japan for the last time until the autumn, while the attendees threw streamers into the air against the setting sun. l south to pass through the Panama Canal before making its final stop in Japan on August 22nd.