The air was filled with excitement and hope as everyone gathered to celebrate the start of Peace Boat's 96th Oceania Voyage in the port of Yokohama on 8 January 2018 and the port of Kobe on 9 January 2018, respectively. This year marks the 35th anniversary of Peace Boat and the 96th Oceania Voyage is the first of the year to honour this milestone. As Peace Boat participants tossed colorful streamers from the decks of the ship, Peace Boat Executive Committee member and ICAN's International Steering Group member, Kawasaki Akira, shared a message of hope with the participants on deck and onlookers observing from the port: "This voyage is significant because we will be visiting countries such as Australia and New Zealand which are part of the Nuclear-Free Zone of the South Pacific. We hope that by sailing to different countries with the ICAN logo, the whole world will eventually become a nuclear-free zone."
While this voyage marks the first time that Peace Boat will sail extensively around the Oceania region, the themes to be explored on this voyage are ones of which Peace Boat has been a long-time supporter. In particular, Peace Boat is steadfast in its commitment to nuclear disarmament and is looking forward to continuing its work with ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), a non-profit organization which was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to create a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. In collaboration with ICAN, Peace Boat is launching the 2018 Making Waves Speaking Tour and has invited Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) to share testimonies of their lived experiences and spread the message of the importance of nuclear abolition around various ports in Australia.
The focus on the abolition of nuclear weapons paves the way for other themes that Peace Boat will explore during its 96th Voyage. The quest to abolish nuclear weapons is closely connected to the goal of turning away from nuclear energy and finding alternative energy sources. Sites for nuclear testing and development are selected based on their remoteness. However, indigenous people and native lands are overlooked in the process and those who inhabit these lands, along with future generations, are the ones who pay the price. As such, the 96th Voyage will also raise awareness of issues faced by indigenous people in the Oceania region. Indigenous culture has been impacted by colonization and military conflict, topics that will also be covered during this voyage.
As much as the aforementioned topics are of importance to Peace Boat itself, they also resonate with Peace Boat's participants. One participant, Koji Funamoto, shared his eagerness to visit Papua New Guinea, explaining "That is where my grandfather was stationed during World War II." Another participant, Kitamura Kyoko, stated, "I am excited to visit the Oceania region for the first time and explore the culture and people that make this place." With over 1,000 participants visiting 13 ports in eight countries, Peace Boat hopes that each individual will complete this voyage having learned or experienced something new.
As Peace Boat sets sail on its 96th Voyage and explores the long-lasting ramifications of the complex history and intricacies of the Oceania region - the effects of nuclear testing on indigenous people and the impact of colonization and the Pacific War - may we take the time to reflect on the past to avoid similar mistakes in the present and create a just and sustainable world for future generations to come.