2013/12/11
The Youths of Ishinomaki – Looking at the World

Hiroto Chiba, 3rd Grade, Higashimatsushima High School


The water’s here! It’s here! The water’s here!!!

On October 9, the chartered ship "Ocean Dream", which set sail from Yokohama harbor on July 18, arrived in Ishinomaki harbor. This “once around the globe” cruise, coordinated by the international NGO "Peaceboat", whose maiden voyage was in 1983, has continued for thirty years. It has had a total of over 40,000 participants and has docked in over 180 ports.

This 80th cruise, lasting 85 days, set sail from Yokohama, stopped by Vietnam, Singapore, Panama and an additional 20 countries and regions. After one complete westward circumnavigation of the globe, she dropped anchor in Ishinomaki, their final stop. At each port of call are cultural exchanges with the local people, opportunities to learn about wars and civil wars that took place in the area, and the chance to take part in sightseeing activities. In the ship, there is a "free school" and an English conversation class, as well as recreational amenities, including a bar, Jacuzzi and a gym.
As the memory of the Great East Japan Earthquake continues to fade, two Ishinomaki youth ambassadors came aboard Ocean Dream with the intention of passing on and sharing experiences and lessons learned from the disaster with people from around the world and learn from each other.
Takahashi Sayaka, an organiser of the Ishinomaki drama troupe "Yumemakiza", where she is in charge of scripts among other things, is one of the ambassadors. She took time off from her job to participate. Through a chance meeting, she was introduced to a novel written by singer/songwriter Sada Masashi about the aftermath of the disaster in Ishinomaki and she said she felt that "It was as if it came to me so it can be presented in some shape or form on this ship." She quickly organized the novel into a script for recital. Participants agreed that, "It means something to perform it now on this ship." and announced that they would go ahead with it.
Through this play, everyone present developed an interest in what happened in Ishinomaki and were moved to tears. The woman who lent the novel to Takahashi said, "I was able to be moved for a second time thanks to this book." Children who took part in the workshop stated their desire to become actors. People whose words had previously been ignored were able to make their voices heard.
Takahashi said, "I was stunned that people could change so much within 85 days. This has been a trip overflowing with possibilities and, thanks to the opportunity of being involved with different kinds of people, I have been able to find new possibilities in myself."
Another person who recalls their “reaffirmation trip” is Sakimura Shuhei, a designer from Onagawa. Currently known as “Graffiti Writer D-Bons”, Sakimura is based in Onagawa but has also been active in Tohoku and Tokyo.
While on board, Sakimura and the other participants made a large fishing flag. Upon arrival in Ishinomaki, Sakimura himself was the tour guide around the Onagawa area. Taking part in the voyage and being able to show his friends who had listened to stories of the current state of the area struck by the disaster and the moment of the disaster the area first-hand became his most fulfilling activity as a youth ambassador. “My wish is to demonstrate that in Onagawa too, children can achieve whatever they want, if they put their minds to it. A restoration is not just about starting or building new things; there are things that can be achieved by connecting with other people's thoughts”. He stated that Onagawa is taking the right path forward.

Note:The international NGO “Peaceboat” was established in Japan in 1983.
As well as providing emergency assistance after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Peaceboat has a landmine abolition campaign and manifold other activities across the globe. Peaceboat was granted “special consultative status” in 2002 by the UN.
(Translation: James Long, Andy MacKenzie, Tara Raeside, Jennifer Hikari Dixon)