Peace Boat

The Peace Boat/ Image source:

The Peace Boat/ Image source:

Last night I attended a Peace Boat Reflection evening at their Tabadanobaba headquarters in Tokyo. As part of the evening, I was fortunate to hear the personal testimonies from three a-bomb survivors from Hiroshima. In 1945, on the day of the atomic bombing, they were only 1, 2 and 15 years of age.

As well as sharing their Hibakusha* testimonies, the three women (now aged between 70 and 85) talked about their experiences onboard the most recent Peace Boat voyage and their participation in the Boat’s Hibakusha Project. An audience of over fifty listened intently to the voyage highlights and their reflections.

The Peace Boat has been operating for over 30 years and is a Japan-based international non-government organization that travels to ports around the world to promote peace, human rights, and sustainability messages. It is a massive operation! Every year, three chartered passenger voyages are conducted (three months per trip), with approximately 900 people participating per cruise in peace activities and international exchanges. Since initiating the Hibakusha projects onboard selected charters, over 150 Hibakusha have joined the voyages and travelled around the world giving personal testimonies.image18_2860

One of the projects showcased from the recent voyage was the ‘grandchildren project’ that involved young people volunteering to be ‘grandchildren’ of Hibakusha during the voyage and experimenting with creative expression to re-tell Hibakusha stories (via song, performance, visual arts and more). The Hibakusha representatives attending the Reflection seemed genuinely moved, impressed and impacted by the creative works the young people generated in response to their stories.

In the final sum up for the evening, some wise words were shared from one of the Peace Boat Coordinators, as she offered advice for what successive generations can do to help keep Hibakusha stories alive (paraphrased below):

The first step is to listen to Hibakusha.

After we get to know them we need to seek ways to become a bridge for Hibakusha stories and younger generations.

If we use creative expression, there are endless ways in which this can be achieved.

Next year marks the eighth Hibakusha related voyage, timed with the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is being supported by the Mayors for Peace network and will be running the ‘I was her/his age’  initiative where activities will be tailored for parents and children (aged 5-11 years of age) exploring the Hibakusha stories in the context of….’when I was your age’. The voyage goes from April 12 to July 25, 2015 and the Peace Boat is now calling for participants.

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My special thanks goes to the hospitality of Rika (the Hibakusha voyage coordinator) and Naomi for her wonderful translation on the night.  It was a moving and insightful evening.



* Hibakusha is the Japanese word meaning persons exposed to or affected by radiation from atomic bombs.