"My Hiroshima homestay family treated me like royalty. A modern traditional home. Sitting on the floor around a low coffee table with a heater underneath as snow fell outside. All eyes on me as they asked textbook questions; how many siblings, where is home, favourite movies, impressions of Japan. The constant apologies about their lack of english, the daughter official translator for the parents, and me at loss as to why they were apoligising... It should have been me apologising. The rich culture and traditions; different slippers for different parts of the house, the heated toilet seat, bowing to your elders and those you respect, the minimalism, gift exchanging, green tea ice cream, walking to their neighbourhood shrine - appreciating the great lengths they go to to receive good luck, the grand bath, the nerves I experienced as raw seafood was placed in front of me, spotting a grandmother in her kimono holding the hand of her young grandson in a pokemon costume. Asking my homestay parents how they could forgive the events of the past, their response; kokoro no yutori - yasuragi (peace in the heart) - an inner transformation that is much more powerful than any atomic weapon in shifting the world towards peace. This was Japan at its grassroots, an understanding of the country that is hidden and unknown by the regular tourist. It is a secret that I cherish..."
When participants first arrive in Japan, there will be approximately one week of “onshore training” in Tokyo where participants will meet each other, begin course discussions and make some official visits to institutions related to their topics of interest. For limited participants, there will likely also be a courtesy call with the Prime Minister and Crown Prince of Japan.
Once the ship has returned to Japan, delegations will visit a prefecture in Japan to finish their experience. This visit may include a homestay with a Japanese family.
"Out at sea, the days merged into one. 24 hours of being awake on repeat whilst slipping in a couple hours of sleep here or there. Sunrises became my thing. Some mornings I would be joined by coffee drinkers, others I would smile at someone as they lapped me time after time on their morning run. Occasionally, a person would join me. For hours we would sit in silence, or still awake from the night before the conversation would lead wherever our minds took us. Whilst the sun made itself known, we would transform into words, spilling our souls, slowly and then all at once. In the times that I was completely alone I would align myself with the horizon and tackle life's big questions. The view would make me feel small. Turn it upside down and it would still look the same. A blue disk of sky above, a blue disk of ocean below. Simple and elemental. It reminded me that our blue and white planet takes it colour from the clouds and sea, two forms of water..."
Once getting onboard the Ship, there is lots for participants to do! This changes every year, but there is usually:
- Lectures and workshops by onboard facilitators
- Participant led seminars, workshops, focus groups
- Cultural exchange activities, including dance, music, art and limited gastronomical
- National presentations by each country – formal, abstract, performing arts and gala/booth/event based
- Official visits to institutions in during port of call activities
- Leisure including a pool, restaurant, bar, participant led social activities.
"It was the successful alumni such as Helen Clark that attracted me to apply but it didn’t take long for me to realise that the voyage wasn’t all about being recognised as a leader on the world stage. It was a cultural soup, I observed, interacted and befriended a huge amount of nationalities. I saw what made them tick as well as points of tension, and as a result I have a much deeper perception of the countries that they come from. I learnt the importance of cross-cultural understanding as well as the complexity of global society. The seminars and workshops revolved around common world issues. Course facilitators were high ranking members of the UNDP and a huge emphasis of lectures was unpacking the sustainable development goals with a global perspective. On top of this, the outcome of our discussions were put into practice at ports of call, visiting developing areas and engaging in their community projects. I came home globally minded which is a skill and a strength that use on a daily basis..."
This year the ports of call will include Ensenada, Mexico and Honolulu, Hawaii as a refuelling stop. Voyage themes change every year, but some examples include:
- International Cooperation and Diplomacy
- Project Management
- Cross Cultural Understanding
- Disaster Risk Reduction
- Community Development
- Environment and Sustainability
- Youth Empowerment
- Information & Media
What countries get invited?
New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Brazil, France, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Peru, Bahrain, Egypt, and Kenya have been selected. Each country will have 11 Participating Youth and 1 National Leader. Japan will have 110 participants.
How much does it cost?
As a participant there is little cost involved. The Government of Japan very generously covers most expenses. This includes your return airfares to Japan as well as all living expenses whilst in Japan and onboard the ship. Participants are required to purchase travel insurance, national uniforms, gifts, and provide for their own spending money.. Some costs are incurred for delegation expenses (such as a National Presentation) and there is an expectation the delegation will work together to seek financial and in-kind sponsorship.