The morning was cold on that August 6th. More than 300 students of Hiziyama public school were lined up on the patio waiting to enter one of the six classrooms. Three groups had already entered and were beginning the day’s lessons.

In one of those classrooms was Mitsuo Kodama. Seated right beyond the last window. There was an air raid alert throughout the entire city but classes continued. Such was the character and discipline of Japanese education of the time.

It was 1945 at 10:08 a.m. during World War Two, when a brilliant light and a series of cries suddenly interrupted class. The last thing Kodama saw was some kind of fireball that appeared on the patio. In a matter of seconds, the youngster was unconscious.

Seventy-five years have passed since the atomic bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military. Today, Mitsuo Kodama is 78 years old.

He stands a little less than 1.6 m tall and has a yellowish complexion. Dressed in a suit, his bearing is elegant and he appears good-natured and friendly. His voice invites conversation even though it must be done through an interpreter.

He has just disembarked from the SS Oceanic, known as the Peace Boat,  a  Japanese  ship  that sails
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around the world to promote nuclear disarmament, human rights and world peace. Kodama is at the State Center for the Arts in Ensenada, five minutes away from sharing his experience with a crowd that has come to attend a meeting of the survivors of the first nuclear attack in world history.

For someone who has suffered from fifteen types of cancer due to radiation exposure, Kodama hasn’t lost his warmth, eloquence or desire for speaking. He and many of the Japanese who experienced     the     tragedy     of
analysis of Japan’s aggression in Asia and the Pacific during WWII.

On that first trip, the students rented a ship and visited various countries in Asia in order to hear personal testimonies of war-time experiences. The idea was revived and today the Peace Boat is a non-profit organization that promotes human rights, peace and sustainable development through their educational peace cruises.

A trip with meaning

Already on its sixty-ninth voyage, life onboard during the first few days is brightened by sports activities, dance and music. The first reception ashore is in Danang, Vietnam. Kodama and the rest of the hibakusha visit two centers that provide aid to children suffering from the effects of Agent Orange.  
Japan to Ensenada
Practicing Socially Responsible Tourism

By Erick Falcón*
Hiroshima and Nagasaki don’t have many years left and many won’t live through this decade. But before dying, Kodama decided to embark on a personal mission: “I have never understood my luck. I’ve only managed to keep going because of a sense of responsibility to honor the memory of friends and family who didn’t survive. I joined the Peace Boat to testify about my own life, to be able to tell the world about the sorrow that I have lived with since that great tragedy and so that the people of other countries might learn to live in peace.”

Ship with a social conscience

His personal mission became a part of a greater effort shared with the 69th cruise of the Peace Boat  that  began  on  April   19th, 2010 in the port of Yokahama.

Kodama and nine survivors of the 1945 nuclear genocide are traveling on the Peace Boat with more than 850 passengers who are making a different kind of trip: a round-the-world trip for a nuclear-free world.

They are visiting 22 ports in various countries, among these: China, Vietnam, Singapore, Saudi Arabia,   Finland,   Spain,  Guate-
mala, Venezuela, Jamaica, and the Mexican ports of Manzanillo and Ensenada.

The trip by the survivors, who are called hibakushas in Japan, is focused on spreading the message of   worldwide   nuclear    disarm-
ament this year and comes after the recent advances in negotiations in which it was agreed to reduce the arsenal from 23,000 existing nuclear missiles and  to  urge North Korea to once
Mitsuo Kodama, founder of the Peace Boat project.
(Photos: Erik Falcón)

The seconds became minutes, became hours, then days.  He awoke.  Everything began again.  The smell of wood.  Ruins.  Blood.  Confusion.  Screams.  The first thing that went through his mind was that his school had been attacked.  Kodama had fainted and fallen between his desk and seat, that lifesaving place that survivors of earthquakes talk about.

He vomited often.  But he found the strength to pull himself out of the rubble.  His best friend lay dead beneath a column.  Many children were embedded with shards of glass.  Of many others, there were only smoking remains. Just nineteen students, including Kodama, survived that horrible morning which marked the beginning of the Nuclear Age.

organizations both on board and ashore fostering a civic sense that can then lead to reaching international agreements for nuclear disarmament, assistance for refugees of war and fair trade.

Kiusafuka Hirosi is the international coordinator for the Peace Boat and believes travel to be a tool that promotes positive social and political change. Hirosi points out that this type of ship can develop and implement better practices in responsible tourism.

The originality of the idea makes the ship a perfect place for mediation. The Peace Boat’s first trip was organized in 1983 by a group of Japanese university students whose objective was to find a creative answer to the Japanese   government’s   censor-
ship     of     history    books    that
Mitsuo Kodama

a convoy of    ships carrying activists who were trying to deliver non-perishable goods to the Gaza Strip. Later, the Peace Boat anchored in the ports of Manzanillo and Ensenada. Both of these cities are part of the Cities for Peace Project, which has 3,800 member locations around the world, all of them signatories to a treaty to abolish nuclear weapons within the next decade.       Continue reading >>>

while also being  able  to facilitate interaction and dialogue between people of diverse cultures and experiences:   academics,   volun-
teers, non-profit agencies, artists, war refugees, foreign tourists and activists.

While the participants travel around the world, they learn about sustainable practices and the environmental policies adopted by the European nations. They also visit various ports in South America and Mexico in order to understand the evolution of Latin American societies.

In Copenhagen and Helsinki, the travelers visit organic farms, are introduced to new biodynamic methods of agriculture and learn about the growing use of wind energy to provide Scandinavian countries with electricity.  On docking in Dublin in June, the passengers hung a large banner in protest of the  Israeli  attack on
Many in the center are severely disabled.  Some suffer from fused joints and spina bifida. The passengers fill the reception area with balloons, balls and bubbles while they visit with the children and hand out presents. The crew also delivers a number of boxes of paper, pens, pencils and other supplies—gifts from the Japanese people.

Nguyen Thi Binh, a respected ex-Vice President of Vietnam, also visits the ship. She helped to negotiate the end of the Vietnam War and participates in a round table about the Development Objectives for the Millennium, where the importance of gender equality and directing more resources for empowering women is highlighted.

The upcoming ports will bring new opportunities for Kodama and company. A voyage of this magnitude can be  a pleasure trip
again   sign   on    to    the    Non-
Proliferation Treaty of 1970.

The SS Oceanic looks like any other cruise ship, with bars, restaurants, pools and entertainment programs. But check it out: the public areas are used to celebrate multicultural forums and university professors lecture on transgenics, violence in the Balkans and human rights in the Gaza Strip.

The cruise includes a field trip ashore in Vietnam to a network of tunnels where an ex-Viet Cong soldier talks about the sociopolitical conditions of the country since the war with the US.

This is the Japanese idea of responsible   tourism:   the   inter-
action with people of various nationalities     and       non-profit
Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness