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Thousands brave weather in Okinawa to take part in Ocean Day

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-07-24

Japanese from Hokkaido to Okinawa celebrated "Ocean Day" here in Japan by participating in various events held throughout the nation. Here on Okinawa, many people came out to collect trash from beaches at Onna-son, Itoman, and Taketomi island, despite the bad weather. The Japanese Coast Guard also held a small "Ocean Carnival" at Tomarin port, giving out information on both marine safety and marine conservation.

One of the main events of the day was the "Parent Children Friendship Cruise" aboard Arimura Shipping Company's luxury cruise liner, the "Hiryu". Approximately 1,000 mothers, fathers, and children boarded the huge ship in Naha, braving the rain and slightly rough sea conditions. The cruise was planned by both the "Ocean Day Planning Committee" and Arimura Shipping Company, in coordination with the Japanese Coast Guard. The first 800 citizens that responded to announcements about this years cruise, by mailing in a postcard, were able to take advantage of the free cruise offered by Arimura. It gave most people the opportunity to experience being a passenger on a cruise ship for the first time.

Departing shortly after 11 am, the "Hiryu" headed for Cape Zampa, where it then turned back and circled around Chibishi island, before arriving back in Naha at 3 pm. Aboard the "Hiryu", passengers enjoyed the one day cruise by exploring the ship, relaxing, and watching some of the musical entertainment that took place at the ship's main hall. A lecture on the ocean and coral reefs of the Ryukyu islands was also presented by Professor Kiyoshi Yamazato.

One of the main attractions for both parents and children was a rescue simulation by the Japanese Coast Guard. The bad weather added to the excitement as passengers lined the upper deck of the "Hiryu" to watch members of the coast guard lower themselves down a tow line from a helicopter to a moving ship. Other members of the Coast Guard were also aboard the "Hiryu" during the cruise to hand out information and answer any questions from children and parents.

Ocean Day became a national holiday three years ago, and has since tried to create awareness on ocean conservation around Japan. Kunyu Teruya, Managing Director of the "Ocean Day Planning Committee", explained this year's focus for Ocean Day here on Okinawa, "We want to try to give more understanding about the ocean, and to create a strong feeling for the ocean." Arimura became involved three years ago by providing the free cruise to try and promote both Ocean Day and ocean cruises.

Most of the children found enjoyment in being out at sea, and being able to run around the Hiryu's three main decks. Manami Koki, an elementary school student, said that she liked the helicopter rescue the best. Another parent said that she wanted to come to "give her daughter the experience of being on a large cruise ship."

Although Ocean Day drew many people out from their homes, many environmentalists feel that there still is a long road ahead before people become more environmentally conscience. The organizers of Ocean Day also failed to capitalize on the international support being given towards the United Nation's declared "Year of the Ocean", with most members being completely unaware of the year long campaign. Lack of information within Okinawa about marine conservation on a more global scale has also kept the prefecture from acquiring important educational and other promotional tools.

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