Nippon Maru returns in January

After 30 years since the last visit of the Japanese sailing training vessel, the Nippon Maru will be returning to Kauai next month.

“The Japanese training ships Nippon Maru and Kaiwo Maru used to come to Kauai,” said Kyoko Ikeda of the Kauai Community College International Education Program. “Nippon Maru’s last visit to Kauai was in 1983, and Kaiwo Maru’s last visit was in 1989 — more than 30 years since their last visits.”

Ikeda said the resumption of visits to Kauai by the sailing vessels was due to Mr. Tomoki Oku who was a first officer of Japanese training ships and assisted with Hokulea’s voyage to Japan in 2007.

“He escorted Hokule‘a through Japanese waters,” Ikeda said. “He felt that Hokule‘a embodied something that was missing in Japanese maritime education. When he started teaching at National Institute of Technology — Toyama College, he initiated a partnership between Toyama and the Kauai Community College.”

This partnership has blossomed over the past six years with all five national college of maritime technology send both students and faculty to Kauai through four programs or groups, annually.

“Captain Oku will be leading the Nippon Maru on its trip to Honolulu, and we felt that it would be great if Nippon Maru could visit Kauai to honor the past connection between Japanese training ships and Kauai,” Ikeda said. “It could also celebrate a new era of friendship and cultural exchange.”

When the Nippon Maru arrives in January, she will be manned by 111 cadets and 60 crew and officers.

“There are many stories of life-long friendships made between the cadets and officers of previous visits, and the Kauai people,” Ikeda said. “These are unique histories that connect the two island communities.”

Ikeda is among the Nippon Maru Welcome Committee which has formed in anticipation of the ship’s arrival.

“We would like to connect with, and invite key community members who helped welcome Nippon Maru and Kaiwo Maru,” Ikeda said.

Nippon Maru will be on Kauai Jan. 7 and 8.

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