Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sea legs

Last Saturday was the 100th anniversary of Nagoya's shipping port. Amongst the many events held to celebrate the centenery was a visit from two ships of the Japanese National Institute for Sea Training, the Kaiwo-Maru (pictured below) and the Nippon-Maru.

The training institute (it's mission: to seek out new cadets, to boldly show what others have known before) has been an independant institution since 2001, but was originally founded as part of the Ministry of Communication in 1943. It provides practical training for students of various maritime colleges and universities, helping would be sailors (seen in orange posing with a local family below - the kid's smile is priceless) to gain their sea legs.

The Kaiwo-Maru has 36 sails, and was built in 1989. It looked fantastic set against the backdrop of a moody winter sky and drew huge crowds. The Maru part of it's name is a suffix given to most boats in Japan and there are many theories as to how this practice came about:

Maru (丸) means 'circle'. One theories suggests that the ships were origionaly thought of as floating castles, and that maru suggests the concentric circles of defence surrounding the castle. Other theories link Maru to a divine origin, an idea of a return to the beginning after a journey and the idea of the circle representing completeness (the boat being a world unto itself when at sea).

Both vessls will leave Nagoya tomorrow. The Kaiwo-Maru can be seen in Kobe between the 23rd and 29th of this month, while the Nippon-Maru will remain there until the 1st of December.

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