It is as if a colourful and multi-cultural world exists in a microcosm on board the Japanese cruise liner Fuji Maru which docked at the Chennai Port on Wednesday.

A contingent of over 250 youth of various nationalities is here as part of the ‘Ship for World Youth’ (SWY) programme being run by the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan.

The 22nd edition of the programme which involves youth of Japan and various nationalities is aimed at providing an on-board living experience that could make a world of difference for the future.

Participants live together, study and discuss common issues from a global perspective and participate in other various activities that involve multi-cultural and multi-national exchange opportunities.

“It is great fun and a learning experience as well,” said Thushara Deepal Dias Dahanayake, who has led the Sri Lankan youth delegation.

There are 134 participants from Japan and 143 youth from 12 countries, including Australia, Bahrain, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Turkey and Yemen.

The ship, which left the Yokohama harbour on January 22, has come to Chennai after stopovers at Singapore and Dubai.

“Apart from the exposure to fascinating cultures from across the world, the experience also teaches you to get along with others,” said Abbey Jean MacDonald, who is attending her first cultural exchange programme.

Welcoming the youth delegation, Consul General of Japan in Chennai Kazuo Minagawa said the SWY initiative was launched by the Government of Japan over two decades ago to promote mutual understanding and cultivate friendship between youth of Japan and other nationalities by spending nearly two months on sea.

Aichiro Tanaka, administrator of the 22nd SWY, said this was the sixth sojourn to Chennai under the programme —an indication of the importance of the port of call. The SWY programmes of the past had produced several dignitaries, including a Prime Minister, he said.

The Chennai schedule for the participants includes a visit to the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, orphanage and vocational rehabilitation centres in Kancheepuram.

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