Event 25: Nagasaki Tall Ship Festival…queue the bad ship joke…

Nagasaki on the southern end of Japan was not just a town that was literally in the bottom of no where – it was the destination for event 25 of my adventure. I had researched this event since last July, so I knew I had to be here and be part of something that looked amazing in photos but was amazing in reality. Welcome to this blog…which I want you to sail through and enjoy reading…

What was the event?

Nagasaki Tall Ship Festival celebrating the 20th anniversary. It was more than just tall ships – the event was about global ships descending to Nagasaki Port and for four days global diplomacy.

When you think about it – we live in a world of issues and problems…but I watched ships from Russia, South Korea and Japan – sail in unity – as one. A parade which is a symbol of togetherness, a symbol of cohesion and now to mark the start of Nagasaki Tall Ship Festival – this is what the event was…

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What happened at the event?

Lets take it back to firstly understand sailing events. Globally sailing events are part of the blue economy (events on water). Blue water events have a massive impact on coastal areas, ports and bring something different to just “going sailing”. Sailing has been associated to the upper middle class for years and those that can afford – however events can break down the social status and allow those that can’t afford to purchase a boat still enjoy the beauty of sailing. Research has actually indicated that blue economy events have a massive and integral opportunity for investment and for the future of towns – that without events – would struggle.  Nagasaki isn’t one of them due to its thriving port and massive economy, however, imagine 1200 sailors and thousands of event attendees – its for sure going to add to Nagasaki and it did. For global ports there is a world of events that has so much benefit and should be used to capitalise for the area. So here’s my thoughts on the tall ship festival and what it brought to the area – apart from me being 5 again and thinking “I want to be a captain on a ship…” and then realizing my sea legs were not as solid as I thought.

So Nagasaki Tall Ship Festival with vessels that span between 48 metres and 101 metres its all about the beauty of this amazing structures. They are each in there own right – beautiful and also have an amazing story. In front of each ship is a board, which has the history and facts about the ship. Over the 4 days of the festival the interest of those in attendance was two folds. Tall Ships don’t came that often (only every year) for people to see – so in a way it’s the awe and the unusual sight of the tall ships. This festival allowed direct engagement on the ships. For 5 hours each day the ships were safely prepared for those wanting to experience what it was like to be on deck. And believe me – it was as if the five year old Matthew had just been brought back. I was speechless as I stared up and looked at the ropes, the large sails, the true beauty of each part that made the ship. But also to be able to hold the ropes, spin the wheel and experience first hand the main attractions of the event. Due to me now being able to directly able to engage and interact with the event I now feel fully part of the event. Its now not just about standing at the shore from a cordoned area – instead I walk the plank and up a short hike to be on the ship and welcomed by the Russian Sailors. Oh and literally even Jack Sparrow turned up to experience this event…

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Anything else about the event?

As it was 4 days with a morning for the vessels leaving port – it was a long event. The programme stated (which was the only words in English) activities – “on sea” and “on land”. Although I could not understand what the activities or program was a lot was happening.

On the last day at 11am the streets were beginning to be lined up by hundreds of spectators for the marching festival. Six bands from the local schools were now about to parade in front of the ships and play some amazing covers of famous songs from Hairspray to the theme tune of Sharpe (Over the hills and far away – very random but I love this song this is how I knew it). There was noise. There was colour. And there was an absolute amazing atmosphere to be had at the port.

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Whether it was the marching festival, the food and drink, the music on the stage, Miss Nagasaki Competition on the Saturday evening or the two spectacular firework displays – this was not just an event or a festival. It was a subtle educational tool and to give people a reason to love the ocean. Sea events have quite an emotional tool to them. When you see tall ships disappearing into the horizons there is something quite special to that moment. Everything packaged together created the perfect event.

From an events organisation point of view there was everything from – toilets, food and drink, information, headquarters, volunteers and the organizers with blue hats. The event had two groups organizing. The maritime elders who sat in the information tent telling everyone about the history of the port and then the young volunteers who were running the show doing the bins, information, stamping the interactive (ship stamp sheet – got my copy). It all worked.

I love events and for me I loved this event. For a whole 8 months I had waited to experience the Nagasaki Tall Ship Festival and not one moment of it disappointed. It gave people a love, maybe just for a set period of time, but it allowed people to love boats, it had a constructed enjoyable atmosphere, it allowed people to be together, eat food, take photos, make memories, buy things – everything an event should…

One thing to take away…

Ships can do so much to people – so next time you go to event think what is the thing that you will take away from the event that was special…

This event will for sure be sailing straight into my book – published next year available in all book shops.

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