Sailing into Starvation Island: 70 years after the end of World War II, Peace Boat visits Guadalcanal

Musicians in ceremonial dress welcomed Peace Boat passengers to Guadalcanal (photo by Airi Katsuta)
Musicians in ceremonial dress welcomed Peace Boat passengers to Guadalcanal (photo by Airi Katsuta)

Musicians in shell headdresses welcomed hundreds of disembarking Japanese visitors when Peace Boat docked in Guadalcanal, its final port of call, last month.

Guadalcanal receives few tourists and our arrival produced a flurry of new entrepreneurs: hawkers arranged wooden canoe figureheads and bottles of pressed coconut by macshop” href=”http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/#”>oil on mats spread over the concourse, and an ice-cream truck did roaring by macshop” href=”http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/#”>trade in front of stacked freight containers.

But for many on the ship, this was a solemn occasion. Our charter, the Ocean Dream, had followed the course US Marines took after Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor: from Bora Bora in Tahiti where there was a US naval base, north west across the Pacific to the Solomon Islands. I had joined some 300 Japanese passengers on a tour of the battle sites here.

“Our generation, people over 60, often heard of Guadalcanal,” said Nakagawa Harumi from Nagoya who had the seat next to mine in our minibus. He placed his hand over his chest and continued in careful English, “Just being here, I am already tearful. People died all over this island. Every place is sad. That mountain is sad. That grass is sad.”

Local children play on a gun near the World War II Guadalcanal American Memorial (Photo by Airi Katsuta)
Local children play on a gun near the World War II Guadalcanal American Memorial (Photo by Airi Katsuta)

In the US, Guadalcanal is remembered as the first stepping-stone in General McArthur’s island-hop across the Pacific and a turning point in the Second World War. It took the Marines six months to defeat the Japanese Imperial Navy here, foreshadowing —> Read More

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail