Jakarta: A ship representing the spirit of the ancient Majapahit kingdom on Java Island and built under the cooperation of Indonesia and Japan has left from Jakarta on a 9,000-kilometer voyage to eight countries.
It is aimed at celebrating the sailing history of the Majapahit kingdom and the past relationship between Majapahit and the Ryukyu kingdom, which used to govern Okinawa, as well as raising money for an archaeological study of historic ruins in and around Java Island.
Called the "Spirit of Majapahit”, the ship is a replica of a merchant vessel used during the Majapahit period, a vast archipelagic empire based on the eastern part of Java from 1293 to the 1500s.
The replica was interpreted from a relief panel of a ship on a wall of the Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Central Java dating back to the 8th century.
The Japan Majapahit Association, a group of businessmen in Japan who care about the history and culture of the Majapahit kingdom, initiated the construction of the ship.
Costing about USD 1,10,000, the construction was sponsored by the Indonesian and Japanese governments.
The sailing vessel has a unique, oval shape with sharp parts on the fore and aft of the ship to break five-meter-high waves. It uses triangle-shaped sails and has two wooden rudders and giant-bamboo-made outriggers on both sides of the ship for maintaining balance. Not a single nail was used in the construction.
The 20-meter-long ship was made of old, dried teakwood, which is only available in the regencies of Tuban in East Java and Rembang in Central Java, according to the ship`s chief engineer Supardi.
It took three months to build the ship, involving 15 ship builders from a number of fishing villages in Sumenep Regency on Madura Island, off East Java.
It will be captained by two Indonesians, while a Japanese explorer who canoed across the Indian Ocean, Yoshiyuki Yamamoto, is on board as a project leader.
The crew also includes Japanese and five people from Bajau ethnic group.
The ship will travel for about six months to Brunei, the Philippines and Japan.
It will reach Japan around the middle of July, making its first stop in Kudaka Island, which served as a trading post of the Ryukyu kingdom, in Okinawa Prefecture.
The ship will then sail to the Okinawa city of Naha. The crew will make a courtesy call to Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima before continuing on their journey to Kagoshima, Yokohama, Tokyo and Fukuoka.
It will go then to China, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia before returning to Indonesia.
The Majapahit kingdom was one of the last major empires in the region and is considered to be one of the greatest and most powerful empires in the history of Indonesia and Southeast Asia.