Konichiwa! The first word which hit my ears as I stepped outside of a Korean Airline and entered the Land of the Rising Sun on a late Monday night already drained after being on a 10-hour flight from Nadi to Seoul, South Korea.
My first impression of this place as I strolled through the immigration and then suddenly was made to rush with James, who came to receive me at the airport to catch the last train.
The place is massive! Given that the place where I come from is only a dot in the ocean. Everything was huge, from its buildings to its population.
Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, was abuzz even after we hit the midnight mark, and in this rush, I got onboard a train with all my luggage and ... boom!
For me, that marked the start of the 18th Asia Pacific Youth Conference (APYC). By the time we reached the residence of the organiser, Initiatives of Change (IofC) Japan, to get some shut eye, a new day had begun back in my paradise.
In a city of almost 14 million, close to 100 young people from around the Asia-Pacific region gathered over 10 days to forge friendships and become agents of peace.
The APYC over the past two decades has aimed to create leaders of positive change (locally and nationally) in their communities by starting with themselves.
Japan, South Korea, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, the United Kingdom, and Fiji, made up the APYC 2012 and to understand the true meaning of the sacred Japanese word Kizuna.
I could not be any luckier to be invited from Fiji to participate at the conference. From the very first day, I had much to learn and urgently needed to get over "being on Fijian time" since everyone seemed to be on the go - glued to their iphone screens - I knew that if I lose concentration, I would be lost.
The National Olympics Memorial Youth Centre (NYC) was the venue for the first two and the final days while the remaining seven days were held at the Fuji Calm, Human Resources Development Centre.
How can I describe this venue? Well, still trying to find the right words. But, yes it is at the foot of Mt Fuji and the feeling is like "total peace".
The sharing and learning began as soon as the Japanese delegates kick-started the opening ceremony with their creatively crafted musical performances. I could feel the energy within every person inside the NYC conference facility. Then came the country introductions, followed by the interaction.
But there was something bigger than I could understand. A feeling of being connected, something you cannot see, just feel. I asked myself; is this Kizuna?
Then I think: "it is too early for me to come to any conclusion." So the conference goes on. My expectations of the conference was to build friendships and try to find hope among the young people for the future of this world. And ultimately, to come back and share the experience with my friends back home and spread the message of peace.
I attended a Karate workshop conducted by 18-year old Shoki. He was the youngest participant at the conference.
Towards the end of the conference, we had to present the learning to the larger group. I cannot thank Shoki enough for his humble nature. I was truly moved by this young friend after he gave me some Karate gear to further the discipline in Fiji.
They say when you discover yourself deeper, you bring about positive change. And for this deeper understanding, you need to have "quiet time". I seriously needed this because in my discovery, I was reaffirmed that the earth is a living thing. We belong to it as much as it belongs to us.
Everybody needs quiet time to listen to their inner voice and clear all thoughts inside their head, to get a clear picture of the direction in which one is heading into. Like the answers to all your questions is already with you.
Every personal experience shared carried a message of hope. I was humbled to listen to young people expressing their emotions. For some reason, it felt right to be where I was because I could feel the pain and understand the frustrations of the young Japanese pouring their hearts out for what they had gone through after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
One friend shared, "Don't underestimate the power of a simple contribution that a human being can make."
It got me thinking. It got everyone around me thinking as well. The message was clear. Real humanity is realized when people see the good in helping each other and share the difficult times together.
The gap between the rich and the poor will keep on getting bigger. Those in destitute will remain suffering. The debate between black and white will continue. The greedy will keep on suffocating and taking advantage of the poor, until, there is a change in mind-set. Change within ourselves! This change will not be easy. It will take time - person by person - but it needs to happen.
My message was mostly focussed on "Fiji, the way the world should be!" A small island nation, with its own unique challenges, friendly people, diverse cultures, beautiful environment and how nothing more than our rugby unites us like crazy!
When I heard other young peoples' stories, it gave me more appreciation of my land.
We can be the solution to our own problems if we are able to appreciate what we have, and who we are. However, I did not hesitate to share our challenges. Be it the constitution making process and finding our way to democracy or the impacts of climate change on island nations and its peoples.
We listened, we genuinely tried to understand, to appreciate and start change within ourselves to make peace a reality. As the conference days came to a close, I was more connected to all the delegates. I always tried not to show my emotions - thinking that it was uncharacteristic of me to do so.
In no time, though, it was the final night and that is when I received my biggest surprise.
In a conference room full to its capacity with delegates and guests almost giving up to the heat because the air conditioning was turned off, it was announced that the Pacific islands were sinking. And to help reduce the carbon emissions in the atmosphere and the impacts of climate change, people in developed nations needed to start living simply so that "others can simply live."
I put my head down and tears rolled down my cheeks. I could not hide my emotions anymore. It was during a group sharing exercise that I explained how the survival of small island nations was threatened because of rising sea-levels and that developed nations had a huge part to play in the climate crisis.
I believe that unselfish acts from the Japanese people; to start change, right there and then, for the good of oneself and others' is Kizuna. You cannot see it. It is a feeling!
I was the lone Fijian delegate, the smallest nation represented at the APYC but that moment echoes that it does not matter, big or small, developed or developing, all that matters is that we exist together.
Japan or Fiji, we are all in this world together as one. Just as our Cambodian friends say: "I start, you start. We start to change together!"
This is the pathway to world peace. Arigato Gozaimasu !
* Kelvin Anthony is the communications co-ordinator of Project Survival Pacific. PSP is a regional youth environmental organisation that works to safeguard the survival of the Pacific island people from the impacts of climate change and to promote sustainable development within the Pacific.