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COURTESY THE EMBASSY OF JAPAN

A lot has changed in the 50 years since Bharat Raj Rajbhandari and Seijiro Yoshizawa shook hands in New Delhi, officially establishing diplomatic relations between Nepal and Japan.

Since then, bilateral diplomatic relations have included a number of goodwill royal and imperial visits, then-Prime Minister Girija Koirala's 1998 jaunt and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's 2000 visit here.

But Nepal-Japan ties are older and far more extensive. Ekai Kawaguchi, a Buddhist monk from Osaka, was Nepal's first Japanese visitor. He travelled through on his way to Tibet in 1899, but had visited twice more by 1912. By then Chandra Shamsher Rana had sent eight Nepalis to study in Japan, and an old receipt meticulously details their expenses, including kerosene, tobacco and a duck.

Up until the fifties, Japanese interest in Nepal was largely artistic and academic, including Syun-ichi Amanuma's survey of historical Kathmandu buildings damaged by the 1934 earthquake. But by the early 1950s Japanese attention, like that of the rest of the world, had shifted to Nepal's mountains, and in 1952 efforts began to secure a Manaslu climbing permit.

1956 was a major year for Nepal-Japan relations. King Mahendra's coronation in April was attended by Japanese ambassador to India, Seijiro Yoshizawa, and described by an embassy official as 'full of life'. The Japanese ascent of Manaslu on May 9 was the first in a series of Japanese Himalayan feats (including Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Everest). On 1 September 1956, diplomatic channels between the two countries officially opened.

Since then, perhaps the most visible result has been the influx of Japanese aid, which totaled Rs 178.5 billion by 2005. Some of the more visible projects include the TU Teaching Hospital, the Nursing School, the newer Bagmati bridge and the current construction of the Sindhuli road. Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) are also a notable presence . There have been other influences too.

The 50th anniversary celebrations are in full swing, events earlier this year included an essay competition and a film exchange. In Kathmandu, September will see cultural performances, and a concert, and will be followed with programs including a speech competition, a student exchange and an education fair.

Jemima Sherpa



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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