A Himalayan High
Takashi Miyahara was Nepal’s tourism pioneer who founded Himalayan Kanko Kitatsu and built Hotel Everest View and Syangboche Airfield 50 years ago, and was already bringing 1,000 Japanese tourists to Nepal in the early 1970s. He went on to build Himalaya Hotel in Kathmandu and was working on Hotel Annapurna View in Sarangkot. He became a Nepali citizen in 2008 to contest elections from his Nepal Rastriya Bikas Party. He died in November 2019 at the age of 85.
In 1982, Bungeishunju published his book Himalaya no Tomoshibi: Hoteru Eberesuto Byu O Tateru chronicling the establishment of Hotel Everest View. Nepali Times is printing excerpts from a manuscript of English translation of the book in Weekend Longreads this Saturday.
It all began with a telegram.
Two years had passed since I began living in Kathmandu as an employee of the Department of Cottage and Small Industries. One day, when I was sitting at my desk in my spacious office, just as I did every day, a telegram arrived.
‘About to die like a dog in Namche,’ it read. ‘Send a plane. Waiting at Lukla. Sakamoto.’
The telegram was written in Japanese, but in the Latin alphabet. Naoyuki Sakamoto was the illustrious mountain climber, and he had set out on foot from Kathmandu towards Everest Base Camp.
Sakamoto was a bit old to be going to Everest Base Camp, and we were also somewhat concerned about altitude sickness, but since he looked sturdy, I thought he would probably be all right. His use of ‘die like a dog’ in the telegram seemed typically eccentric. Yet, because he also wrote ‘about to die’, I should have panicked. But I was sure there was no problem -- it was the type of telegram that a habitual jokester like Sakamoto would write.
I immediately went to the Police Headquarters and had them send a reply: ‘Will send plane. Wait at Lukla.’ Then I ran around to the Royal Nepal Army, to the office of the United Nations, and to Royal Nepal Airlines, trying to charter a plane.
The Nepal Army Twin Pioneer was having engine repairs. The United Nations Pilatus Porter was all booked up. I therefore began negotiating for the use of one of the two helicopters of Royal Nepal Airlines that stood forlornly in one corner of the Kathmandu Airport. They had been donated by the Soviet Union and were dust-covered hulks.
The pilot was a large Nepali with a splendid moustache named Bobby Shah. I was a bit uneasy about whether the helicopter was safe to fly, so I asked him.
"It's fine, it's fine," he said with a wink as he patted my shoulder. "Even I don't want to get on a helicopter that's going to crash, so don't worry."
We took off from Kathmandu Airport and I gave a sudden, involuntary gasp. Right before our eyes, the shining white peaks of the Himalaya filled our entire visual field, and seemed to stretch on forever. I was struck by the grand scale and beauty of the landscape unfolding before my eyes, and I spent the flight with my face pressed against the window, completely absorbed.
Despite my concern, the helicopter soon landed at the Lukla airfield, altitude 2,600m. Once the dust settled, we could see Sakamoto and his companions, waving excitedly. Sakamoto, who supposedly was ‘dying like a dog’ in Namche Bazar, looked extremely healthy.
"Hey there, Miyahara!" he called. With his unkempt beard, he looked like a bear as he approached us with a broad grin. "Yeah, the Himalaya are big, on a completely different scale than the Hidaka mountains."
After a while, at the pilot's urging, Sakamoto and his companions boarded the helicopter. Left behind, the three of us watched the chopper until it disappeared, and then we returned to reality.
For the first time in a long time, I took deep breath after breath of cold mountain air. We walked to Tengboche where I venerated the monastery, chanting the prayer Om mani padme hum which is Namu myoho renge kyo in the Japanese version. We retraced the way we had come, veering off the road to Namche Bazaar for the villages of Khumjung and Khunde located adjacent to each other with a vista of all mountains from Ama Dablam to Kongde stood out in sharp relief.
Excited about the mountains, I saw potential for tourism in Nepal. At that time, my main job in Nepal involved the kinds of cottage and small-scale industries, but I took a dim view of the possibilities for industry in Nepal.
We began talking about the possibility of building a lodge or hotel on the east edge of Syangboche Hill so that people who wanted to see Everest could come and stay there. If guests were to come to our prospective hotel, we would have to have an airfield nearby. Across a steep hill was a more gentle slope that was being used for grazing. As we rambled farther down, we came to a plateau with only a 10° slope. There were a lot of rocks, including two or three chunks of exposed granite each as big as a two-story house. Yet if the granite were dynamited away, the space could conceivably be used as an airfield for small planes.
The area was called Syangboche, and locals told us the forest used to be so thick that you could lose sight of a yak. One year, there was a dispute between Namche Bazar and Khumjung- Khunde about common land-use rights, and as both sides competed to cut down trees, the forest soon disappeared.
I began making serious plans to build a hotel and airfield in that area. That evening, as we sat around the fire chatting, I told Ankaji about the hotel plans. He stared at my face for a while, as if he were analysing my physiognomy. “You will definitely be able to build it,” he said, endorsing my idea with apparent self-confidence.
The eastern edge of Syangboche is called Om Lhasa, and if I were to build a hotel that would be a good location. I stood on the sun-drenched hill on that bright and shining morning, and my heart was filled with inexpressible joy. There was no more magnificent and massive scenery than this view. There was Ama Dablam (‘mother’s necklace’), and beyond the ridge that linked Lhotse and Nuptse, was the part of Everest above the 8,000m South Col. To the right of Ama Dablam are Kangtega and Thamserku, and to the south are the Kongde peaks that line either side of the narrow Dudh Kosi river valley. Thamserku looms above, piercing the sky like the tip of a spear.
What is it that makes the Himalaya so beautiful? If I look at them, I realise that it is nothing more than the chiaroscuro of white and black mountains against a blue sky. However, when I really look at the mountains, I am overwhelmed and impressed by their beauty. I wonder if it is because of their massive scale, or because of their steepness and perpetual coats of ice and snow. The landscape of mountains formed by a billion years of pressure from land and air is endowed with limitless beauty for that very reason.
I thought that this was probably the only place where I could build a hotel. The southern edge of the Syangboche plateau seemed like a likely place for an airfield for small, light aircraft.
Turning point in Kathmandu
Returning to Kathmandu, I reflected on my two years of life in the city, including the trip to Tengboche. Other than desk work, I had come in contact with the reality of Nepal as a nation through research in cottage industry around Jiri, forest survey in the Tarai to build a paper mill, and a survey of hand-loom fabrics in Kathmandu Valley.
After a year had passed, the job satisfaction gradually faded. I was soon turning 34, and did not think about returning to Japan. I needed to achieve something, and do it fast. The dream of constructing the Hotel Everest View that I had brought back from Namche Bazar appeared to me like a ray of light.
It took us a month and a half to complete the hotel proposal, with the drawing for the building, the estimate for the cost, and the prospective for income and expenditure. Submitting these paperwork to the government of Nepal, we applied for the permission for the hotel construction.
The Tourist Bureau was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry where I worked. Moreover, the house of the deputy minister was next to my rented house and I had a personal relationship with him. I thought negotiation might be easy.
I also knew Harendra [AN1] Bahadur Thapa, the younger brother of Surya Bahadur Thapa, the prime minister. He suggested I go see his brother with my proposal, which I did. This made things much easier.
The day after our meeting with the prime minister, I was summoned by Kailash Bikram[AN2] Adhikari, the deputy minister who promised to help. The following day, I went to meet Tirtha Tuladhar, the chief director of the Tourist Bureau who had my file already on his desk.
Thus, after submitting other documents such as the map of the Khumbu area or detailed maps of planned construction sites for the hotel and the airport, the hotel project finally started to take concrete shape.
Mr. Tuladhar was a friendly and quiet man, a work-before-talk type of a person – quite rare among Nepali officials. From beginning to end he actively took the initiative in negotiating with the relevant ministries. On 3 September 1968, the construction permit for Hotel Everest View was finally granted.
The next step to be taken was to get the permission to build the Syangboche Airport from the Civil Aviation Bureau and discuss the small aircraft service between Kathmandu and Syangboche with Royal Nepal Airlines. Though Mr. Tuladuhar was supportive of this project, the Civil Aviation Bureau found the location for the airport to be impossible and it was difficult to convince them from the beginning. We registered the company ‘Trans-Himalayan Tour Co. Ltd’ to operate Hotel Everest View. The company started out with each of us investing one hundred dollars.
When I first came to Nepal, I used to think I might become a teacher for natural science, or run an ironworks business of some sort, making use of my experience from the few years I worked at a factory. Nonetheless, things had taken unexpected turns and I ended up running a hotel business, as if to follow my father’s footsteps, in Nepal. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all.
We were able to gain consent from both villages for the airport as well, under the condition that it will be built on the hill of Syangboche. I explained to the Nepalis that the hotel was not foreign aid, but a source of jobs for them. Whether it be a person or a nation, when you get something, you lose something at the same time. I could not help but thinking that if Nepal continued to receive foreign aid, they will soon lose the spirit of independence, which is of the primary importance.
I believe that the most important thing for the growth of a nation is the self-awareness of its people, and this is undermined by dependency to foreign aid which is an impediment to a nation's growth. Moreover, aid also widens the economic disparity between the rich and the poor, or between dwellers of cities and mountain villages. I also felt extreme irritation to the fact that the people who deserve the benefit the most tended to be completely forgotten.
It was 27 December 1968 when I took a break from my 3-year stay in Kathmandu and returned to Japan to prepare for the hotel construction. I was disgusted by the air pollution in Tokyo. Exhaust gas from cars and all the hustle and bustle of the street gave me a headache. Only a few days had passed since I left, but I was already missing the clear air and the bright blue sky of Nepal.
My wife had returned to Tokyo from Kathmandu the previous summer and just given birth to our first son. I had no income and was freeloading off of her family’s house in Tokyo. I felt that I had to resolve myself to patiently work on the hotel project while sponging off on my wife’s family to survive for a year or two, and find a way for solution.
I asked for support to people in the AACK (Academic Alpine Club of Kyoto), including Assistant Professor Akio Higuchi, Misters Yasuo Miyaki and Takao Matsuda. All of them readily complied with my request. That night, we examined the plan and discussed how we are handling the job in Assistant Professor Higuchi’s study, which was half-buried in books. After that, we drank together and animatedly talked about Nepal.
Three of them had been to Nepal many times, and have good knowledge of the nation. Assistant Professor Higuchi took a look at the manifest and said,
“Why don’t we make the total amount of the budget ‘88.48’ million yen?”
The total budget on the manifest was just 88 million yen. We had no idea what his intention was.
“If you don’t get it, I guess you are no mountaineer.”
The number ‘8848’ was of course the height of the Mt. Everest – 10,000 yen per metre.
Back in Nepal
About a month later, near the end of May, Kuma-san, our architectural designer and I were trying to fly to Lukla by chartering the United Nation’s Pilatus Porter PC-6 aircraft in Kathmandu. I wanted Kuma-san to take a look at the actual building site of the hotel with his own eyes prior to drawing the full-scale design of the building.
Om Lhasa was up on top of a hillock, with its east and south sides steeply falling into the Dudh Koshi River 1,000m below. The construction of the Hotel Everest View was more of an adventure than a business. But at the same time, it was destined to be a business while it was an adventure. The commercial handicap it was burdened with was pretty rare, to say the least.
We decided to make the hotel to be reasonable in its size, but high in its quality. Therefore the level of the hotel went up a few steps from our original plan. It did not mean we were concerned about building a luxurious hotel, but rather, we kept in our minds that we needed to think well about various problems that could be derived from the hotel during its construction and in the future, and that we should be ready to adapt to them.
First of all, it will be the first tourists’ facility ever to be built in the Himalayan mountains, so it needed to be a model case for the future development of tourism. Add to that, if we wished to build it at this location with undoubtedly one of the most beautiful scenery in the world, we needed to refrain from inflicting any kind of damage whatsoever onto the surrounding nature and environment at any cost.
Furthermore, we aimed a notch higher, hoping to bring unity between the hotel and nature, so that it would enhance the value of the natural environment. This was common sense, but the issue was on how we can achieve it. It could be an exploration, but we needed to execute it with minute attention.
Soon after our arrival at Kathmandu in November 1969, the first remittance from Japan came in. This was the very first private investment from Japan to Nepal. With this funding, we started to purchase construction machines.
Until camping huts could be built in the village of Khumjung, we rented rooms in the home of our old acquaintance, Ang Temba and traveled to the construction site. It was fortunate that no one suffered altitude sickness on the day we arrived, but in the evening, we helped ourselves to chhang, and everyone immediately got drunk in the low oxygen.
The next morning, we all woke up bleary-eyed, with puffy faces, and even though we were still unsteady on our feet, we decided to head out to the Om Lhasa hotel construction site 30 minute climb through a forest. We could see the sky above the Himalayas, the mountains themselves, and the forests--all these things--with crystal clarity in the chilly air.
As an outsider, I enjoyed the peaceful seclusion of Khumjung, and the views of one peak after another--Ama Dablam, Kangtega, Thamserku, and Kongde—that were to be had simply by sticking my head out of the window. There also seemed to be more simple and honest people there than in Namche Bazar.
Discussion with Sir Edmund Hillary
One day, as my return to Kathmandu was approaching, I heard that Sir Edmund had come to Khumbu Hospital, so I decided on the spur of the moment to visit him. I set out for the hospital after thinking about what I would say. He brought out a desk and chairs out into the courtyard. I was treated to tea and homemade sweets.
Sir Edmund had been opposed to the hotel which he thought was a bad idea. He was urging the Nepal government to halt the project, and had written letters to the Japan Alpine Society, telling them to persuade me to give up the idea.
"I've heard of our plan, but your objectives are different from those of the Himalaya Trust, so it's problematic," Sir Edmund said. "It is a bad idea to use a place like this for commercial purposes, such as a hotel. It will destroy the Sherpa culture."
I replied that my motivation for building a hotel was not commercial.
"If that's the case, wouldn't it be just fine to build it in Pokhara instead of here?" he asked.
"Pokhara would certainly be another good site, but anyway, I'm not just hoping to build a hotel, it would be an effective means of promoting tourism in Nepal."
Sir Ed said: "I think Khumbu needs other things more than it needs a hotel."
We were really talking past each other.
"You probably won't give up that idea of building a hotel, will you? It's just that I love the natural environment of Khumbu and the Sherpa people. Please take care not to harm them."
I assured him we would not.
Certainly, a hotel in the middle of the Himalaya, not to mention near Mount Everest, was an issue that required careful consideration. I agreed with Sir Ed, but I was going ahead with it.
When Sir Edmund first came into contact with the Sherpas, he must have been deeply impressed by their culture and their commitment to mountain climbing. It is not hard to imagine that he did not want them to lose those attributes.
But what is ‘culture’? Preserving the Sherpas’ culture did not mean preserving it just as it was, as if in a museum, but respecting the human society that gave rise to the Sherpa’s honesty, cheerfulness, concern for others, pride, and philosophy, and doing nothing to ruin it.
Sir Edmund Hillary and our fundamental ideas were the same, but our respective efforts were leading us in different directions. So, in the end I had to say this to him: “In order for a local community or a country to experience true development, isn’t it more important for the local people to have autonomy rather than to receive charity or assistance.”
So, finally, it was the day of opening the hotel. The day before the first guests of Hotel Everest View were supposed to arrive at Lukla. Walking from Lukla to the hotel in one day was just impossible, so guests camped at the riverbed below overnight.
Arriving at their camping site, I found many familiar faces, including Mr. Tatsuo Miyazaki, the mayor of the Kobe city; Mr. Ichiro Yoshizawa, the Vice-president of Japan Alpine Club at the time; Mr. Shuji Tsuda, the branch manager for JAC’s Kobe office; Mr. Hiroshi Fujita from Kobe Alpine Club, with whom I had worked together as a lecturer at a mountaineering course for high schoolers long time ago, and dozens others.
On the day of their arrival to the hotel, we departed late in the morning so that the hotel could get even closer to completion. We climbed up the slope to Namche Bazar bistarai and bistarai (slowly and slowly) to buy some time. Of course, at this altitude, we never should walk in haste to begin with.
When we came to a place where the hotel was visible, I sent out a messenger to ask them if cleaning up was done. We took a long halt until a ‘OK’ came back as the answer, making an excuse that if we hurry too much it may cause altitude sickness. And at last, the guests entered the hotel.
However, we found the lobby being packed with the villagers. Close to a hundred spectators had gathered from the Khumjung Village, and the guests had to struggle through the crowd to get to guest rooms. It was far from what I would call a stylish hotel opening.
Glass for the hallway windows were sent out from Kathmandu a month ago, but snowfall had stopped it on Ramju Ra at 3,600m, which shut down the traffic over the pass and kept our load on the other side of it. We quickly sent 50 well-equipped porters from Namche Bazar for the rescue, but the load could not make it on time for the guests’ arrival.
For dinner, the meal was cooked in the wind-swept kitchen carried into the dining room, where they were served swiftly on plates warmed up in a bucket of hot water. Some of us had to hold plywood against the wind so that it would not blow through the dining table. It was OK for breakfast and lunch, but dinner at night, everybody had to eat while shivering with cold.
The next day, the weather was fortunately fine, and the Himalayan mountains towering high against the blue sky was clearly visible. Everyone seemed happy to be there. The view of icy peaks was sublime.
An elderly lady from Osaka named Ms. Hisano Sugino said with tears of joy, “Mr. Miyahara, can you believe a 71 years old grandma is actually here. Now I have a good story to take to the afterlife. You should know how grateful I am to you for building this hotel. I would have never had a chance to come to this place without it.”
Being so much appreciated, I felt all the labour we put into the construction of the hotel was rewarded. I was emotionally moved by her as much as she was by the view. On returning to Japan, Ms. Sugino deposited one million yen, an enormous amount for an individual to donate at the time, to the account of Himalaya Kanko Kaihatsu, telling us to make use of it the way we wish. The first guests to the hotel spent two nights without getting altitude sickness.
One of the motivations behind my coming to Nepal was that I would much rather live under the brilliant rays of the sun in the blue sky and among the greenery of nature, than in a society incarcerated inside concrete. I came to Nepal in order to make this dream of mine come true. However, I had to ask myself – have I been acting consistently with the same attitude and love towards nature in Nepal?
The tourist industry is also one that can easily spoil nature, society and culture. And I, while claiming that I desire to live in Nepal's nature, was building a tourism facility. Here I am, cutting down more than a few trees in the Himalaya and constructing a hotel, and scraping off a meadow to build an airport. Is it really acceptable – for a foreigner that I was – to lordly execute such acts, to brandish pretexts such as ‘development’ or ‘modernisation’?
In the face of this question, I found the necessity to think deeper about the true nature of ‘development’ and ‘modernisation’ including my own acts. But at the same time, I thought this question should be separated from the issue of these two words, which needed to be in accordance with nature and the social environment.
Modern materialistic society requires humans with economic efficiency rather than humanity, eventually making us forget the nobility of the spirit. When people become the believers of only what they can touch with their hands and see with their eyes, won’t they start suffering from another kind of calamity like the devastation of the spirit?
Even when human beings pursue economic efficiency, ‘development’ and ‘modernisation’ need to be constantly balanced with humanity, wisdom and the necessity of control and limit the speed and range of development.
Especially for Nepal, not yet contaminated by a material civilisation, I personally hoped for the spirit of humanity to prevail while striving for development. From the viewpoint of technology and an industrial civilisation, Nepal was far behind. Yet it also shows us an alternative way of life, which is proof that the material way is not the only path for human beings. Nepal could very well be the place to create a new value system.
However, at the present stage, Nepal may need to modernise even if it was going to cause a few problems, in order to lift living standards of its people. I do not say this with the intention to justify Hotel Everest View and its airport. Maybe we need to be economically stable before we can achieve a richness of spirit. It would also be inevitably true that the devastation of the spirit and the tragedy of poverty can never be improved if we just looked on with our arms folded.
This was when I started to put into action what I had been only vaguely thinking about till then -- to establish an experimental farm in the Khumbu Valley to increase agricultural productivity without using chemical fertilisers and pesticides. It could be the source of fresh organic vegetables for the hotel and also create jobs.
The location I chose was in Chumoa, five hours down the Dudh Kosi River midway to Lukla. We purchased a piece of land, and asked Mr. Yukio Takemura, a junior friend of Mr. Shimada at Tokyo University of Agriculture’s Rapti Experimental Farm, to manage the facility. I thought about putting the hotel and the farm together and form a kind of commune, if it was possible. My sharp-tongued friends branded my idea as my ‘fantasy capitalism.’ I guess they did have a point. However, with Mr. Takemura’s effort, this farm produced vegetables not only for the Khumbu but also Solu.
Finally, Syangboche Airfield
On August 2 1971, we held the ground-breaking ceremony for the airport construction. Ngawang Tenzin Lama from the Tengboche Monastery kindly performed the blessings. Village chiefs of both Khumjung and Namche Bazar, government officials and many others attended the ceremony. We took turns and broke the ground.
Mr. Chakra Bahadur Bista, the administrative official for the Khumbu district from the Nepali Government congratulated us, declaring that, “this would be an epoch-making even for Khumbu”. His effort was the major factor in bringing the negotiation for the airport construction to a settlement. After treating everyone there to bottles of chhang, the ceremony came to an end.
Dynamite could not be purchased by private individuals, and the bulldozer had issues of possibly high cost and the import approval. I had a secret plan to bring a bulldozer as machinery aid from the Japanese government through the embassy in Kathmandu and the Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency.
We decided to disassemble the bulldozer into parts small enough for a porter to carry – except for the engine block – and send them to Lukla by Twin Otter aircraft. The engine block weighed about 300 kg, and since it could be a big mess if we tried to dismantle it, we decided to charter a helicopter and fly it directly into Syangboche. We managed to transport the two lumps of iron that are bulldozers from Lukla to Syangboche with the help of 200 porters and taking ten days.
Finally, the time to start the bulldozers had come. Put the key in, warmed up cylinders for a while, then turned the key to the other direction. Vroom, vroom! It started on the first try. We roared and shouted in joy.
When the trekking season came to an end in May, the work at the airport was at its height, the hotel also needed a lot of work, including making the facility more substantial and completing the interior decoration.
While bulldozers were working just fine, we had a problem with the two rock drills I purchased in Japan. They had to be replaced with two Swedish-made ones that I borrowed in Kathmandu. Two tons of dynamite from India was finally starting to arrive, carried by porters from Lamosangu since they could not be transported by plane. The silence of the mountains was broken by the thunderous explosions that echoed and reverberated.
Bulldozers, rock drills and dynamite were the three sacred treasures in Syangboche. We had to use them carefully, since the supply of parts could be difficult. A British airport specialist who was seconded to the Nepal government by the Asian Development Bank to inspect the country’s airports happened to visit the hotel. To our surprise, he told us this was a good location for an inclined STOL airfield.
We reconsidered our plan based on this theory, and used his specifications to build an ideal altiport with a 700m and inclination of 4-5 % at the threshold, gradually increasing to the maximum of 16 %, at the apron end.
At the end of May, after two years of working with two bulldozers, two rock drills and 1.6 tons of dynamite, the airport was finally ready for a Royal Nepal Airlines Pilatus Porter. June 1, 1973 was the day of the test flight and I woke up before the daybreak, stepped outside and checked the sky. Staff of the hotel ran to the villages of Namche Bazaar, Khumjung and Kunde to tell everyone that the test flight will take place as planned. If the aircraft successfully landed, I’d have to buy a drum of chhang and have everyone join the celebration. We must drink our heads off.
At 8 AM, I heard the whine of an engine in the distance. It was a tiny dot at first, but it got bigger, the sun reflecting off its wings. It circled twice over the airport, then headed to the base of Thamserku, banked and made a straight-in approach to a runway that was built with our sweat and tears.
The villagers shouted with joy, and every one ran towards the aircraft. It was the scene I had dreamed of countless times in the past five years. I had engaged in prolonged negotiation with the Civil Aviation Bureau, done the fundraising and preparatory work for equipment, negotiated them through customs at Calcutta port, and the actual construction.
Because I wished for it for so long, and because so many things had happened and such a long time had passed, I sometimes had to remind myself of the original purpose of my wish. Had I ever failed to believe in the day when an aircraft would land and park right in front of my? No. Only because I had believed in that image, I could have continued this work. I had finally done it.
Pushing through the crowd of people, Capt Emil Wick approached me with a big smile. We shook hands together. The Swiss pilot had first come to Nepal in 1960, flying a Pilatus Porter for the Swiss Dhaulagiri expedition. Since then, he had been flying in Nepal. This legendary pilot was the one who gladly volunteered for the test flight.
The hotel finally started its formal operation using the Syangboche Airport. However, its operation was as difficult as its construction. The work at the hotel was more like the base camp of a mountaineering expedition. We had to plan the logistics for guests, the weather was unpredictable, and sometimes trekkers with injuries had to be evacuated.
The air service between Kathmandu and Syangboche, the mainstay of bringing in guests to the hotel, was not sufficient at all. Royal Nepal Airlines was supposed to have two flights a day, but they did not fly even a half of that number. This situation continues today, and it has been the biggest impediment for the operation of the hotel. Thus, even though we had made the air-transport to Syangboche possible, it did not mean that the hotel’s operation would be much smoother.
Bikas or Binas?
Living in Kathmandu, I often receive the following two questions from Japanese people visiting Nepal. “What can be done if we wanted to help Nepal?” or “Aren’t people in Nepal lacking desire to improve themselves, or having little desire to make things better?” I gave vague answers because I, too, cannot deny these impressions.
Nevertheless, I always felt great irritation. The questions seem to include pure goodwill, so why was I troubled by them? It may be because support and charity did not address the roots of the problem, and could even be harmful. Or maybe because I thought the need ‘to do something for them’ often turns out to be just self-righteousness.
Support and charity often have a tendency to pass right through essential factors in the development and growth of a nation, such as the democratisation of the society, capacity development for the people, or the cultivation of an independent spirit. They often connote the dilemma of not being any help for the people at the face of poverty, rather furthering the injustice.
The hotel was finally off and running. But even though every necessity for guests were provided, there was still a lot of work to be done. The airport work also stopped after being made just enough for Pilatus Porters.
Nepal’s civil aviation policy meant that we had to depend on Royal Nepal Airlines which was often not reliable. This is one of the reasons why the business performance of the hotel operation still is in the red. We are not anywhere close to reinvesting profits locally, and are always short of cash.
Was the hotel just a vanity project of selfish foreigners with immature ideology volunteering to build a hotel? Or should we be satisfied with the result, thinking we accomplished our original goal however small it may be? Should we convince ourselves that it is the accumulation of these initiatives that contribute to the development of a society?
The Hotel Everest View project is not a failure because it is managing somehow to make both ends meet in cooperation with other projects. We cannot look at its business aspect in isolation. I have no intention of calling this project a private hobby. To think of it that way would be disrespectful to all those who cooperated to make it happen. This hotel was not built to gain some sort of positive evaluation, but on the motivation to do something. That work continues to this day, and I believe that no matter what kind of difficulties await in the future, we need to think that we need to keep it going.
Why then, do I still have nagging doubts? It has nothing to do with the fact that the hotel is still running at a deficit. I suspect it is that the hotel is not directly connected to social productivity in Nepal, where hunger and poverty are still the major issues.
I have written this book to chronicle the construction of Hotel Everest View and report everything that happened up there to so many people who had provided us with enormous support.
However, the present condition of Nepal is far away from conducive for foreign investment. To attract foreign capital, stability in politics and economy, the morality and awareness of its people are important. There is really no need for Japanese companies to invest in Nepal, profits are too low and the risks too high. Despite that we brought in investment. Unfortunately, the economy in Nepal has not been growing. Depending so much on foreign aid means that the significance of private investment has weakened. Lateral communication within the government looks awfully disunited.
Sixteen years have passed since I started to live in Nepal, and fourteen since I came up with the plan for the Hotel Everest View. Years gone by – as they are known to do – flying by at the blinking of an eye. The past recedes at a quick pace. Time passes.
Miyahara's 1982 book Himalaya no Tomoshibi: Hoteru Eberesuto Byu O Tateru.