Miyahara-san: a life devoted to Nepal
Takashi Miyahara who died on 24 November at age 85 first came to Nepal in 1962, and never left. He saw vast potential in this country, invested in many landmark hotels, married a Nepali woman, became a Nepali citizen, and when he saw politicians ruining the country he contested the 2008 elections to try to change things.
He lost that election, but never lost hope. He was always brimming with ideas, and listening to this tenacious Nepali of Japanese descent, one wished he would one day become Prime Minister of his adopted country.
Miyahara’s office had a map of Nepal that was a blueprint for the country’s infrastructure-led development. An east-west electric railway artery linked to north-south feeder roads with tunnels, and cable-cars to hilltop tourist sites. He wanted to shift Nepal’s capital to Chitwan to reduce the pressure on Kathmandu Valley. He had master plans for hydropower, tourism and water supply.
These perfectly do-able plans were in the manifesto of the Nepal National Development Party that he founded. The party failed to win even a single seat in the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections, but Miyahara kept trying to change Nepal’s fatalistic culture by setting an example with hard work and putting the national interest first.
Over the course of his life, the jovial Japanese trekked across most of Nepal’s 77 districts, and got to know Nepal better than most Nepalis. He felt Nepal’s challenges were not insurmountable, and with vision and hard work they could be overcome. He felt the older failed politicians should give way to younger blood, and he tried to mentor the next generation of politicians through his party.
Miyahara set up Trans Himalayan Tour and built the iconic Hotel Everest View at 3,880m in 1975, even getting permission from the government to hew out an airstrip in Syangboche. He established the Himalaya Hotel in Patan, and was already bringing 1,000 high-end Japanese tourists to Nepal in the 1970s. He was working on his other dream project, Annapurna View Hotel in Sarangkot, till his last days.
He always felt that tourism held the key to Nepal’s development, and told this paper once: “Tourism will not only increase national income but also help Nepal become self-reliant. This means using Nepal’s natural resources like rivers and forests and moulding them for tourism purposes and also harnessing their potential through hydropower generation and transportation.”
Miyahara dreamt big, and tried to get often apathetic Nepali officials excited about tourism, infrastructure, energy and nature conservation. He was met with disinterest, but that never deterred him.
He told Nepali Times in another interview in 2015: “The public must be aware of the political failure that led to this. Bureaucrats don’t take decisions and just shift responsibility. There is greed, and society lacks a moral compass.” Takashi Miyahara’s attempt to change Nepal’s political culture remains unfinished. But there are many young Nepalis whom he inspired who will build the future of new Nepal.
He is survived by his wife and daughter. Miyahara’s body will lie in state in a gumba in Chuhepati and will be cremated on Wednesday in Syangboche. Said his daughter Sonia Miyahara: “My father wanted to be cremated near Mt Everest. The Himalaya is where his heart is.”
Kunda Dixit is the former editor and publisher of Nepali Times. He is the author of 'Dateline Earth: Journalism As If the Planet Mattered' and 'A People War' trilogy of the Nepal conflict. He has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University and is Visiting Faculty at New York University (Abu Dhabi Campus).