A ray of hope for Nepal

EARLY REFLECTIONS: Takashi Miyahara (above) in 1970 with a Nepali co-worker during the construction of the Hotel Everest View.

Takashi Miyahara was a Japanese development worker who was first assigned to Nepal in the 1960s, when the powers he had ordained that the country’s future was possible through something called the ‘cottage industry’.

Miyahara soon realised that progress along that path would keep Nepal backward. Mesmerised by Nepal’s scenery and its culture, he was convinced tourism-led development was the only way ahead, and went on to build Nepal’s first world-class high-end hotel in Syangboche at 3,880m.

Together with Tiger Tops in Chitwan, Miyahara’s Hotel Everest View brought Nepal to the attention of the outside world in all its variety – from the highest mountains to tropical jungles teeming with wildlife.

Read also: Miyahara-san: a life devoted to Nepal, Kunda Dixit

Page by page, we learn of the tenacity of a man who married in Nepal, and made this country his home. He renounced his Japanese citizenship to set up the Nepal National Development Party, and even contested (and lost) the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections.

Many in Nepal did not help Miyahara, some put obstacles in his way (you know who you are), but he never gave up.

Even in the most desperate moments when officials dilly-dallied on the hotel permit, or when Royal Nepal Airlines gave him the runaround, he persevered — not only setting up a hotel that put Nepal on the international map, but gave Khumbu its own airfield.

It is not Miyahara’s fault that governments did not exploit the visibility that Hotel Everest View gave Nepal globally to push for high value, low-volume tourism. The potential of Syangboche airfield was also never fully exploited because of vested interests.

He went on to also get Japanese investors for the Himalaya Hotel in Patan, and was already bringing in 1,000 up-market Japanese tourists to Nepal in the 1970s. His other dream project was the Annapurna View Hotel in Sarangkot.

Takashi Miyahara looks out of the window of the completed Hotel Everest View in Syangboche with Ama Dablam and surrounding mountains reflected on the pane.

But we get a sense from his memoir that Miyahara had already realised that even developing a high yield tourism model was not enough to get Nepal to leapfrog development.

The only way to change things was to infiltrate politics. He used to joke that he wanted to be a prime minister of Nepal to fast track the country’s growth.

Read also: A Himalayan High, Nepali Times

Which is why he set up his own party. Much of his thinking on infrastructure-led growth, sustainable tourism development, the premium on protecting nature, formed the basis of his party’s political platform, and are contained in the later chapters of his memoir.

He told this newspaper in an interview before the 2008 elections: “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 died in 2019 at age 85, and was cremated near the hotel he built with his bare hands in Syangboche. His vision lives on at Hotel Everest View, and is spelt out in this memoir. For maximum impact, this book deserves to come out in translation in Nepali since it is Nepal’s policy-makers and the public for whom the book should hold most value.

Takashi Miyahara told Nepali Times in another interview in 2015: “The public must be aware of the political failure that led to Nepal lagging behind. Bureaucrats don’t take decisions and just shift responsibility. There is greed, and society lacks a moral compass.”

Go online to read excerpt of the book:


Read more: Takashi Miyahara 2020 vision, Karma Gurung