Prof. Takeshi Naito, Professor at Department of Ophthalmology, Institute of Health Biosciences, The University of Tokushima Graduate School, has been visiting Nepal since 1980 regularly, supporting the eye care camps in remote and urban parts of Nepal.
Prof. Takeshi Naito, who started his treatment from the early days of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), has already helped provide vision to hundreds of Nepali people living in the remote parts of Nepal.
The story of Ms. Minae Hata, Founder, Yomogi no Kai, is also interesting as she has been working in Nepal for almost thirty years, promoting acupuncture and Japanese oriental medicines in Nepal.
Hata is now working to develop kits used for Japanese oriental medicines in Nepal with an aim to export them. With a team of four Nepalese, Hata has been spending her time, dedicating it to Nepalese people.
Along with two Japanese nationals, Hata and Naito, D. Ranjeet S Baral, MBBS, Ph.D, Senior Consultant Cardiologist, Ganga Lal and Vayodha Hospital, has experiences of different dimensions. After completing his post-graduation from Tokyo, Dr. Baral returned to Nepal to serve Nepalese heart patients.
Son of former chief of police Khagdajeet Baral, a strict and disciplined police officer, Dr. Baral went to Japan with little hitches. However, his satisfaction in his life is his learning in Japan.
Dr. Tetsuo Igari, project manager of Hazama Ando Corporation, main contractor of Banepa-Bardibas Road, has already spent over two decades in Nepal, inspecting the construction of the road in the steep hills of middle Nepal, river basin and southern plains to bring the road to the present shape. Along with the helping in the construction of over 160 kilometers of road, Dr. Igari also trained hundreds of local Nepalese and good masons with new skill. As Nepal’s rural parts in Ramechhap, Kavre, Dolakha and Okhaldhunga are in the reconstruction drive, the masons trained during the road period are in the forefront of the drive.
With the construction of road, Kathmandu has been connected to terai and the road has shortened the travel time to eastern hill. Dr. Igari is helping cement Nepal-Japan relations at the people’s level.
Kazuhiko Mori, vice president of Tokushima Nepal Friendship Association, has an interesting way if getting involved in Nepal through a construction of micro-hydro project in Bhujung Village Development Committee of Lamjung District. Established in 1996, the association has been promoting home stay for Japanese youth and supporting reconstruction program.
With the installation of micro-hydro in remote Bhujung with community participation, Mori is able to change the livelihood of people. “The people have been running the project as we constructed the plant using the local resources," said Mori.
Constructed in 1999, Bhujung Micro-hydro has an installed capacity of 80 kW. With the power, the village got connected by a ropeway system. The construction of the ropeway system was done by Tokushima Nepal Friendship Association (ToNFA) with support from Volunteer Deposit for International Aid of Management Organization for Postal Servings and Postal Life Insurance, Japan at a total cost of Nepali Rs 8.2 million. “We went to climb the mountain. We are happy to see other people oriented programs. They transform the remote Nepal.”
Among other Japanese organizations, Nippon Koei Co of Japan came to Nepal long before Japan’s official aid flow to Nepal. Nippon Koei Co of Japan studied Karnali River Hydroelectric Development Project during 1962 – 1966.
“We have been in Nepal for over 54 years engaging various sectors, including hydro-electricity,” said Masato Nomura, Managing director, Nippon Koei India Pvt. Ltd Consulting Engineers.
Along with Japanese, Nepalese engineers like Amrit Nakarmi of Nepal AOTS Alumni Society and Dr. Raman Misra’s contribution in promoting Japanese elementary school in Nepal cannot be ignored in fostering bilateral relations.
An association of Japanese returnees, AOTS is still sending Nepalese students in Japan to enhance the high tech capability in engineering. Professor Dr. Misra has been doing an unbelievable work providing Japanese elementary education to children of Japanese expats in Japanese standard.
The work of these individuals is just the tip of the iceberg as there are thousands of Japanese people and Nepalese people contributing to strengthen the bilateral relations and taking them to new heights. Former Japanese Prime Minister late Ryutaro Hashimoto had also contributed to greatly enhance Nepal-Japan relations.
Sixty years of relations
Sixty-years ago when Nepal approached Japan for establishment of bilateral relations, the global world order was quite different. Isolated from the rest of the world, Nepal was trying to fly to see the world.
General and first Nepalese ambassador to Japan Daman Sumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, in his memoir, Nepal Rule and Misrule of Rana, narrated why Nepal delayed by almost a year to establish the diplomatic relations.
Although Nepal and Japan had established informal contacts earlier, they delayed the formal process for a year. Nepalese authorities had high regards to Japan but given its geostrategic locale, they preferred China as their first choice. Thus, almost a year after the establishment of diplomatic relation between Nepal and China, Nepal established its diplomatic relations with Japan.
As Nepal and Japan are celebrating sixty years of their establishment of diplomatic relations, Nepal-Japan relations are no longer confined to government to government levels. The relation is now deeply rooted at the people-to-people level.
With the sacrifices and contributions of various individuals, scholars, diplomats and politicians, Nepal-Japan relations have matured. It has not only matured but also gained confidence and pride among the citizens.
King Mahendra, by choosing Japan as the first destination to expose his crown prince, Birendra, to international education, admitting him in Tokyo University in 1967, the Nepalese monarch showed Japan was a model for Nepal's modernization. For daring and adventurous Japanese citizens, mighty and tall Himalayas and mountains under monarchical system were more fascinating.
In the quest of mountain climbing, Japanese mountaineers climbed several virgin picks. Large numbers of mountain lovers from Japan are regular visitors to Nepal since the ascent of Mt. Manaslu in 1956 by a Japanese expedition team.
Conquering Mount Everest on May 16,1975, Japanese climber Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the highest peak of the world. This event was historic for everyone to remember all over the world and Japanese are not an exception.
“Nepal-Japan relations are not merely confined to the interactions between two governments. People-to-people relations are harmonious. Almost 60,000 Nepalese nationals are living in Japan and Nepalese community is the 6th largest foreign community in Japan. Similarly, more than 16,250 students are pursuing their higher studies in Japan,” foreign secretary Shankar Das Bairagi told New Spotlight.
There are a series of other events to deepen the relations between the two countries. “Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha, is an important pilgrimage centre for Japanese. Sister relationship has been established between Lumbini and Japanese city of Koyasan. The rich cultural tapestry that endows Nepal and the overwhelming natural assets that adorn Nepal make it a heavenly destination for Japanese tourists. Albeit the abundance of such enabling factors, the number of Japanese tourists is quite dismal. In 2001, almost 41,000 Japanese tourists visited Nepal. This number has disappointingly plunged down to a bleak figure of 9,267 in 2015. Nevertheless, the prospect of an increase in tourist flows remains bright. As Nepalese economy is struggling to recover from the earthquake disaster, it needs Japanese tourists more than ever before,” said foreign secretary Bairagi.
Nepal-Japan at Sixty
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, Nepal and Japan have seen their bilateral relations move against all kinds of odds. Despite factors ranging from an early cold war to current wave of globalization and rise of other powers in Asia, the bilateral relations have remains smooth. This is because the foundation of Nepal-Japan relations reaches the people-to-people level. Along with the government, the people are in the forefront of the relations.
“The diplomatic relations between the two countries was established on 01 September 1956. As Nepal had come out of the cocoon of an isolationist foreign policy of Rana Era and was opening up to the world, Japan was the seventh country that Nepal established its diplomatic relations with. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has been defined by mutual trust, profound goodwill and understanding. Nepal established its Embassy in Tokyo in 1965 and the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu was established in 1967,” foreign secretary Shankar Das Bairagi told New Spotlight. “This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations. In these sixty years of cordial relations, Nepal and Japan have worked closely for mutual benefits –at bilateral, regional as well as multilateral levels.”
Although Nepal and Japan are geographically divided by sea, Japan is one the nearest friends of Nepal, having established bilateral relations.
Japan’s Economic Assistance
As one of the largest donors of Nepal, Japan’s economic aid and assistance are particularly significant for the economic development of Nepal. Although Japan established its mission in Nepal in 1968, Japan started to provide foreign aid before this through Colombo Plan.
The project support to Nepal is highly valued for the country’s economic growth. JICA was established in 1978 and is playing a significant role in the socio-economic development of Nepal. In the present context, Japanese assistance covers almost all aspects and dimensions of the Nepalese economy.
“Japanese assistance has largely contributed to Nepal’s socio-economic development. As Nepal is pursuing the goal to graduate from the status of LDCs to a developing country by 2022, the assistance provided by Japan has an enabling role to relax the economic hardships and vulnerabilities. Similarly, the bilateral aid should be mobilized by prioritizing the timely realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The continuity of Japanese assistance for Nepal’s reconstruction drive is much desirable,” foreign secretary Bairagi told New Spotlight.
“Japan remains one of the major investors in Nepal. A total investment amounting to NRs. 2050 million, in over 215 projects, has helped create 7946 jobs in Nepal. Several Nepal-Japan ventures related to the hospitality industry, assembling industry, horticulture and construction sectors are operating in Nepal. A liberal policy regime, a rich resource base, bountiful water resources and abundant low-cost labor makes the investment in Nepal profitable. Nepal’s location between two of the largest emerging markets, with easy access to the market of more than 2.6 billion people, provides another compelling incentive to do business in Nepal,” said foreign secretary Bairagi.
Japanese loan and grant assistance started in Nepal in 1969 and 1970 respectively. From 1970 onwards, Japan has been providing technical cooperation with the dispatch of Japan Overseas Volunteers in implementing and handling technical co-operation projects.
Japan’s economic support to Nepal holds no political interest. Japanese Grant in Aid is one of the aspects of Japan's economic assistance to Nepal. Japanese technical assistance to Nepal is one of its components. A number of projects have already been completed and some are ongoing.
Japan currently is supporting Nepal in a number of sectors and ways including agriculture, education, health, human resources development, transportation and communication, electricity generation (including rural electrification) and ground water development to mention a few.
In the last few years, the educational relationship between the two countries has been particularly notable and gradually becoming warmer. Japan has played a crucial role in developing Nepal’s human resources by providing financial support to the students to get a higher education in the different universities of Japan.
A large number of students (of the 20,000 Nepalese living in Japan now, many of them are students studying in Japanese universities) are enjoying the educational opportunities granted by Japan under the scholarship programs. Japan currently is the destination for many Nepalese students.
Japan in Natural Calamities
Japan has also provided financial and material support for natural calamities to Nepal on different occasions. In the current deadly earthquake, Japan provided support to the people and the government in different ways. It was the first country to propose holding a meeting of the donors to generate funds for reconstruction, for which the country and people are most grateful.
Earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation are a high priority area for Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). After the 25th April 2015 earthquake, Japan came to help Nepal with much needed support.
In the words of Hem Sharma, Agriculture Development Officer of Sindhupalchwok district, Japanese support helped rural population to revive agriculture helping them distributing the high yield seeds.
“Japanese approach in dealing with disaster is the most appropriate. Along with other support, Japanese came to our district with livelihood programs including seeds and fertilizers. Only after securing food safety, people think about other things,” said Sharma.
Sushil Gyawali, Chief Executive Office of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), expressed his high commendation for the support provided by Japan in the post-earthquake reconstruction and the comprehensive survey for reconstruction in affected districts.
With the completion of one plus year of Nepal earthquake, JICA has completed several recovery activities in earthquake affected areas. In the education sector, JICA rehabilitated 60 classroom blocks till the date and other 90 schools in Dhading, Gorkha and Nuwakot district have been targeted for rehabilitation. Additionally, 80 schools were to be reconstructed in Gorkha, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, and Makwanpur districts from the end of April 2016. In the housing sector, in total, JICA assisted 32 billion Japanese Yen for reconstruction and rehabilitation work.
High level Visits
The cultural ties between Nepal and Japan date back to much earlier days before direct people to people contact started in 1899, when Reverend Ekai Kawaguchi, a Japanese Zen Buddhist pundit and ascetic, visited this country on his way to Tibet.
Nepal and Japan have exchanged frequent high level visits, which is another chapter of our cordial relationship, which was opened by the exchange of Royal visits and high-level official interactions of both the countries. Their Majesties King Mahendra and Queen Ratna visited Japan in 1960. In the same year, Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko (present Emperor and Empress) visited Nepal. The Imperial couple visited twice. Late Royal Highness Crown Prince Dipendra also paid a visit to Japan.
Visits of Prime Minister late G.P. Koirala and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshirō Mori were other milestones in the history of friendly relations between the two countries.
In the celebration of sixty years of relations, Nepal government is organizing various programs in Nepal and Japan is organizing similar programs in Japan.
“Various events and programs, in Nepal as well in Japan, are being organized to commemorate the 60th Anniversary; Nobuo Kishi, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, is visiting Nepal from 30 August to 01 September 2016 to participate in the special commemorative event being organized on 1st September 2016 in Kathmandu,” said foreign secretary Bairagi.
Japan’s development assistance to Nepal has a solid relevance in contributing not only to the further promotion of the bilateral relations through supporting peace-building and poverty alleviation, but also to the stability of the whole of South Asia.
Japan attaches importance to the improvement of basic infrastructure such as in areas of power generation, roads, airport, bridges, water supply facilities, telecommunications, etc. The construction of Sindhuli Road is expected to greatly influence the economic activity of the common people.
Japan has provided extensive loan assistance to Nepal such as for the Kulekhani (I and II) Hydro-power Station, Kali Gandaki 'A' Hydroelectric Station, Udayapur Cement Industry and Melamchi Water Supply Project. Recently the project for the Improvement of the Intersections in Kathmandu under the grant aid was completed for further facilitating smooth vehicular movement in the city.
Grant and loan aid started soon after the opening of the Embassy in Kathmandu in 1968. At present Japan is one of the top donors to Nepal and it is involved in every important sector of the economy.
The distinctive feature of JICA's assistance towards Nepal is its wide coverage ranging from transport, energy, water and sanitation, to education, health, peace building, governance and agriculture aiming to support Nepal's development in a comprehensive manner.
As Nepal and Japan are celebrating sixty years of establishment of diplomatic relations, the foundation of the relations lies at the strength of people. Nepal and Japan relations are owned by people with pride and confidence.
Ambassador of Japan to Nepal Masashi Ogawa conferred Ambassadorial Certificates of Appreciation to Japanese and Nepalese individuals and organizations in his residence amid a function.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Nepal, ambassador Masashi Ogawa during a function held at his Official Residence, conferred Ambassadorial Certificates of Appreciation to four individuals and four organizations for their work for a considerable period of time to strengthen the relationship between Japan and Nepal.
According to a press release issued by Embassy of Japan, those who received the Certificate of Appreciation were Ranjeet S Baral, MBBS, Ph.D, Senior Consultant Cardiologist Ganga Lal NHI/Vayodha Hospital, Ms. Minae Hata, Founder, Yomogi no Kai, Prof. Takeshi Naito, Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Institute of Health Biosciences, The University of Tokushima Graduate School and Dr. Raman Raj Misra, Instructor of Applied Sociology for Renewable Energy Engineering Pulchowk Engineering Campus Tribhuvan University.
Others were representatives of Hazama Ando Corporation, Nippon Koei Co, Ltd, Nepal AOTS Alumni Society (NAAS), Tokushima Nepal Friendship Association.
Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Ogawa expressed his confidence that the recipients’ cooperation and ongoing contributions will continue to play a significant role in strengthening the friendly and cordial relationship between Japan and Nepal, both at the country-to-country and people-to-people levels.
Ambassadorial Certificates of Appreciation can be awarded to any individuals and organizations in a variety of capacities who have contributed to the activities of Japan’s Diplomatic Missions. By conferring these certificates, the ambassador thanks the recipients’ efforts in such important fields as economic or technical cooperation, cultural activities, public relations, to promote the friendship and mutual understanding between Japan and the receiving country.
Dr. Baral spoke of the importance of Japanese education in the country like Nepal. “I have learned many useful aspects in my life,” said Dr. Baral. Similarly, Prof. Takeshi Naito highlighted his role in Nepal to provide quality eye care service in Nepal over last three decades. Japanese traditional medical expert Ms Hata, who has been working in Nepal for over three decades, highlighted the importance of acupuncture in Nepal.
Professor Raman Misra expressed how he learnt to be patient even in the earthquake from the Japanese youth studying in Japanese elementary schools in his home.
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