English | Dzongkha Saturday, October 20, 2018

‘Bhutan Fever’ in Japan

By Thinley Dorji, Thimphu
Mar 26, 2012
[MEDIA not found]

One of the Japanese tourists said there is a ‘Bhutan Fever’ in Japan. Going by the number of Japanese visiting the country, it is indeed true. According the Tourism Council of Bhutan, within the last two months the country saw 583 Japanese tourists, surpassing all other 58 countries.

This is Taka Aki and Noah’s first visit to Bhutan. Their visit to Bhutan was planned some three years back. But, due to some domestic problems they couldn’t visit until this time.

“I had no enough budget to come here. It took me three years. I have read a lot about Buddhism and Guru Rinpoche. I want to visit Tharpaling monastery in Bumthang and learn more about Longchen Rabjam,” says Taka Aki.

His wife Noah came to know about Bhutan only after she met Taka. “I want to see and know more about the culture and tradition of Bhutanese people.”

Some Japanese are aware of Bhutan because of Gross National Happiness. Kei Kikuchi is one of them. “I came to know about Bhutan and its development philosophy, Gross National Happiness (GNH), when I was a university student.”

Seiji Kumagai, an assistant professor with the Kyoto University in Japan said Bhutan grabs world attention because of its unique development philosophy, GNH.  Dr Kumagai started the Bhutanese Buddhism Research Project (BBRP) in collaboration with the Centre for Bhutan Studies, establishing its head office at Kyoto University. He said more and more Japanese want to learn more about GNH.

He is presenting his research and he says that number will go up further.

Another reason for ‘Bhutan fever’ in Japan was His Majesty and the Gyaltshuen’s visit in November last year. Dr. Kumagai says Japanese were touched by the way Their Majesties expressed condolences for the victims affected by the Tsunami last march.

According to the Officiating Media focal person of the Tourism Council of Bhutan, Phuntsho Gyeltshen, the number of Japanese tourists has gone up drastically, surpassing all other countries. He added that this happened, especially after Their Majesties visit to Japan.

“In order to follow up Their Majesties visit to Japan, TCB and Drukair officials visited Japan to meet with Japan Association of Japanese travel agents and tourism and transport club in Japan. In order to tap the Japan market TCB has initiated to develop the website in Japanese language by the Japanese person. And also Drukair is organising to ply the additional flight to Japan,” says Phuntsho Gyeltshen.

With the number going up there are also many tourist guides and also others, wanting to learn Japanese language. The Tourism Council of Bhutan has outsourced the training to a private institute, The Bhutan Centre for Japanese Studies.

“Actually the primary objective of our institute is to create a skilled and employable and productive Bhutanese who can deliver world class Japanese translation services. Every year thousands of Japanese are visiting Bhutan,” says Ugyen Choda, the Manager of the Institute.

Teaching staff for this institute are invited from Osaka University in Japan for a period of two years.

“We have characters in Japanese, and it’s so difficult for the Bhutanese to remember or get use to that, but all of the students try it very hard and become able to read and write all of that,” says Fukushima Hiromi, one of the instructors.

“They (participants) are really interested because many Japanese tourists are visiting Bhutan,” says another instructor, Fujiwara Yuiko.

More 60 trainees have participated in the last 10 months.

Karma Chopel is a fresh graduate.  He says that there are lots of opportunities in tourism. “I feel there is better scope if we learn the Japanese language, so that we can communicate and interact with the Japanese guest in our coming future.”

Sonam Dorji, a Japanese Tourist Guide, says he has developed a lot of interest with Japanese. “So that way I thought I should learn that language. And I could learn more of them and it will give moral satisfaction and at the same time I have my own economic gain. I am happy of that. Lots of Japanese are visiting Bhutan after the visit of our Majesty to their country,” he adds.

The Ambassador of Japan to Bhutan, Akitaka Saika, in one of the interviews with the BBS, said the relations between the two countries is excellent and it only going to grow. And so will the Japanese tourists.

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