50 years ago, constructing the highest hotel in the world, where there were no roads, let alone construction vehicles, was a daunting prospect to say the least. Even the thought of it was brave. Takashi Miyahara first laid eyes on the magnificent Everest range from a ridge in Syangboche, in the spring of 1968. His heart was caged by Himalayan allure, and he dared to dream.
Inspiration comes in many forms, and many magnitudes. What occurrence it inspires is the bigger deal. Nepal, abundant in natural beauty, can inspire anyone who lay eyes on it. But, many bypass the beauty, let alone bother to help it be noticed by others, that is a far-fetched concept. However, back in the day, amongst the few who were set on helping Nepal’s beauty be truly admired was Mr. Takashi Miyahara. Inspired and set on bringing change to the Nepali hospitality business, his legacy has come a long way.
Born in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture in March 1934, Mr. Miyahara graduated in chemical and mechanical engineering. Having taken part in Japanese expeditions in the Antarctic, and having led one to Greenland, in 1962, he came to Nepal and scaled Mt. Dhukul Himal (6,900 m). His first visit to Nepal, however, struck a chord with him, and on his second time back in Nepal, he started working for the Department of Cottage Industries here on a two-year contract. He recalls a conversation he had during that time with a friend in Pokhara. Hideo Ichiriki, an employee at Asahi Shimbun, who was visiting Nepal at the time.
Ichiriki remarked, “Miyahara, Nepal is great for tourism, isn’t it?” That ignited something in him, and during his slack time, he used to create tourism plans for Nepal. He then came to the conclusion that tourism, rather than manufacturing goods, was going to be the real champion of Nepali economy. Continuing on that belief, he established Trans Himalayan Tours Pvt. Ltd. and Everest View Hotel.
On February 1968, he received a telegram in Kathmandu from a friend that read, “We’re just about dead. Send a helicopter to Lukla. Sakamoto. From Namche”. Conditions could get tough for people who weren’t used to such terrain; Mr. Miyahara was keen to travel to Lukla to help out because of this and another reason, concerning a friend who had intentions to build a lodge on the upper Lukla and wanted him to investigate the area. He then promptly made his way to Lukla, where he met Sakomoto, joyous to be saved, unexpected emotions for someone who was close to death. It was maybe the mesmerizing effect the mountains had on anyone visiting, and how forgiving it turned out to be, despite the fact it could easily have been otherwise. This trip to Khumbu served as the impetus for the construction of Everest View Hotel, and Mr. Miyahara’s journey as an hotelier.
Concepts of hotels and lodges in the high Himalayan regions were alien. Prior to what was to become the Hotel Everest View, hotels in Nepal could be counted on the fingers. Fifty years ago, constructing the highest hotel in the world, where there were no roads, let alone construction vehicles, was a daunting prospect, to say the least. Even the thought of it was brave. Takashi Miyahara first laid eyes on the magnificent Everest range from a ridge in Syangboche, in the spring of 1968. His heart was caged by Himalayan allure, and he dared to dream. Building a hotel at 3,880 m even today is no task for the spineless. Materials, were imported from Japan, shipped to Calcutta, and then transported by helicopter or porters carrying the items on a two-week trek of 80 km from Lamusangu. Mr. Miyahara even constructed an air strip in Syangboche, to further make the beauty of the Himalayas accessible to seeking eyes. Finally, the project was complete, and Hotel Everest View came to life.
This was followed by his next project, Hotel Himalaya in Kathmandu. From the time he built Hotel Everest View, Mr. Miyahara realized that a base of operations was required in Kathmandu itself, the nation’s front door. The outburst of international tourists in the 70s meant that, a hotel in Kathmandu was a smart choice. Mr. Miyahara, however, needed help for completion of such a large scale project in the capital. After much persuasion, Hajime Tsuboi, the president of Mitsui Fudosan real estate developers, made his way to Nepal, and on a lightweight Pilatus Porter, he was given a trip around the Himalayas, Annapurna, and Pokhara. No human being on earth would have failed to be astounded at the beauty of those glistening peaks, and the plans were soon underway. Hotel Himalaya even today is a staple name on the list of hotels in the valley.
When I asked him, “What kind of character does a hotelier require?” he sternly replied, “There is no such thing as a character requirement.” He told me about the many Himalayan lodges run by Sherpa people, who run such places without any training in particular, and even so, visitors love the hospitality those places provide. He believes that once a person has a will, he can do anything. True in his case, it was completely unexpected, that a chemical and mechanical engineer from Japan would go on to become one of the most influential figures in the Nepali hotel industry. He’s a firm believer in action, and how it outweighs words. He believes that what one desires on doing, one should start working on it immediately.
When asked about his current thoughts about Nepali hotels, he let us know that it has come a long, long, way. One of the original leaders of the industry back in the day, Mr. Miyahara believes the true reason his hotels are successful is the presence of sincerity. For the future development of hotels, he believes maintaining this said sincerity, and putting emphasis on service, regardless of the scale or the resources a hotel possesses, is an important factor. A hotel, he believes, has to take up the prime responsibility of keeping the guests happy with extreme solemnity. Still mesmerized by Nepal’s natural beauty, Mr. Miyahara also hopes that fresher locations will be home to new hotels and lodges, as Nepal’s beauty is truly beauty begging to be admired.
Now 82 years old, he lives in Nepal as a Nepali with his long-time partner Gyanu and daughter Sonia. His latest project is Hotel Annapurna View. An idea pending for 40 years, but already alive in pictures and graphs for a long time, Mr. Miyahara is now finally living his dreams to build a hotel in Pokhara. With him now to help is his daughter, Sonia. Growing up around her father’s legacy, she’s witnessed his hardships, and endeavors in the flesh. Growing up, she knew all about her father’s achievements, which has inspired her. Such a bold legacy, needs a tough scion, and she is definitely up for it!