After a while, at the pilot’s urging, Sakamoto and his companions boarded the helicopter. Left behind, the three of us watched the chopper until it disappeared, and then we returned to reality.
For the first time in a long time, I took deep breath after breath of cold mountain air. We walked to Tengboche where I venerated the monastery, chanting the prayer Om mani padme hum which is Namu myoho renge kyo in the Japanese version. We retraced the way we had come, veering off the road to Namche Bazaar for the villages of Khumjung and Khunde located adjacent to each other with a vista of all mountains from Ama Dablam to Kongde stood out in sharp relief.
Excited about the mountains, I saw potential for tourism in Nepal. At that time, my main job in Nepal involved the kinds of cottage and small-scale industries, but I took a dim view of the possibilities for industry in Nepal.
We began talking about the possibility of building a lodge or hotel on the east edge of Syangboche Hill so that people who wanted to see Everest could come and stay there. If guests were to come to our prospective hotel, we would have to have an airfield nearby. Across a steep hill was a more gentle slope that was being used for grazing. As we rambled farther down, we came to a plateau with only a 10° slope. There were a lot of rocks, including two or three chunks of exposed granite each as big as a two-story house. Yet if the granite were dynamited away, the space could conceivably be used as an airfield for small planes.
The area was called Syangboche, and locals told us the forest used to be so thick that you could lose sight of a yak. One year, there was a dispute between Namche Bazar and Khumjung- Khunde about common land-use rights, and as both sides competed to cut down trees, the forest soon disappeared.
I began making serious plans to build a hotel and airfield in that area. That evening, as we sat around the fire chatting, I told Ankaji about the hotel plans. He stared at my face for a while, as if he were analysing my physiognomy. “You will definitely be able to build it,” he said, endorsing my idea with apparent self-confidence.
The eastern edge of Syangboche is called Om Lhasa, and if I were to build a hotel that would be a good location. I stood on the sun-drenched hill on that bright and shining morning, and my heart was filled with inexpressible joy. There was no more magnificent and massive scenery than this view. There was Ama Dablam (‘mother’s necklace’), and beyond the ridge that linked Lhotse and Nuptse, was the part of Everest above the 8,000m South Col. To the right of Ama Dablam are Kangtega and Thamserku, and to the south are the Kongde peaks that line either side of the narrow Dudh Kosi river valley. Thamserku looms above, piercing the sky like the tip of a spear.
What is it that makes the Himalaya so beautiful? If I look at them, I realise that it is nothing more than the chiaroscuro of white and black mountains against a blue sky. However, when I really look at the mountains, I am overwhelmed and impressed by their beauty. I wonder if it is because of their massive scale, or because of their steepness and perpetual coats of ice and snow. The landscape of mountains formed by a billion years of pressure from land and air is endowed with limitless beauty for that very reason.
I thought that this was probably the only place where I could build a hotel. The southern edge of the Syangboche plateau seemed like a likely place for an airfield for small, light aircraft.
Turning point in Kathmandu
Returning to Kathmandu, I reflected on my two years of life in the city, including the trip to Tengboche. Other than desk work, I had come in contact with the reality of Nepal as a nation through research in cottage industry around Jiri, forest survey in the Tarai to build a paper mill, and a survey of hand-loom fabrics in Kathmandu Valley.
After a year had passed, the job satisfaction gradually faded. I was soon turning 34, and did not think about returning to Japan. I needed to achieve something, and do it fast. The dream of constructing the Hotel Everest View that I had brought back from Namche Bazar appeared to me like a ray of light.
It took us a month and a half to complete the hotel proposal, with the drawing for the building, the estimate for the cost, and the prospective for income and expenditure. Submitting these paperwork to the government of Nepal, we applied for the permission for the hotel construction.
The Tourist Bureau was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry where I worked. Moreover, the house of the deputy minister was next to my rented house and I had a personal relationship with him. I thought negotiation might be easy.
I also knew Harendra [AN1] Bahadur Thapa, the younger brother of Surya Bahadur Thapa, the prime minister. He suggested I go see his brother with my proposal, which I did. This made things much easier.
The day after our meeting with the prime minister, I was summoned by Kailash Bikram[AN2] Adhikari, the deputy minister who promised to help. The following day, I went to meet Tirtha Tuladhar, the chief director of the Tourist Bureau who had my file already on his desk.
Thus, after submitting other documents such as the map of the Khumbu area or detailed maps of planned construction sites for the hotel and the airport, the hotel project finally started to take concrete shape.
Mr. Tuladhar was a friendly and quiet man, a work-before-talk type of a person – quite rare among Nepali officials. From beginning to end he actively took the initiative in negotiating with the relevant ministries. On 3 September 1968, the construction permit for Hotel Everest View was finally granted.
The next step to be taken was to get the permission to build the Syangboche Airport from the Civil Aviation Bureau and discuss the small aircraft service between Kathmandu and Syangboche with Royal Nepal Airlines. Though Mr. Tuladuhar was supportive of this project, the Civil Aviation Bureau found the location for the airport to be impossible and it was difficult to convince them from the beginning. We registered the company ‘Trans-Himalayan Tour Co. Ltd’ to operate Hotel Everest View. The company started out with each of us investing one hundred dollars.
When I first came to Nepal, I used to think I might become a teacher for natural science, or run an ironworks business of some sort, making use of my experience from the few years I worked at a factory. Nonetheless, things had taken unexpected turns and I ended up running a hotel business, as if to follow my father’s footsteps, in Nepal. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all.