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Nepal Ready for More Okinawan Visitors - Ambassador

Date Posted: 2001-03-09

Nepal’s Ambassador to Japan, Kedar Bhakta Mathema, came to Okinawa this week in hopes of promoting Okinawan tourism to Nepal. Visiting the Okinawa Tourist Service, the ambassador said that only about 200 Okinawans visit Nepal every year out of a total of 37,000 Japanese tourists. Mathema said Nepal does not appeal only to young visitors. There are holidays that would suit older tourists, including luxury and golf tours - played before the spectacular backdrop of the Himalayas. The ambassador also said it is wrong to think of Nepal as only a snowbound country. It has sub-tropical and temperate climates too. At the same latitude as Okinawa, there is similar vegetation and nature lovers can go there to enjoy its birds and butterflies.

Mathema emphasized the cultural riches of his country, whose capital, Kathmandu, has seven World Heritage sites, the largest concentration in the world. There are also 60 ethnic groups with not just different dialects, but mutually unintelligible languages.

The country with a population of 23 million, receives 400,000 tourists a year and the ambassador thinks the rise in tourism since the 1970s has been beneficial. As an example of the process, he cited Bhaktapur, a unique city with palaces, statues, carved windows and fascinating small alleys to explore. “It is not a dead place” he said “but a living community which is beautifully maintained and in better shape than it was ten or 15 years ago.”

Mathema, on his second visit to Okinawa, said he noticed some similarities between Okinawans and Nepalese, both in their facial features and their relaxed friendliness. One innaccurate stereotype he noted, was that of the strict Hindu, who never touches alcohol. Though this group exists, he explained, there is another that is very fond of Raksi, a rice liquor similar to Awamori, which is very much part of Nepalese culture.

Nepal has some industries like carpets and textiles. One of its best known exports is Pashmina shawls, very fashionable in the West. Also, sharing a mountain with Darjeeling, it produces high quality tea. Tourism however provides the best immediate prospects. Tourists visiting Nepal from Japan are increasing at an annual rate of 5%. The ambassador extended a hand of welcome “from the land of Lord Buddha and Mount Everest” and said he hoped many more visitors would come to Nepal from Okinawa.

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