The fund has been used to set up the Abe Scholarship that will fund two new college students every year
Bhutan saw a sharp rise in the number of tourist arrivals in 2012, and the Japanese tourists more than doubled in numbers replacing American tourists as the largest tourist nationality visiting Bhutan.
Most of the tour operators said the increase in the number of Japanese tourists is due to the intense interest in Bhutan that swept Japan in the wake of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen’s visit from 15th -20th November 2011.
For a country that is not known to show open displays of emotion, the visit of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen triggered deep emotions that moved many Japanese. This was, especially so, since the visit came on the back of the 2011 earthquake and Tsunami that devastated Japan.
One such person, who was emotionally moved by the Royal visit, was a Japanese school teacher who had diligently saved for many years, hoping to use the money to support herself in her old age, until she found out that she had cancer. By August 2011, her doctor had given her only six to twelve months timeframe to live.
Though she was not directly affected, the earthquake and Tsunami of March 2011 that hit her country had also deeply affected and upset her.
Her last will read out at by her husband at her funeral said, “His Majesty The King of Bhutan visited Japan with the Queen and lamas in 2011, shortly after the earthquake disaster. At the time, I listened to the speeches He (His Majesty The King) made in the district affected by the earthquake, as well as, the National Assembly Hall, and I cannot tell you how many Japanese were encouraged by his words at the time.”
His Majesty’s words also had a great personal impact on the Japanese school teacher. Her will said, “I was moved to tears by His Majesty’s words and grateful to him for putting his hand together and offering prayer with his lamas at the sites affected by the earthquake.”
The teacher had already donated money and help to the Tsunami victims, but she wanted to do more.
Her will says, “At the time of the disaster in eastern Japan, I, of course, contributed some money to the victims. However, this gift to Bhutan is slightly different from those feelings. It is not the feeling that I would like to contribute for the people who have suffered but more that, I would like to show my appreciation to the person who inspired me. Therefore, it has come to me that I would like to give my savings to the Kingdom of Bhutan led by His Majesty.”
She says, in her will, that her respectful affection for His Majesty The King has directly led to her affection towards Bhutan. “Therefore, I am happy if I am able to help for the educational or medical care in that country,” the will reads.
The teacher in a touching testimony says, “Please receive my heart with this small amount of money and in the few remaining days of my life, I earnestly hope that my wish can be fulfilled. Although I am not particularly religious, I sometimes feel that I will be reborn in Bhutan in my next life.”
The will also mentions that the sight of His Majesty the Fourth King at the funeral rites of the late Japanese Emperor, and later the enthronement ceremony of the current Emperor left an indelible impression of Bhutan in Japan, and especially on the women of her generation.
She passed away in 2012, leaving in her will to His Majesty The King, a sum of USD 159,006 or Nu 9.92 mn.
The money has been used by His Majesty The King’s Kidu office to set up the Abe Scholarship in honor of the Japanese lady. The interest earned from the money deposit will be used to provide annual college scholarships to two deserving or needy students. This would mean that after three years, there will be six college students on the Abe Scholarship.
As a start, there are two students already under the scholarship at the Royal Thimphu College, both of whom are studying the Business Administration course.
19-year-old Phuntsho Choden, an Abe Scholar said, “I am very grateful to His Majesty The King for providing me with such a scholarship which covers my tuition and boarding fees. I will make the best use of this opportunity, and I will study well and plan to become an entrepreneur.”
Another Abe Scholarship recipient is 29-year-old Tashi, who could not continue his studies after class 12 and had joined the government in 2006, at a junior position since he could not become an officer without a graduation degree.
He said, “I, now, have a wife and children as additional responsibility and without this scholarship, I would not have been able to complete my graduation, for which I have taken an extraordinary leave of three years from my job. I am very grateful to His Majesty for granting this scholarship, as once I complete it, I will be able to sit for the RCSC exams to become an officer.”
His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen’s visit to Japan drew an intense public and media interest. It also heightened awareness and interest of Bhutan in Japan.Their Majesties’ visit to the Tsunami-hit Fukushima Prefecture, and their interaction and words of comfort to the local people has greatly moved many Japanese people.
Japan is Bhutan’s second largest developmental partner after India. The family of the deceased had requested that her name be kept anonymous.