Three decades and going strong

Three decades and going strong

Japan celebrates 35 years of its volunteer services in Bhutan

Celebrating over three decades of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) in Bhutan, the annual fest “JAPAN WEEK in Bhutan 2023” is being currently held in the Capital. This popular annual event has been helping to raise awareness and interest in Japan and Japanese culture among the Bhutanese people.

 This year marks the 35th Anniversary of JOCV in Bhutan. Since 1988, many JOCVs, both young and senior, have been working sincerely to train, educate and improve skills of Bhutanese people in almost every field, such as, education, culture, health, physical training, sports, technology, etc.

 The main event of the JAPAN WEEK will take place on October 28. During the event, the general public can get exposure to Japanese culture and get a health check up at the booths set up by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Bhutan office, take part in blood donation camp organized by JICA Alumni Association of Bhutan (JAAB), and explore other booths set up by UNDP Bhutan Office, Panasonic, BJA.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to witness the discipline required to master Japanese martial arts and can also learn self-defense techniques through the Karate Demonstration by the Bhutan Karate Association and Judo Demonstration by the Bhutan Judo Association. If you love music, enjoy song by primary students of Pelkhil School and the mesmerizing performance by Shamisen artists all the way from Japan.

Additionally, students will have the opportunity to explore Japanese culture and language through workshops organized by the Japan Foundation New Delhi in Thimphu schools on October 30 and 31.

Diplomatic relations between Japan and Bhutan were established on 28 March 1986. Relations with Japan date back to 1964 when Keiji Nishioka was assigned to Bhutan as a Colombo Plan expert to assist in the agriculture sector in Bhutan. He was conferred the title of ‘Dasho’ in 1980 by His Majesty the Fourth King for his outstanding contributions in modernising farming methods and uplifting the lives of Bhutanese farmers. The late Dasho Nishoka left an enduring legacy in the hearts of Bhutanese people. He was a pioneer in agriculture mechanization and laid foundations of a modern agriculture system in Bhutan.

The relations have further developed through economic cooperation such as infrastructure development, and today, the two countries enjoy a broad relationship that includes cooperation in the international arena as well as cultural exchanges.

Over the years, Bhutan has received Japanese assistance in grant aid and technical cooperation in key areas of human resource development, agriculture, energy, telecommunications, health and education, and infrastructure, including roads and bridges which have made significant contributions to the socio-economic development of Bhutan. The two governments have established a mechanism to hold annual consultations for effective implementation of substantive bilateral cooperation, promote better understanding through exchange of views on projects and issues of mutual interest.

Bhutan has also benefited from the valuable contributions and expertise of Japanese volunteers and JICA experts in critical sectors.

Since 1988, the JOCV Program has assisted in the economic and social development fields in Bhutan. Subsequently, the JICA Senior Volunteer Programme began in 2001. The JOCV Program Office was upgraded to JICA on 31 July 2003. The JOCV program in Bhutan has been executed through JICA since then. Since September 2019, the JOCV and JICA Senior Volunteers were categorized as one and referred to as JOCV only.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relationship, Japan and Bhutan have enjoyed active exchanges between the Imperial and Royal Families. In particular, the visit to Bhutan by Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Crown Princess and His Imperial Highness Prince Hisahito of Akishino in August 2019 is fresh in memories. From the Bhutanese Royal family, Their Majesties the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema visited Japan in November 2011 and October 2019, and Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck visited Japan in September this year, all generating much popularity among the Japanese people and triggered a Bhutan boom.

Tashi Namgyal from Thimphu