Yasuo Miyazawa San: A Friend of Bhutan, as I knew him…

In him and through him shone the finest qualities of the celebrated Japanese culture. He embodied the quintessential Japanese spirit of hard-work, enterprise and grace in abundance. His good cheer, generosity of heart, all-embracing goodwill and boundless humanity edified and inspired all. Sheer vitality, uninhibited zest for life and genuine desire to make the world a better place defined the content and character of the exceptional human being we will always remember as the ever-dear Yasuo Miyazawa San.

It is heart-breaking beyond words to accept that Mr. Yasuo Z Miyazawa, the Founder and CEO of the SEISA Group of Institutions, is no more. His passing away, at 72, (too early by the Japanese standards of life and longevity), in the early hours of March 23, 2022 leaves a deep void not only in his family and the SEISA family of institutions that he founded and nurtured but also among his wide network of friends and well-wishers around the world. In Miyazawa San’s departure for the celestial realm, Bhutan loses a great friend and dedicated well-wisher.

My first encounter with the late Mr. Miyazawa San carried something unusually striking and disarming as he led a delegation of his Seisa University officials to my office way back in 2008 to explore student exchange opportunities. Here was a guest whose presence filled the room with a singular radiance and benign warmth that has stayed with me ever since. The discussions that followed then were simply an act of faith. The seeds have grown and the fruits have shown over the years.

When I joined the Royal Thimphu College, I was delighted to find a beautiful ongoing partnership between Seisa University and the country’s first private university college under the auspices of the Ashi Kesang-Miyazawa Student Exchange Programme. Thanks to Mr. Miyazawa’s generosity, we were able to expand the scope of the programme to include senior non-academic staff in the RTC teams visiting Japan under the Seisa funding scheme.

In the course of my three and a half years of deeply fulfilling and immensely fruitful engagement with the outer and inner life of the RTC, I had the privilege of meeting and sharing many unforgettable moments with Mr. Miyazawa San who would take residence at the College Guest House and attend to his many important appointments with different agencies of the Royal Government and institutions at large.

I always wondered why the well-endowed founder and chairman of great seats of learning and a highly respected senior official of Mr. Miyazawa’s standing, both at home and abroad, would choose the Spartan facilities of a regular institution and thoroughly enjoy spending several days in it during his visits each year.

Miyazawa San had the same sense of place and abiding relationship with it – it provided him with the natural quiet and authentic simplicity in which he could immerse in his reading passion, be his own multi-skilled chef for himself and his staff, and indulge in his life-long hobby. Here, he was at peace with himself and with the world beyond.

I would often marvel at the quantity of technical paraphernalia that always accompanied Miyazawa San till I discovered that they were part of a special interest that he had developed over time – Amateur Radio. His high-profile competitors were spread around the world, and time stood still once Mr. Miyazawa entered the virtual arena. And, he always won!

A living symbol of Miyazawa San’s favourite hobby is the state-of-the-art Amateur Radio Station, behind the guest house, gifted by him to RTC for use by its students.

A pervasive sense of joy and warmth descended upon the sprawling RTC campus whenever Miyazawa San visited Bhutan – and that would be at least twice a year – and stayed in our premises. As hectic as his official engagements were, he always found time to share with us over tea or meals. Mr. Miyazawa’s inimitable sense of humour, his deep care and compassion for others, and his animated conversations drew everybody towards him and immediately endeared him to them.

‘Mind over matter’ would be an apt description of the uncompromising survivor that was Miyazawa San who was not deterred by multiple surgeries and related health challenges. Behind the veil of a slim, bespeckled, smiling man of action was a deeply reflective, all-embracing human being in search of a more just, more harmonious, and a more peaceful world.

Whether it was a moment with children with special needs or physical challenges or a session with youth or an engagement with global movers and shakers, the deep core of an essentially spiritual person firmly rooted Miyazawa San in the realm of timeless humanity.

During the rare outings that he managed, Miyazawa San would often spend long hours by the river-bank watching the waves glide by or looking at the rolling fields because that is where he could merge his finite self with the immensity of Mother Nature and find his native home in the cosmic sphere.

Mr. Miyazawa would do anything within his power for Bhutan and for RTC – with joy and pride. He found time for our visiting students and staff even in the midst of his many priority engagements and went out of his way to secure places for our students including in the top-notch Tokyo University. The college benefitted substantially from his support to its health club.

Miyazawa San’s contribution to the Bhutan Olympic Committee in the development of sports in general and in preparing and sponsoring the country’s team for the recent Paralympics competition in particular has been truly significant. He was the Honorary Advisor to the Bhutan Olympic Committee and played a critical role in establishing the Bhutan Paralympics Committee.

On a more personal level, I am forever indebted to Miyazawa San for the generosity of his goodwill, his edifying friendship and for being an abiding point of reference for me ever-since I had the good fortune of meeting him first in 2008. Miyazawa San was instrumental in publishing the Japanese edition of my little My Green School, translated by Seisa’s Vice President, Professor Miwako Hosoda, under the auspices of Seisa University.

Miyazawa San had the largeness of heart to record in his Message for my book: “…I respect Mr. Thakur S Powdyel from the bottom of my heart. He always enriches my heart…” He invited me to Seisa several times but I always thought and ensured that my students and colleagues had priority over me.

On the eve of every New Year, including this Year of the Tiger, Miyazawa San would pre-empt me and send me a personally composed, artistically designed greeting card with heart-felt messages. The 2021 greeting was particularly poignant. It speaks of the spirit of the incredible man that was Miyazawa San and of the nature of his relationship with Bhutan:

Dear Powdyel san,

Greetings from Seisa.

Looking back at 2020, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for your friendship and generous support for me and us entire SEISA group, and wish you all the best for 2021. This year has been such a disaster, both global and personal, but Guess what? I AM BACK now!! having the same vitality as a cockroach,  hahaha… ANYHOW I DO MY BEST for 2021 and Beyond for your country because Bhutan is the second motherland. Looking very much forward to seeing you soon again!!

Yours sincerely,

Yasuo Z Miyazawa.

May we meet again in our next life…

Here was a life, larger than life. Revered Yasuo Miyazawa lived his life to the fullest but took the whole of humanity along.

May the immortal soul of our beloved late Miyazawa San join his virtuous ancestors in heaven and take a swift rebirth and return to our planet and show us what it means to be human and to serve others – unconditionally.

May the members of the bereaved family receive the courage to tide over this irreparable loss and return to the normal rhythm of life soon…

Thank you, Miyazawa San, for the life and the message everlasting…

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A humble tribute: Thakur S Powdyel, former Minister of Education.