The king and queen of Bhutan were in Japan from Nov. 15 to 20, and they made quite an impression on the Japanese people. Among the heads of state and their wives who have visited Japan in recent years, they probably have left the most amiable impression. Their traditional Bhutanese clothes, looking somewhat like a Japanese kimono, helped to nurture a feeling that they are close to the Japanese.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, 31, and Qeen Jetsun Pema, 21, were married in October. Japan and Bhutan established diplomatic ties 25 years ago and Bhutan is known as a country friendly to Japan. It is a great honor that the royal couple visited Japan on their honeymoon.

Their visit turned out to be an occasion for them to encourage survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and all Japanese for that matter, and to pray for the disaster victims.

In his speech before the Diet, the king referred to the devastating disasters and said, “If there is one nation that can rise stronger and greater from such adversity — it is Japan and her people. Of this I am confident.”

He went on to say, “On your path to rebuilding and restoring of lives, we the Bhutanese people stand with you — humble in our power to provide material assistance but heartfelt and true, in our friendship, solidarity and goodwill.”

The royal couple also visited an elementary school in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. In a coastal area of the city, they prayed for the souls of those who perished in the tsunami. It is not hard to imagine that their smiles and modesty and prayer, with the palms of their hands together, have warmed the hearts of many Japanese.

A Himalayan country sandwiched between China and India, Bhutan is slightly larger than Kyushu in area. Its population is about 700,000. The kingdom became a constitutional monarchy three years ago. It has pursued a policy of protecting the environment and its traditional culture, which is based on Tibetan Buddhism. Its main industry is the export of electricity from small-scale hydro-electric power generation.

Bhutan’s nation-building is based on the idea of promoting “gross national happiness,” rather than gross national product. This idea of attaching importance to the happiness of the soul, health and the environment will serve as refreshing food for thought for Japanese who seem to be losing confidence in their future.

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