Keiji Nishioka

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Keiji Nishioka
西岡 京治
Born(1933-02-14)14 February 1933
Died21 March 1992(1992-03-21) (aged 59)
Thimpu, Bhutan
Alma materOsaka Prefecture University
Known forModernising Bhutanese agriculture
Satoko Nishioka
(m. 1959)
AwardsDruk Thugsey medal

Dasho Keiji Nishioka (西岡 京治, Nishioka Keiji; 14 February 1933 – 21 March 1992) was a Japanese botanist. He was dispatched to Bhutan by the Japanese Government to help modernise the Bhutanese agricultural sector. Nishioka worked in Bhutan as an agriculture expert for 28 years until his death in 1992.

Early life[edit]

Keiji Nishioka was born to Tatsuzo Nishioka and Toshie Nishioka in Seoul on 14 February 1933.[1][2] He was the oldest of four children. In Seoul, then called Keijou, he attended Sakuragaoka Primary School.[2]

The family moved to Osaka after the Japanese defeat in the Second World War and the subsequent decolonisation of Korea. In Osaka, Nishioka studied in Yao Junior High School. In 1952, Nishioka entered the Osaka Prefecture University to study agriculture. He married Satoko Nikai in 1959.[1]

Life in Bhutan[edit]

In 1958, Sasuke Nakao, one of Nishioka's professors at the University in Osaka, went to Bhutan as the first official visitor from Japan.[3] The Prime Minister (Lyonchhen) of Bhutan at the time, Jigme Palden Dorji, asked Nakao for an agricultural expert to help Bhutan modernise its agricultural sector.[2] The lack of developed bilateral relations between Japan and Bhutan at this time prevented any plans from materialising.[4] However, this problem was solved when Bhutan joined the Colombo Plan in 1962 and thus became entitled to receive aid from other member states in the Plan.[4][2] On Nakao's recommendation, Nishioka, now an agricultural expert with the Japanese Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency, went to Bhutan in July 1964.[1][4]


In 1966, Nishioka, along with three apprentices, established an experimental farm, called the Bondey Farm, in Paro.[1][3] In this farm, Nishioka grew rice and vegetables such as peas, radishes, pumpkins and cabbages from seeds he had brought from Japan.[5] The farm was successful, growing in size and profitability. Nishioka's contributions helped improve paddy cultivation and the use of greenhouses.[1] He also encouraged farmers to sell their food in the open market, including in places outside Paro like Thimphu and Phuntsholing.[2]


Nishioka, along with ten apprentices from the Bondey Farm, went to Panbang in the lower Kheng region of Zhemgang Dzongkhag in March 1976, as a part of an Integrated Development project for Zhemgang.[1][2] The natives of this region mostly practised shifting cultivation in the forests, with no permanent settlements. Nishioka worked to make the region more developed. He ordered the clearing of forests and the settlement of the shifting cultivators in villages in the cleared areas.[6]

The region around what is today Sonamthang village was converted from forest to 146 acres of cultivated wetland with fields of paddy on Nishioka's orders. At the end of the Fourth Five-Year Plan, 65 households whose members had contributed to the clearing and cultivation of the region were awarded land there, creating Sonamthang village.[6] Other villages resulting from similar processes include Thinleygang, Laling, Marangduth, Tunkudema and Pantang. Nishioka also introduced the cultivation of agarwood and cardamom trees for use as cash crops.[7]

Nishioka's efforts led to an increase in the standards of living of people in Zhemgang, improving communities' self-sufficiency in foodgrains.[6]

Nishioka was also active in the field of infrastructure development in Zhemgang. He oversaw the building of 17 suspension bridges and mobilised people's participation in the construction of canals, roads and health clinics.[1][2]

Awards and titles[edit]

For his many contributions to Bhutan, Nishioka was conferred the title of Dasho by the Fourth Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1980.[8][9][10] He was the first foreigner to have received the title Dasho.[11] He was posthumously awarded the Druk Thugsey medal, the highest civilian award in Bhutan, in 1999.[2]


Nishioka died on 21 March 1992 in Thimphu, at the age of 59. He was survived by his wife Satoko and two children. He was given a state funeral on 26 March.[2]

Legacy and commemoration[edit]

Nishioka is remembered as the 'father of modern agriculture' in Bhutan. In Panbang, he is remembered as 'Japan sahib' among the elderly.[12]

A suspension bridge in Panbang is named after Nishioka; it is known as the Nishioka Zam.[12]

In June 2014, on the completion of fifty years' cooperation between Japan and Bhutan, a museum was inaugurated in Paro in Nishioka's memory.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Dasho Keiji Nishioka". Zhemgang Monthly. 31 March 2019. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rizal, Govinda (9 March 2010). "Keiji Nishioka: A bridge between two nations". APFA News. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b Kobayashi, Mai; Chhetri, Rekha; Fukamachi, Katsue (2015). "Transition of Agriculture towards Organic Farming in Bhutan" (PDF). Kyoto University Bhutan Friendship Program. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Penjore, Dorji; Dorji, Tshering Cigay (2011). Dasho Keiji Nishioka: A Japanese who lived for Bhutan. Thimphu. ISBN 9789993664642.
  5. ^ Kobayashi, Mai; Chhetri, Rekha; Fukamachi, Katsue; Shibata, Shozo. "Transitions in Seed Sovereignty in Western Bhutan". Journal of Environmental Information Science.
  6. ^ a b c Wangdi, Nia (8 June 2016). "The creation of Sonamthang". Kuensel. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  7. ^ Nawang, Raling (1996). "Non-Wood Forest Products of Bhutan" (PDF). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  8. ^ "JAPAN-BHUTAN RELATIONS". Embassy of Japan in India. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Overview of Japan ODA to Bhutan". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Japan. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b Penjor (18 June 2014). "A Museum in Memory of Late Dasho Keiji Nishioka". Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Courtesy Call by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Mrs. Noda to Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Kingdom of Bhutan (Summary)". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 15 November 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Panbang honours the late Dasho Nishioka". Kuensel. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2020.