History: While a motorable bridge now connects Panbang town in Zhemgang, a pedestrian-only suspension bridge located beside it will continue to remain.

The bridge is being preserved in memory of the late Dasho Keiji Nishioka who is credited for bringing significant developments in agriculture to Panbang.

He travelled to Panbang in Zhemgang in the fourth five-year Plan and introduced major changes that transformed the lives of people in the area.

There is still much respect among the people of Panbang for the late Dasho Keiji Nishioka today.

Some of elderly in Panbang still address him as “Japan Sahib”.

Ngangla Gup, Rinchen Wangdi, who worked under the late Dasho Nishioka said the suspension bridge was constructed during the fifth five-year Plan but there was a desire to still name the bridge Nishoka zam. The rationale behind the decision was that Panbang wanted to acknowledge Dasho Nishoka’s hard work, the gup said.

Gup Rinchen Wangdi said the gewog with the dungkhag office decided to preserve the bridge not only in memory of the late Dasho Nishoka but also as a tourist attraction. Tourists visiting Panbang make it a point to walk across the bridge.

The bridge was constructed in 1988 and is still strong today. Colourful lungdhars flutter in the breeze but the mesh fencing of the bridge is in need of repair.

A house stands a few metres from the bridge. It is also known as Nishoka house.

Gup Rinchen Wangdi said the house was constructed during the fourth Plan by Dasho Nishioka but he himself did not live there. One of his Bhutanese assistants lived there instead.

The two-storey Bhutanese house is abandoned and in a dilapidated condition. The floor planks have rotted and the roof is falling apart. Bushes have crept up its walls.

The gup said the gewog is planning to repair the house before it is completely ruined. The land on which the house has been constructed belongs to the agriculture department.

Near the house, a grove of Agar woods stand straight and tall. Dasho Nishoka planted these trees. Today they fall under the care of the forest department.

The Japanese government sent Dasho Nishoka as an agriculture specialist to Bhutan in 1964. He remained in Bhutan after his two-year assignment period and worked in the country for 28 years until 1992

In 1980, His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo awarded him with red scarf and conferred on him the title of Dasho in recognition of his selfless and dedicated services to the people of Bhutan in the field of agriculture development. Dasho Nishioka is the only foreigner to have received the title.

His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo also granted him the Druk Thuksey medal in 1990.

Nima Wangdi | Panbang