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Full Circle

Day 31: Kurohime

Kurohime, Japan 
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In the highlands if Honshu. Tree of rest.
Michael Palin - Full CircleSurprisingly, sixty-seven per cent of Japan remains either forest or woodland, and an hour away from the bulldozers and graders he shows me four-hundred-year-old beech, oak and horse chestnut.

These forested mountains which climb to 7500 feet are among the oldest inhabited areas of Japan, settled for over ten thousand years. They've served as a refuge for many clandestine organizations, including the Ninjas, master assassins who were always devising new and ingenious methods of knocking people off. One of these was a common or garden brush with a spike, tipped with deadly poison from the monks-hood plant and secreted amongst the bristles. The Ninja, disguised as a humble servant, would work away at the leaves until his victim passed by, then smartly bring up the brush and deal him a lethal sweep up the backside.

C.W. loves stories like this and all the rich legends of the local gods, and regrets the spread of urban life and the disappearance of much of the Japanese folk history. I ask him whether the Japanese are religious.

'I would say they're happily agnostic. There are some cults, as we all know, but mostly they're very, very tolerant... they'll have a Christian or a Shinto wedding and a Buddhist funeral.'
Kurohime, Japan 
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With C.W. in an avenue of cedars.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 31
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Kurohime
  • Book page no: 56

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  • Japan
  • Day 51 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
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  • Around the World in 80 Days
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  • Around the World in 80 Days