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Full Circle

Day 31: Kurohime

Michael Palin - Full CircleOne of the most well-known people in Japan lives in Kurohime. He is tousled, weather-beaten, ruddy-faced, fifty-five and Welsh. C.W. Nicol - C.W. as he's affectionately known - has a CV which seems to encompass several lifetimes. He has worked for the Canadian Environmental Protection service, been the first game-warden at the Simian National Park in Ethiopia, and is currently Vice-Principal of the Nature Conservation College in Tokyo and an honorary member of the Ainu tribe, the most ancient of the peoples of Japan. He is a black belt in judo and a 7th dan in karate. He has had seventy books published here, including bestselling novels, children's books and conservation treatises. He has his own television programme, has recorded a CD of his songs and is an authority on everything from whisky to shiitake mushrooms. He's shot polar bears and is proficient at the ancient Japanese art of stick fighting.

He first came here thirty-three years ago to study martial arts. I asked him what it was about the country that made him stay.

'It was a country I'd never dreamt existed, a country of virgin forests, a country that has, even close to a large town, wild bears, wild boar, wild deer, such a rich nature and such a very vibrant culture.'

This is so unlike what I've seen so far that I ask him to show me what I've missed. The first thing I notice about the 'virgin forests' are unpromising great scars where trees have been felled to make way for concrete viaducts. C.W. explains that this is the infrastructure needed to bring the 1998 Winter Olympics to nearby Nagano. He mutters darkly about the level of corruption which secured the games in return for Japanese help with contracts elsewhere in the world.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 31
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Kurohime
  • Book page no: 55

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