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"What on earth are schools doing to kids in Japan?"

Friday, August 5, 2005 Posted: 09:38 AM JST

"I don't enjoy giving lectures to university or high school students in Japan," writes naturalist C. W. Nicol in his latest Japan Times article, "and my being cajoled or bullied into laying on such a performance usually ends up with me being at best grumpy, and at worst downright depressed."

The guardian of Japan's nature describes his experiences with kids, nature and officials in Japan. His article is both inspiring and depressing, and a must-read. "What on earth are schools doing to kids in Japan?" he asks.

Born in South Wales, in 1940, C. W. Nicol became a naturalized Japanese in 1995. His name is recognized by 70 percent of Japanese, an amazing achievement, because of his nature documentaries, books, TV appearances and, ironically, his Whiskey commercials. He has published an incredible number of books covering just about everything. His novels, essays, children's tales, and cookbooks can be found in all Japanese bookstores. But he is best known as the guardian of Japan's increasingly endangered nature.

Nicol has been elected to a number of prestigious environmental committees, including the Japanese Prime Minister's cabinet committee on environmental issues of the 21st century. His activities are not limited to Japan, however. He has, for example, participated on 15 Arctic expeditions and was expedition leader on five of them.

Taking advantage of his foreign upbringing, high-profile credentials and his image as a well-connected ethnic outsider he can attack policies and bureaucrats like no Japanese can. He is both reviled and admired for this. But as long as Japanese don't fight the enthusiastic concrete pourers themselves, they need him. And they know it.

Nicol gives lectures, makes speeches at protest rallies, galvanizes protest and is enemy number one of Japan's powerful Construction Ministry, which has dammed, and thereby damned, 90 percent of Japan's once beautiful rivers. Previously full of life, many are now dead.

He calls Japan a country that is "polluted with money." Several years ago he fought such "money pollution" when he discovered that medical waste and toxic chemicals were dumped in Nagano, by an organization connected with yakuza, Japan's Mafia. Together with friends he was able to prove that dioxin leached at dangerous levels. After a lengthy public campaign health officials eventually ordered the removal of the waste.

"I long," Nicol said in a 1997 speech, "for the return of beautiful Japan, a nation of natural beauty."

Keywords: national_news people_focus

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
Stone Bridge Press

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