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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Green mission for karate master
Clive Nicol speaking at twinning ceremony
Mr Nicol was voted one of Japan's most popular citizens in 2001
A Welsh karate master voted one of the most popular people in Japan has returned home to forge cultural links in the forest.

Clive Nicol left south Wales for the Far East in 1962 to study the martial art and, after top tuition, is now a high-ranking seventh dan black belt.

He is also an accomplished author and leading light in Japan's conservation movement, advising the government on the environment.

On Monday he was back in south Wales for the twinning of the Afan Forest Park with a derelict Japanese woodland he transformed into lush landscape.

The embodiment of the phrase "Big In Japan," Neath-born Mr Nicol is a top personality on Japanese television and radio and has written almost 100 books.

Mr Nicol transformed woodland in Nagano
Having mastered karate over the last 41 years, he turned his attention to green matters.

He once took legal action against a syndicate he claimed was dumping medical waste near his home in Nagano.

Mr Nicol later fought to save Japanese forests from commercial development.

He transformed 45 acres of neglected woodland near his home into a national park he named Afan Argoed (Valley of Woods) - a gesture to thank the UK's Forestry Commission for looking after trees in Wales.


Mr Nicol returned to his homeland on Monday to twin that woodland with Afan Forest Park near Cymmer in the Neath Port Talbot local authority.

He was joined by Japan's UK ambassador and Welsh Culture Minister Alun Pugh.

This is my gift to the future, with the hope of forging links with Wales and Japan
Clive Nicol
"In memory of my birthplace and the wonderful work I had seen carried out in the valley by the Forestry Commission, I called these little woods Afan," he said.

"Two years ago I established a non-profit organisation for woodland studies, and I am donating the woods and several of my books to a trust.

"Land is at a premium, and I don't want the woods parcelled up and sold after I'm gone.

"This is my gift to the future, with the hope of forging links with the land of my birth - Wales - and the land of my present citizenship - Japan."

Mr Nicol embarked on the first of three Arctic expeditions aged 17, studied marine animals in Canada and spent two years in Ethiopia as a game warden for a national park.

Forestry Commission Wales officials said Afan Forest Park, which it manages, lies in what was once one of south Wales' most industrialised belts, but is a prime example of environmental regeneration.

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