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Clive William Nicol

Nature Lover, Naturalist

Clive William Nicol, CW Nicol. Conservationist, author, spirits distiller, musician, illustrator, and professional wrestler. Among yet more professions and part-time pursuits, Nicol was a man who was driven by his deep unwavering love of nature.


Nicol was born in Wales but moved to Japan at a young age and eventually ended up gaining citizenship here. He spent his youth building up a worldly perspective – from working in Canadian fisheries, to living in the Arctic, to managing Ethiopian mountain parks. It was only after he purchased 30 hectares of woodlands in Nagano in 1986 that he fully settled in Japan.

He believes that life started in the woodlands; it is the source of our souls and of music. It is for this reason that he was interested in Japan – a land where 67 per cent is covered in trees but which were rapidly falling into disrepair.

Nicol explains in his TEDxTokyo talk in 2013 that forests, if neglected, have serious negative consequences for the cycle of life. The presence of imported and unmanaged conifers are the main source of pollen – therefore hay fever – in Japan too. When he bought his land, less than two per cent of Japan was original native forest (about the size of Chiba Prefecture). Nicol spent his last three decades restoring the ‘Japan’ element they have so desperately been missing.

Nicol recounts that his woodlands is lush and colorful; the neighbouring unmanaged forest is monotonous and dark. His has over 137 species of edible plant which are eaten by bears, butterflies, birds, dragonflies and snakes; the other, seven species and so few animals we can’t even identify them. The contrast is stark.

“In 1994 I helped set up a college with special two year courses aimed to train national park rangers,” Nicol said in a discussion with ko-e magazine in 2012. (As a comparison, New Zealand, with a similar amount of land denoted as National Parks, set up a ranger system in 1952.) This meant that more forests could have dedicated attention to restoration as well as provide more places for Japanese people to realize the true beauty and powers of healthy native forest.

In spreading his talents across various fields, Nicol has made sure we are unable to forget him and the importance of nature. Every time we sip gin, practice karate, or visit a forest, he is there. Reminding us that we have the power to rejuvenate nature and nature has the power to rejuvenate us.