31 OCTOBER 2008

Six thousand miles from home, deep in the heart of rural Japan, the Prince of Wales met up with a kindred spirit this week in the form of a remarkable ex-pat Welshman.

Charles, who was visiting the mountainous region of Nagano as part of a state visit to the country, was introduced to CW Nicol - the man responsible for the rejuvenation of the surrounding forest - and spent several minutes chatting to him about one the eco-conscious royal's favourite subjects - environmentalism.

Mr Nicol - an Indiana Jones-like character who has fought game poachers in Ethiopia, lived with the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic and is a black belt in karate - bought the land 25 years ago when it was neglected scrub.

Since then he has gradually restored the area – which locals called the "ghost forest" - to its former glory. Today it is home to 100 species of tree, and numerous endangered species, including dormice, Japanese moon bears, civet cats, hares, raccoon dogs and foxes.

While Charles toured the 45-acre woodland, his wife the Duchess of Cornwall got a close look at how pet therapy is helping children in a Tokyo hospital. Camilla sat in on a session during which youngsters played with little dogs.

The royal couple are half way through a ten-day tour of East Asia. Highlights so far have included a taste of traditional Japan in the form of a trip to Nara, an ancient city in the west of the country where some of Japan's most famous Buddhist temples are located.

There was also a chance for Charles to see some of the country's famed technology in action when he came face to face with dancing robot in Tokyo's science museum.

Photo: ©
The Prince of Wales inspects a wooden cabin during his tour of a 45-acre forest which has been lovingly rejuvenated over the last quarter of a century by Welshman CW Nicol (second right) Photo: © RexClick on photos for gallery
Photo: ©
While Charles was in the midst of nature, Camilla saw how pet dogs are helping children in a Tokyo hospital. The furry friends have a cheering and soothing effect on the youngsters Photo: © Rex