Japan's central island of Honshu is home to over 100 million people, and its biggest city, Tokyo, is one of the largest urban metropolises on earth. But it has a wild heart - most of Honshu is mountainous. This wilderness is home to an astonishing range of wildlife - black bears, monkeys, exquisite fireflies and even cow demons. But all across this island, from the mountains to the edge of the sea, people and nature are drawn together in the most unexpected ways.
James begins his epic journey across Japan on the icy northern island of Hokkaido, throwing himself head first into the physical demands of dog sledding, snowball fighting and the baffling struggle of ordering noodles from a Japanese vending machine. Despite all that, there’s still time for octopus fishing and learning the art of samurai sword making.
This week, Julia arrives in the Dodecanese, a far-flung group of islands at the gateway between Europe and the East. In the medieval capital of Rhodes she uncovers a treasure of trove of Byzantine Art Travelling inland to the mountain village of Apollona; Her trip ends with a visit to the neighbouring island of Symi, an architectural wonder like nowhere else in Greece.
This leg takes Ade across central Africa, from the coast of Gabon, through the giant Democratic Republic of Congo, and on to Uganda. He starts off the coast of Gabon looking for humpback whales. It is one of Africa's best spots for seeing them, thanks to Gabon's vast marine sanctuaries. The country is an eco-paradise, not just in the water, but on land as well where 80% of it is forested. But the country has recently introduced one of the most destructive agri-businesses in the tropics - palm oil farming. Ade discovers how Gabon hopes to do it sustainably. The country has impressive environmental credentials, but on a tour of its divided capital Ade hears that some people are skeptical. One critic suggests it is a way for the country's autocratic ruler Ali Bongo Ondimba to curry favour with the international community. Next up is perhaps the most chaotic and corrupt country in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ade discovers first-hand how everyone from the traffic police to the country's top politicians are on the take. He also spends time with some of Kinshasa's musicians and ‘sapeurs' – people who get kitted out in the finest haute couture in one of the poorest countries on the planet. In DRC's far east, he finds out what lies at the heart of the country's problems: a never-ending conflict amongst local militia, fuelled by foreign countries who want to get their hands on the DRC's vast resources. After going on a tank patrol with the UN, he meets Kibomango, a champion boxer who is helping to rehabilitate some of the country's 30,000 child soldiers. Travelling into one of the most famous national parks in the world, Virunga, Ade discovers that few areas of the country have been left unscarred by the violence. And the impact on the wildlife has been extreme, as Ade encounters some of the world's few remaining mountain gorillas. His final stop on this trip is Uganda where he meets Bobi Wine, one of Africa's most outspoken political campaigners. Bobi was recently arrested and beaten, and his driver killed, after his protests drew the attention of long-serving autocratic ruler Yoweri Museveni. Ade meets a defiant man who will not give up, no matter what threats are made on his life. He is part of a new generation of Africans who are fighting to take back control from the post-colonial leaders who have done so much to wreck the continent.
James journeys through Japan's mountainous forests, marvels at its zen gardens and admires centuries-old bonsai, to explore the connections between Japanese culture and the natural environment. Travelling around Japan's stunning island geography, he examines how the country's two great religions, Shinto and Buddhism, helped shape a creative response to nature often very different to the West. But he also considers modern Japan's changing relationship to the natural world and travels to Naoshima Art Island to see how contemporary artists are finding new ways to engage with nature.