Friday, June 15, 2018

River’s Edge, a sort of: Higashi-Takane Forest Park of Kanagawa Prefecture 県立東高根森林公園

The City of Kawasaki, the other side of Tama River when you look from Tokyo, does not in general have a connotation of greenery. Just checking in Google Earth, we easily recognize, aside from 100m or so wide river side of Tama River, the place is almost covered by buildings and industrial roads. No one says definite Nah about the location with a rotten dead body in “River’s Edge” (not by Tim Hunter, but by Kyoko Okazaki) as somewhere in Kawasaki. Though, miraculously, the city has several secluded forests, one of which is Higashi-Takane Forest Park of Kanagawa Prefecture 県立東高根森林公園. Let’s go there this week. As this is a well-managed park, finding an abandoned body would be extremely difficult, I bet. 😌

The nearest commuter train station for the Park is Kuji Station 久地駅 of JR Nambu Line 南武線 which runs along “the Japanese Silicon Valley”, aka Kawasaki-side of Tama River. From Kuji Station, we first enter the largest cemetery of Kawasaki City, Midorigaoka Cemetery 緑が丘霊園, stroll clean and quiet paved roads for about 10 minutes, and reach 85 / 86 blocks for graves where the steep steps go down to the wetland of Higashi-Takane Park. The nearest bus stop for the Park is Shinrin-koen Mae Stop 森林公園前, aka Forest Park Stop, of services of Mizo-10, 11, 15-19 (溝10111516171819系統) from JR Musashi-Mizonokuchi Station 武蔵溝ノ口駅 (of JR Nambu Line) or Mizonokuchi Station 溝の口駅 (of Tokyu Den’entoshi Line 東急田園都市線). These 2 stations are actually located in the same spot and only the names are different depending on the service operators. So, just go to either of the stations and find the bus terminal of Mizonokuchi Station to the Higashi-Takane Park. From the Park’s bus stop, walk about 200m or so to the same direction of the bus route, and on the right there is a large parking which is another entrance to the Park. Actually, the Higashi-Takane Park is in the middle of densely populated housing and commercial areas so that you don’t have to worry for public transportation any time. Perhaps, such approachability is one of the reasons for the popularity of the place. Yeah, people need a nearby forest to have a happy living in a concreted city ...

JR Kuji Station
A road in Midorigaoka Cemetery
Going down these steps to …
Higashi-Takane Forest Park

Roughly speaking, the park is prepared over 11ha of a traditional farming community existed until about 60 years ago. During the 1950s and 60s, such villages around the downtown Tokyo were massively converted into residential areas for the labor force of Megalopolis. The places of current Midorigaoka Cemetery and Higashi-Takane Park were also planned for houses and condos. When in the 1960s developers started to bulldoze the rice paddies, vegetable fields and firewood forests, they happened to discover there massive underground remains of human settlements dated back about 2500-1500 years ago. Moreover, scholars found the forest next to the cultural heritages was made of 150-200 years old large Quercus myrsinifolia (white oaks), which was already rare scenery in such a close proximity to the downtown Tokyo. Kanagawa Prefecture decided to preserve the place as a natural park, not for housing, and in 1978 Higashi-Takane Forest Park was opened. Topographically, the Park is made of a valley and a ridge (; its interactive map is here.) The valley was once rice paddies, and the largest open space along the ridge is the backfilled remains of more than 60 buildings of some 2000 years ago. During weekends, both places are filled with excited voices of families enjoying picnic. It’s a relaxing neighborhood forest in a suburb of Tokyo.

The valley that was once rice paddies is now populated by wild hygrophyte and moisture loving plants, such as Impatiens textori, Chloranthus japonicas, Mercurialis leiocarpa, Swida macrophylla, and Hydrangea macrophylla. The route has well-maintained wood decks for visitors to enjoy natural wetland. From spring to fall, there also are lots of excited kids (and their parents) equipped with a stick with a string and a bite. Illegal fishing? Er, no. The park is asking kids to catch Louisiana crawfishes and bring them to the park office. A crawfish devours water creatures, both animal and vegetable, to drive local fishes et al to extinction, and hence the National Institute for Environmental Studies designates them as one of the worst 100 invasive species in Japan. (Do you remember Gabicho last week?) It’s Higashi-Takane’s way to deal with the problem letting the kids open fully their basic instincts of fishing. During May-July of 2017, the kids reported 1948 crawfishes as their catch to the office. And in June 2018, there are crowds of kids yielding their hand-made fishing poles … It should be a very very long way to control the crawfish population here, I guess.

The former rice paddies are now this much abundant wetland.
A rich greenery of moist loving Mercurialis leiocarpa

From the valley to the ridge, there are 5 routes quickly ascending in steep slopes. The slopes and the ridge area have once-typical vegetation of Tama Hills 多摩丘陵. Coppiced Quercus acutissima and serrata are now large trees of about 50cm diameter. And, of course, there is the forest of 150-200 years’ old Quercus myrsinifolia. Typical for urban forests in Yokohama, and in Kawasaki this week, beyond the outer-ring road of the ridge is a row of houses. From Hanaki Open Space 花木広場 in the southwest of the Park, we can see busy Kawasaki IC of Tomei Express Way. A part of the ridge is a well-tended garden populated by herbaceous plants described in classic Japanese literature. If you are a student of Japanese classics, please come here in early spring or October-November to see how those flowers in poetry are actually bloom. Some of these plants are now on the verge of listing for “endangered species” so that knowing them alive, free-of-charge, would be a valuable opportunity. Soon, we reach to 1.3ha of large lawn area spreading over the pre-historic remains, surrounded by old Quercus myrsinifolia. The site is an ideal picnic ground for families some of whom pitch a tent for their mom and dad to enjoy their weekend naps. Everybody looks very relaxed under the warm watch of large old oaks … I simply imagined 2000 years ago, people lived precisely here and had similar naps for an occasional holiday. Their kids were laughing and running in exactly the same place as kids of the 21st century … It’s good to have such a peaceful place whenever we live. Ancient or now. Another River’s Edge.

Over there, Kawasaki IC.
The Park maintained a bamboo forest,
 typical for a yester-year farming community of the area.
Ancient remains cum picnic field

The contact address for Higashi-Takane Forest Park is

2-10-1, Kamiki-honcho, Miyamae-ku, Kawasaki, 216-0031
216-0031 神奈川県川崎市宮前区神木本町2-10-1
Phone: 044-865-08018:30-17:00


Friday, June 8, 2018

Freedom! On Japanese bush warbler and Chinese hwamei

Everybody loves Uguisu , Japanese bush warbler. They are sparrow-sized greenish bird whose male warbles in a pure voice. This Wikipedia description nicely summarizes their status in Japan. Yeah. When in a forest of early February we hear their “Hooo-hokekyo (the above Wikipedia entry has links to listen their warbling),” we all become Shelley and feel “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” Actually, the Japan Meteorological Agency designates warbling of Uguisu as one of the subjects in their phenological observations, signaling the end of winter. Uguisu is a sedentary bird staying all year-round in lower altitude area of Japan, as long as we provide them proper bushes and forests. Only the males sing pretty in order to declare his territory and for his female partner to nurture their chicks safely. So, normally, their songs can be heard when they are taking care of their kids. That’s that. Though, these days we can hear “Hooooooooooo-hokekyoooooooooo!!!!” really continually especially in the forests of urban area, like Yokohama Citizen Forests. Is it due to global warming that may encourage Uguisu to procreate whenever? May be … but there is another reason.

Er, no, it’s not a Japanese bush warbler,
 but a Japanese tit which also trills for territory.

There remains historical records saying that in 1708 people brought Chinese hwamei, Gabicho 画眉鳥 in Japanese, to Nagasaki 長崎出島 from Qing, aka China. Traditionally in China they are popular as middle-sized cage birds by their flashy brunette feather with distinctive eye-make and clear and brash warbling. Probably, Japanese has imported them for quite some time from China as business for the small population of aficionados. Then, during a very brief period of the 1970s, they became popular among ordinary Japanese as cage birds. Many were traded in from China of Mao Zedong. Surprisingly perhaps at that time, unlike traditional Japanese cage birds, they sing very loudly though sumptuously. The bird rapidly lost the favor of the Japanese market. Faced with a large inventory that required feeding, it is said that the importers dumped Gabicho in the forests of cities, like Tokyo or Osaka. Gabicho is originally from sub-tropical China and South-east Asia, eating seeds of grasses, insects and sometimes frogs which can be found at the ground level. It means they don’t survive snow-covered winter in some areas of Japan, but can thrive in Japanese population centers under the global warming. They multiplied near cities. The National Institute for Environmental Studies of Japan defines them as one of the “100 of the Japan’s Worst Invasive Alien Species.” By the Invasive Alien Species Act, now it is prohibited to make them pets. Human state of the things aside, Gabicho is clever birds. In China, they warble as their owners teach them to please the master. They came to Japan, and perhaps found the superstar status of Uguisu as their role model. In the urban forests of Megalopolis Tokyo, they sing in the phrase of Uguisu, but far louder, and all year long. “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-HOKEKYOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” There are many Gabichos and all sing like that in the forests of Yokohama, occasionally next to Uguisu of (comparatively) modest voice.

Niiharu Citizen Forest in early summer.
 Well, yeah, Gabicho likes such forest, I guess.

Telling you the truth, I didn’t know anything about the thing between Gabicho and Uguisu until I visited Niiharu Citizen Forest 新治市民の森 for a spring nature observation meeting in April 2015. That visit became the topic of my very first post of this blog, so it was a kind of memorable experience for me. At that time, all the participants of the gathering, who looked like experienced nature observers, called the warbling of very loud “HOOOOOO-HOKEKYOOOO!!!!” as something like “Oh, that so tasteless GABICHO!” with a slight snobbishness in their voice. Gabicho is a direct reading of Chinese characters in Japanese. I guess in Chinese their name would sound appropriate for a popular, flamboyant, and middle-sized bird. In Japanese, combined Ga and Bi, i.e. the continuous voiced consonants, sounds too strong to have a connotation of pretty warbling of birds. I had an impression of Gabicho as something insensitive invader-imposter to our peaceful forests. As I learned Japanese forests and the status of Gabicho in Japanese law, my impression for them could not improve.

My first visit to Niiharu Citizen Forest

Whatever, Gabicho is sometime fearless. Since last year or so, one Gabicho frequently welcomes me along my way to attend the activities of the Lovers of Niiharu Citizen Forest. (Oh, but s/he never game me a chance to take a photo!) It seems to me one tree in the forest is its favorite for weekend morning. It simply hops from a twig to a twig without warbling, perhaps searching for breakfast. I could quietly observe its morning ritual for a minute or two, and the bird flies to another place. It’s a relatively large bird, twice as large as a sparrow, so *2 for Uguisu. The bird has very bright brunette feathers and Cleopatra like large white eye-make that gave me an impression of exotics. You see? Saying hello is so important for everything. Regular encounters with a Gabicho in Niiharu Citizen Forest gave me a chance to think about them in my own words. Yeah, it may cause havocs in Japanese native biodiversity (although the theory is still speculative). But the birds didn’t come here of their own volition; they are not migratory birds. They are here because humans wanted to earn nice sum of money, and abandoned them when they found the birds did not behave as the masters liked. Still, Gabicho is singing as their former owners taught “To be a cute Uguisu!” It’s … an extremely sad story. I’ve started to wonder how a Gabicho warbles if it can be free from all of these nonsenses. Then, quite recently I find it out.

A caterpillar of Blue Admiral on Smilax china in Niiharu Citizen Forest.
 Probably it looks very appetizing for Gabicho …

One weekend in this May, Kanagawa Forest Instructors visited Hadano Pass Forestry Road 秦野峠林道 for bird–watching. If it is OK, Hadano Forestry Road connects Yadoriki Community やどりき in the foothills of Mt. Nabewari 鍋割山 with Kurokura Community 玄倉 on the shore of Lake Tanzawa 丹沢湖. Unfortunately, the area has very fragile bed rocks typical of Tanzawa 丹沢, and it is now partially open due to massive slope failures. In other words, the place is very deep, less-visited mountains. We walked leisurely but attentively to find wild birds. Tanzawa in May is the place for rearing chicks. Thick green of leaves hide the singers from the eyes of predators and bird-watchers, but we could hear many kinds of birds, at least 30, warbling. We certainly identified the voice of Japanese bush warblers, cuckoos, Japanese green pheasants, Japanese flycatchers, and even Treson sieboldii. Brown-eared bulbuls and Japanese tits were everywhere, and there was another very clear and well-projected voice frequently sounds from the forests. One of my senior instructors said, “Hey, don’t you think it sings like ‘Jiyuu-ni Natte Ureshii! 自由になってうれしい!’ (in English, ‘It’s great to be free!’)? It’s Chinese hwamei.” The scales fell from my eyes.

Somewhere here in Tanzawa,
 there is a Japanese flycatcher singing …

Actually, Gabicho is not the only ubiquitous bird our grandparents brought from China. Take Chinese bamboo partridge. It was first imported as pets from southern China, and then in 1919 released wild in the forests around Tokyo for pleasure hunting. They were once commonly observed in the south of Miyagi Prefecture 宮城県, and still a popular wild bird among hunters now. Yet, I have heard whispers it has become difficult recently to find them during a bird-watching event. Too much economic development might make the dwellings for them uninhabitable, or, they simply reduced their numbers in their foreign land ... I don’t know if the frequent presence of Gabicho in such a deep mountain is a threat to the ecosystem of our National Parks. I was simply glad the relatives of Niiharu’s Gabicho could rejoice with their freedom in the wild. It’s too depressing to see somebody spellbound of his / her abusive deserter, isn’t it?

Chinese hwamei (Gabicho) in a play-garden
 near Niiharu Citizen Forest

If you find an environmental issues in Tanzawa, please make a contact with Kanagawa Natural Environment Conservation Center 神奈川県自然環境保全センター

657 Nanasawa, Atsugi City, 243-0121 2430121 厚木市七沢657
Phone: 046-248-0323

You can send an enquiry to them by clicking the bottom line of their homepage at

Friday, June 1, 2018

The forest of the Emperor: Tama Forest of Science Garden 多摩森林科学園

As a sort of continuation of imperial motif, this week let us go to a forest not in Kanagawa Prefecture, but in Tokyo, although it locates in a neighboring area to the City of Sagamihara 相模原市. It is Tama Forest of Science Garden 多摩森林科学園 in the City of Hachioji 八王子市. The access to this forest is easy. Please get off at JR Takao Station 高尾駅 of Chuoh Line 中央本線・中央線快速, and walk to the north, crossing Route 20. Within 10 minutes from the station, we are at the gate of the Science Garden: no parking here. Admission: for May-March, 300 yen for adult, 50 yen for grade schoolers and toddlers; please add 100 yen when you visit there in April. Next to this forest to the east is the Mausoleums of Emperor Showa 昭和天皇, aka Hirohito, and Emperor Taisho 大正天皇 who passed away in Hayama Imperial Villa 葉山御用邸 we visited last week. To the south is Mt. Takao 高尾山 that has 3-stars in Michelin International Guide. I’ve heard the Science Garden these days also receives some foreign visitors who detour from Mt. Takao ... The Garden certainly has occasional English signs for overseas guests, but it would be nice if we know a trick or two to enjoy walk there. So, let’s enter this forest 😉

The entrance to the Science Garden

Although the name of the place is “Garden,” it has 50ha of expansion, and only 20ha is open to the public. Strange public garden, isn’t it? It is actually one of the 7 forests of the National Forest Research and Management Organization 国立研究開発法人森林研究・整備機構, a leading research center for Japanese forest and forestry. The Garden’s mission includes a role as a research field for studying the natural forests in suburban area. Yep. Please use your Google satellite image, and we can find the place surrounded by residential suburbia. Still, only permit-holders can enter 60% of the Tama Forest of Science Garden that contains rare virgin forest of Kanto Region 関東地方. There, temperate evergreens, like Abies firma, Castanopsis sieboldii, and Quercus salicina, cohabit with boreal deciduous trees, such as Kalopanax septemlobus, and Prunus verecunda (Koidz.) Koehne. All the population centers of Japan south of Hokkaido 北海道 have a long history of heavy forest usage during pre-fossil energy era, which created a vast second-growth forest made of Quercus acutissima, Quercus serrata and the others for charcoal baking. Still, this pocket of Tokyo keeps the virgin forest ... Strange place, isn’t it? The reason lies in the Mausoleums next to the Science Garden.

Liriodendron tulipifera at the entrance of the Garden.
 Of course, they were imported from the USA.
 I’ll explain why it’s here next.

Historically, the area was the property of Yakuohin Temple 薬王院 of Mt. Takao that protected the forest until around 1600. Then, the owner of the mountains in Tama 多摩 and Tanzawa 丹沢 became Tokugawa Shogunate 徳川幕府 that heavily reforested the area and prohibited cutting trees surrounding Tokyo for security reason. In 1868 at the time of Meiji Restoration 明治維新, the ownership of the area changed again from Shogun to the Emperor. Specifically for the forest of the Mausoleums and Science Garden, the place was assigned to be a research forest of the Imperial Household where princes regularly visited and had tea in a château within the forest. In 1945, the original elegant manor (cum office for the research institute) was bombed out by Americans and the owner of the forest became the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry. Even though, in 1965 the newer “office building” was rebuilt with a portecochere, which still stands in the secluded area. After 1988 the place became “Science Garden” and in 1989 Emperor Hirohito passed away. 3 years later in 1992, the Garden’s 20ha was open to the public. Such “exclusive” history of the place gives its characteristics: in a closed 60% there remains a virgin forest, and opened 40% of the place is a home of “exotics” of the 19th and the early 20th century for Japan.

Please purchase your ticket at the booth on your right of this photo.
 Thank you.

First, when you enter the Science Garden, please don’t forget to visit the Forest Science Museum located in front of the gate. The idea of this Garden for visitors is, “please figure out the way to enjoy the forest by yourself using the information provided in the Museum and in the panels in situ of the garden.” So, collecting the information in the Museum is crucial. Although they do not have fully-translated brochures and maps, the building has several English exhibits and ppt print-outs to grab for overseas visitors. (Japanese map for the open area can be downloaded from here; Japanese brochures can be downloaded from here.) There you’ll know 40% of the Garden is made of 3 arboreta and a flowering cherry preservation forest. Arboreta have 500 species of 5000 individuals, and their cherry is 500 lines of 1400 individuals. As the place was for the Imperial Family of Japanese industrial revolution, the guardians of the forest collected (1) from all over the world trees quick to grow and easy to utilize for Japanese industrialization, and (2) from all over Japan beautiful cherry trees for the garden to be a national custodian of cherry blossoms as the Japanese national culture. The museum also explains animal life, such as Japanese giant flying squirrels, observed in 50ha of the Science Garden. Let’s collect all the materials provided, especially map!, use bathrooms, and start our strolling.

As this is a museum of
 the National Forest Research and Management Organization,
 they try to send messages for the importance of forestry.
 This exhibit is to tell the 21st century kids
 “sometimes furniture can be made of wood.”
The drawers are to touch seeds of gigantic trees planted here.

As this was a forest of the imperial family, all the roads in the Garden are really well-maintained even if some of them are pure mountainous trekking road. There is no commercial facility. Rule: no camp fires, no alcohol, no partying, no collecting fauna or flora, no trashing, and no smoking. Also, no pet is allowed to enter the premise. In short, if you need to have a quiet, meditative, slow walk in Tokyo’s suburb, this is the place for you (except April; more to it below). There are 3 arboreta; Arboretum #1 locates in the south of the museum, and the other two are in the north adjacent to the flowering cherry preservation forest. The trees in any arboretum were collected in order to identify the best trees for human usage, especially for construction materials; it’s the 19th century’s thinking. So, here we can find Sequoia sempervirens (Lamb.) Endl, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, and Picea koyamae (that is critically endangered species). They are standing VERY TALL with naturally growing local trees such as Quercus salicina. All the trees were identified as “useful for human industrial activity” and numbered with explanatory panels. Also, for seasonal or occasional incidents such as early spring flowers of herbaceous plants, summer insects, and activities of migratory birds, the Museum sticks laminated mini-panels here and there into the ground. The explanations are written in Japanese, but at least their Latin names are in alphabet. Carrying your smart phone or pad may help if you want to know more in your own language. (In the end, the Garden is surrounded by residential areas of Tokyo. No telecommunication malfunction exists.) The Garden also has panels called “Posts in the Forest.” They show how some trees and plants have been used in Japanese daily life. In one of those exhibition panels, I experienced differences due to wood when I wrote in pencils made of several wood materials. Amazing! I tell you. Walking good roads that run between large and tall mainly coniferous trees, I found the arboreta of the Science Garden gave us a feeling of open space, even though the actual acreage is only 7ha. It’s a forest not possible to materialize naturally in Japan, but an artificial creation …

One of the main roads within the Garden.
 The structure over there is for the maintenance crew.
A permanent exhibition panel in the Garden.
 It explains very poisonous Toxicodendron orientale.
Metasequioias are standing tall here.
Posts in the Forest explaining pencils.
 Writing with a pencil of Japanese Yew is really DIFFERENT.
 The panel explains
 more than 90% of Japanese pencils were of Japanese Yew once,
 but now the market is dominated by “Made in China.”
 A likely story.
This laminated paper explains
 the place with observation opportunities for lots of insects.

Beyond the #2 Arboretum, adjacent to Arboretum #3, there is 8ha of the flowering cherry preservation forest. It is a living encyclopedia of Japanese cherry trees. Annual visitors of the Tama Forest of Science Garden are about 40 thousand on average. More than 20 thousand come here during April. The reason? To see beautiful cherry blossoms, of course. And so, admission during April has a surcharge of 100 yen. 😀 As you may imagine, during April, the Garden is uber-congested and people frown at fellow visitors using tripod for photos as they block the roads. It’s your choice to come here during April to admire beautiful 500 kinds of cherry blossoms with a packed crowd. The area was designated in 1966, more than 50 years ago, as the preservation forest of genes for famous cherry trees collected nationwide. Actually, all the numbered trees, cherry trees or otherwise, of this research forest have already undergone DNA sequencing to study further their traits. It becomes a kind of curse. The beautiful cultivated flowering cherries have their lifespan of 50 to 100 years. Many trees in 8ha are entering their twilight years. When I visited there, my senior forest instructors immediately noticed many cherry trees were in critical condition. Mr. Toru Koizumi, Research Specialist of the Science Garden, told us of course the Garden was aware of the situation, but there was a particular difficulty. As the mission of the place is to preserve the DNA of those trees, replacing decaying trees must be with trees of the same DNA, i.e. clones. And not all the trees are easy to propagate by cloning. The work of the researchers these days becomes a race against time … In May after cherry blossoms, the slopes of the cherry preservation forest were in fresh green of strategically planted cherry trees … I guessed the scenery must have been gorgeous in April, but it’s a highly controlled environment up to the DNA level …

Idyllic, isn’t it?
 It’s a valley with artificially planted flowering cherry trees.
At least this cherry tree has suckers for the next generation.

From the hiking road of #3 Arboretum, we can observe a staff gate for the Mausoleums beyond Takao Road. Emperor Hirohito was famous as a botanist. His son, the current Emperor, was probably influenced by his father in this respect and became an ichthyologist (and so his love for Hayama Imperial Villa). Hirohito was more inclined to flora, loved to go down on his hands and knees searching for Lichens, and roared at the bride of his son (i.e. the current Empress) when she allowed gardeners to mow the ground of the Imperial Palace. I surmise the rebuilt “office building” with a portecochere in the Tama Forest of Science Garden was for him to enjoy his private pleasure. And this is a strange forest … primeval part, a highly artificial cherry forest, and arboreta with non-native species are mixed together with at most care. Yeah, unlike the forests of deep Tanzawa, it’s a forest giving us the feel of openness, thanks to the careful maintenance ... Isn’t it like a life of an emperor? As a scientist, how did he feel the Science Garden that is controlled at the level of DNA? We can actually visit the Mausoleums year round (information is here), but it’s like visiting a Shintoism Shrine, not for walking in the forest which is off-limit. The forest of the Mausoleums should of course be perfectly taken care of … for the gone Emperors. Is it the forest which can give a sense of liberation, with an intensive human engagement?

Could you see a fence over there?
 That’s for the Mausoleums.

Tama Forest of Science Garden 多摩森林科学園

1833-81 Todori-cho, Hachioji City, Tokyo, 193-0843
Phone: 042-661-1121
FAX: 042-661-5241

Open: 9:30-16:00 (May-March), 9:00-16:00 (April). The entrance gate is closed at 15:30.
Closed every Monday (if Monday is a national holiday, next day is closed) and New Year Holidays.
For March-April, no closing day.

Admission: 300 yen for adults and 50 yen for grade schoolers and toddlers. Please add 100 yen for April. Yearly pass is available at 1200 yen.

If you plan a school trip here, please make a contact with the above office. Entire admission will be free for schools with reservation.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Beautiful forest and beautiful beach: Hayama Sangaokayamaryokuchi Park 県立はやま三ヶ岡山緑地

We are staying in Hayama. Seeing from the Hayama Beach to the northeast, we immediately notice a hill really close to the sea. Yeah, “Hayama, where the sea and mountains meet.” The hill is what we have observed from the top of Mt. Sengen-yama between us and the sea. It is a prefectural park, called Hayama Sangaokayamaryokuchi Park 県立はやま三ヶ岡山緑地. The paths in the Sangaokayama are for pure mountain trekking. The place is not for flip-flops of beach wear, but with good walking shoes and long-sleeved shirts and pants. Its steep slopes and cliffs rapidly come down to the sea, with roads often pasted on a cliff or narrow ridgelines. Though, they are well-maintained routes. Itinerary-wise, the place is self-contained and no tricky crossing exists as we have found in Mt. Sengen-yama. If you are accustomed to mountain roads, visiting the Park can be completed in 2 hours, lunch time included. i.e, Provided you prepare well, you can combine hiking with visiting beach and fashionable cafes in one weekend from Tokyo. Let us plunge into the forest of Sangaoka. 😄

When we see inland from Hayama Beach,
 the hill in front of us is Hayama Sangaokayamaryokuchi Park.

Before starting, I repeat myself since last week: please do not think you can visit Sangaoka with flip-flops and tank-tops. The peak of Sangaokayama Park, named Mt. Ohmine-yama (大峰山 ASL 143m), is on the top of cliffs. It has 3 approaches all of which have very steep steps constructed on narrow ridges. In addition, the place has rich vegetation in humid air from the sea. Except during deep winter, the forest floor of the place is a nice home for active Japanese pit vipers, or in Japanese, mamushi マムシ. The park does not have toilet or water faucets. We definitely need to be in good hiking gear to come there. Now, we are ready in our walking shoes, and there are 3 entrances to Sangaoka (a schematized map is here); to Shin’nase course 真名瀬コース, to Ajisai (Hydrangea macrophylla) course あじさいコース, and to Tsutsuji (Rhododendron) course つつじコース. I recommend to entering the forest from Shin’nace or Ajisai entrance and exit from Tsutsuji gate. Both Shin’nace and Ajisai courses first have very steep and long steps as in Mt. Sengen-yama that would be easier to manage climbing up than going down. In any case, first you take a commuter bus called “Kaigan-mawari (海岸回り Sea-Side Route)” from #2 Bus Stop in front of Keikyu Shin-Zushi Station 京急新逗子駅. They have lots of services so that you don’t have to worry time-table. All the entrances of the Sangaokayama Park can be accessible from the bus stops of Sea-side Route of the commuter bus services.

For Ajisai Course, we get off at Morito-jinja Stop (森戸神社 Morito Shrine), and walk north for about 100m to turn right at the corner of Starbucks. On your left is a venerable delicatessen Hayama Asahiya Beef 葉山旭屋牛肉店, and then Union Supermarket. Passing these and going south, please turn left at the first corner after the Union Supermarket. We proceed in a quiet residential area to turn right next at the third corner. The road starts to gain altitude although we are still in the community of uptown houses. Don’t be tempted to turn left or right and just keep on climbing to the hill in front of you which is actually the Sangaoka Park. Eventually, there will be a clinic on your right along the road. Around there, the slope becomes more mountain-like (but completely paved) and at the end of a short climb is another road with pedestrian crossing. Over there you’ll find a sign saying “Entrance to Ajisai Park.” Bingo. Enter that narrow, but paved climbing residential road which ends at the stone wall of the foot of Sangaoka Park. On your left, we can figure out the sign “Entrance to Ajisai Route.” ¡Adelante! This entrance is a kind of neighborhood garden with a view to Sagami Bay. In today’s itinerary, there is only one toilet which is at this entrance. If you need, please do not miss your chance here. Entering the forest, the road is immediately climbing up with steep steps for about 200m. This is the route shortest to the top of Mt. Ohmine-yama of ASL 143m. If you climb the hill in stride, it takes less than 20 minutes to the peak. As the entrance of the course is about ASL 25m, we gain more than 100m of altitude in 20 minutes’ time. 

Delicatessen Asahiya Beef
A clinic on your right
The sign to “Ajisai Park”
Find that sign. It’s the entrance to Ajisai Route.
Entering, the road soon diverges in two.
 To toilet please take right.
It ends with a community garden with lots of Hydrangea macrophylla.
 The place was once for Hirayama Hotel of Hayama established in 1893.
 The hotel was built in a European colonial style
 and a base camp for vacationing expats of 100 years ago.
 It was there until 1978.
From the garden, we have a nice view of Sagami Bay 相模湾.
 spring haze covers Mt. Fuji that was supposed to be in front of us …
Toilets, or remnant of the hotel.
Going back to the trekking road.
 All the 3 entrances of Sangaokayamaryokuchi Park
 have a small transparent box for us
 to pick up a map of the park.
 They also have storage for walking poles.
 The system is, we use one of those,
 and return it at another gate when we leave.
Up, up, up …
And the road becomes relatively spacy mountain ridge
 (compared with the other ridge ways of the Park).
And another (several) steep climbs …
approaching to the top of Mt. Ohmine-yama (ASL 143m).
 This park really has many picnic benches ... 
With a view.
 We can observe Shin’nase fishing port
真名瀬漁港 down there.

For Shin’nase course, please get off the bus at Shin’nase Stop 真名瀬 next to Morito-jinja Stop. Walking 50m or so to the south, on your left there is a Torii gate that was an entrance to Kumano Shrine 熊野神社 of Shin’nase Fishing Village. Through a narrow community road, we reach to the sanctuary of Kumano Shrine, where on the right of the shrine building there is a sign saying “Shin’nase Route, this way.” The route climbs up rapidly with steep steps along a narrow ridge way. In the middle there is a metallic gate coming up from the valley with a notice “Tsunami escape route.” Wow. People of Hayama Town must have prepared to conquer these cliffs in backyard if emergency happens …For about 10 to 15 minutes’ climb we reach to an open space, named Nishimine Open Forest 西峰疎林広場, which is a beginning of more leisurely walk on the ridge of Sangaokayama. The open space has a name plate saying “the place is open to the public thanks to the generosity of Kajima Family,” the founder and the largest shareholder of Kajima Co.  Oh, soooooooooooooo Hayama. From the ridgeway of Shin’nase course to the top of Mt. Ohmine-yama, we can observe Sagami Bay and Mt. Fuji to the left, and Pacific Ocean to the right. About 200m from the Nishimine Open Forest, there is a view point to Sagami Bay. The shape of Mt. Kintoki 金時山 is clearly recognizable from here. In May, chic rearing birds are very busy singing along the way. Lots of lesser cuckoos somewhere around me … in about 20 minutes or so from the open space, we reach to the top of Mt. Ohmine-yama.

The torii that we can find from the bus stop.
At the end of the road is Shin’nase Kumano Shrine.
 Every May 15th,
 they dedicated a special Kagura Dance
神楽 to show gratitude to the protection of
 the god of Kumano Gon’gen
The entrance to Shin’nase course of Sangaokayama Park
The escape route from tsunami
 for Shin’nase community people …
This kind of steps continues for a while to
Nishimine Open Forest.
 The place also has several picnic benches.
A typical ridgeway of Hayama area.
 Both sides are tumbling down.
 I think this part is relatively wide.
A view to Sagami Bay.
 Spring in Kanagawa is always like this …
 a bit hazy even in very sunny day.
 Mt. Fuji should be in the center of this photo!
And we have arrived at the peak of Mt. Ohmine-yama.

From the top of Mt. Ohmine-yama to the foot of the hill, we now descend via Tsutsuji (Rhododendron) course. Distance-wise it is the longest in today’s itinerary, but I found the easiest as its road is not that steep nor narrow as the other two courses. The road continues leisurely with ups and downs, with a feel of deeper forest than the other two courses. I later checked to confirm that the road runs certainly a bit horizontally further from the towns down there ... but that’s not the only reason of its secludedness … The route has two more viewing points, and after the second point named Higashimine Open Space 東峰広場 it goes down steadily to the foot of the hill. The end (or beginning) of Tsutsuji course is Isshiki 一色 residential area. Just going forward in a narrow but paved road between houses, we come to the beautifully wide National Route 134 where on your right is a walled pine forest with a wide gate and a police. Yes. It’s Hayama Imperial Villa. 

To Tsutsuji course from the top of Mt. Ohmine-yama,
 let’s simply go straight from Shin’nase course.
In general Tsutsuji course is gentler than the other two.
A picnic table at the first viewing point
 from Mt. Ohmmine-yama in Tsutsuji course.
And the view of Sagami Bay from there …
From the second viewing point,
 the route goes down in honest.
Almost to the goal …
all in all the forest of Sangaoka has a light-touch
 even if the forest itself is deep
 along Tsutsuji course such as here.
A photo taken from the outside of the gate for Tsustuji course.
Soon we come to a utility road of Isshiki Community of Hayama.
We come out from the road on the right of this photo.
 A small cake shop on the left is Hayama Lemon Tree
 famous for her donuts and cheese cakes.
 Some celebrities drive from Tokyo to bring the sweets home.
The nearest bus stop from
 Tsutsuji course gate is
 Kyu-Yakuba-Mae Stop
A bit further down to the sea is Hayama Isshiki Post Office.
 Wow, the building looks like a café, but it’s a post office …
And over there is Hayama Imperial Villa.

Until 1945, from there to the current Museum of Modern Art, the Imperial Villa occupied the beach side far larger than now, and hence contributed to the wider and deeper forest in Tsutsuji course of Sangaokayama. As such, if you exit from Sangaoka Park from Tsutsuji course gate, you will meet with fashionable cafes, restaurants, or even apparel boutiques along Route 134. Bonus: take a narrow road along the wall of Imperial Villa to the sea, and before you is Hayama Isshiki Beach 葉山一色海岸. We people in Kanagwa secretly know this is the best beach in the entire Sagami Bay. Imperial Family traditionally has several marine biologists and this is their research field. Inevitably, the water is very clean, and the town ordinance controls the usage of the beach not for party of summer nudists. You can enjoy relaxing and far-quieter sun bathing during summer. If you still have time you can visit Hayama Shiosai Park 葉山しおさい公園, next to the Imperial Villa, where they preserve old Imperial buildings in which Emperor Hirohito was crowned at the time of his father’s death. Next to Shiosai Park is the Museum of Modern Art of Kanagawa Prefecture whose curators regularly organize interesting exhibitions that are certainly not for downtown Tokyo. And the view of Mt. Fuji from Isshiki Beach is (if you can see) straight from ukiyoe of Hokusai. Hayama is the town of Japanese royals, both its sea and mountain of deep but light forests.

If we take a small alley along the Imperial Villa,
 we will come to 
Hayama Isshiki Beach
The gate to Hayama Shiosai Park.
 Admission: 300 yen for adult, 150 yen for kids.
And next to Hayama Shiosai Park is
 Museum of Modern Arts in Hayama.

If you find problems in Sangaokayama of Hayama, please make a contact to

Yugawara Town Hall 葉山町役場
Phone: 046-876-1111