Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry merry hello from Yokohama Forest!

Quiet, quiet December night in Satoyama
Acorns fall on our kitchen door
Mother and I alone
Cook chestnuts over our hearth

Bright, bright December stars in the sky
Travelling ducks are calling over the night
I munch chestnuts,
And remember the smile,
That bright smile of Father

Goodbye to the island of coconuts
Father is coming home in a rolling ship.
Father, please be safe,
Mother and I are waiting for you. 

December in Satoyama (1945), by Nobuo Saitoh

Happy Holidays! J
Naomi Yokohama Forests

Friday, December 18, 2015

The pond and the people: Segami Citizen Forest 瀬上市民の森

About a month ago, I chatted with one of my friends who lives near the Citizen Forests Complex in the south of Yokohama. The conversation went like, “Now the season of autumn is approaching …” “Yeah …” “Forests will be beautiful, won’t they?” “Yeah …” “I envy you. It’ll be a fun to walk in the Forests near your home …” “Oh, NO! People are flocking to my beloved places! Congestion!” I thought he was exaggerating the situation. Well, Segami Citizen Forest is certainly not Yokohama Station, but I found many, something of Kanazawa Zoo level, are coming to enjoy the place, even though the road along the Segami Pond is closed due to maintenance works. The 48 ha Forest occupies western part of 4 Citizen Forests + Nature Sanctuary + Zoo Complex in the south of the City of Yokohama. It has a trekking road system of 6 km with 5 picnic open spaces (and one toilet). The Forest became Citizen Forest in 1979 so that it is a well-established Citizen Forest. Depending on your itinerary, you can enjoy your whole day in the Forest, or make the place as an entry point to Hitorizawa Citizen Forest 氷取沢市民の森 to the east, or to Kanazawa Citizen Forest 金沢市民の森 + Nature Sanctuary 横浜自然観察の森 in the south.  In 1988, the entire area was chosen as one of the 50 beautiful forests in Kanagawa Prefecture. No wonder it is a popular hiking destination among locals.

As this map shows, the trekking road system of Segami Forest is something like centric Paris. A quasi-circular ridgeway delineates Segami Forest from the residential Higashi-Kamigoh town, Hitorizawa Forest, and Kanazawa Forest. The center of the Forest is Segami Pond 瀬上池 that collects all the water from the surrounding valleys and releases it to the north as Segami-sawa 瀬上沢 that is a tributary of Itachi River いたち川. When we descend from any part of the ridgeway, we reach to the Segami Pond. So the access to the Forest from “human world” must reach to the ridgeway first, or go directly to the Segami Pond where a narrow asphalt road reaches from outside. (No parking place, though.) The nearest train station from the direction of Tokyo is JR Kohnandai Station 港南台駅 of Keihin-Tohoku Line. From there, we can walk to the forest, or take a bus of Kanachu Bus 神中バス. By bus, we ride from Kohnandai Station to Komyoji Bus Stop 光明寺バス停 (- Minato-35, 36, 37, 40, 85, 86: time table here, here, here, here, here, and here) next to Momijibashi Stop もみじ橋バス停 for Kamigoh Forest 上郷市民の森 or Midorigaoka Stop みどりが丘バス停  (- Minato-93 Service: time table here). From Komyoji Stop, find a way to Shirayama Shrine 白山神社 where a road climbs up to the Bato-no-oka Rest Area 馬頭の丘休憩所 (D5) of the west Ridgeway 尾根道 of the Forest. From Midorigaoka Stop, you can either search for Shirayama Shrine, or take The Ridgeway from the beginning that originates at the end of a complex of 8 building condos, about 200 m east from the bus stop. If you choose to visit the Segami Pond directly, first go to Sakae High School 栄高校 from the Konandai Station either on foot or by bus of Minato-85 and 86 services, or Minato-83 service (time table, here). Find a road going south-west from the circular road surrounding the school campus. This road crosses Segami-sawa. Turn left when you meet the stream, and follow the paved road to the end which is the Ikenoshita Plaza 池の下広場 (E3) of the Segami Pond.

Ikenoshita Plaza:
though it is currently a sort of construction area ...
like this.
From Ikenoshita Plaza, entrance to the east ridgeway
A climbing from Ikenoshita Plaza
to the west ridgeway leads us to …
a T-crossing of the Ridgeway (Map point D3).
To the right from D3 is Umanose Rest Area馬の背休憩所 (D2).
D4 point to the Segami Pond is closed now.
Bato-no-oka Rest Area (D5):
this gentleman was having a really big lunch!
A tiny Hayagriiva at Bato-no-oka Rest Area.
It suggests this road was once a commuter road
when people using horses for transportation.
It is an ancient road.
The Ridgeway is a border between
the residential area and the Forest.
A Taiwanese squirrel in the Ridgeway
Miharashidai Rest Area 見晴らし台休憩所(D6) which is …
supposed to be a good viewing spot for Mt. Fuji …
The Ridgeway of the Segami Forest
ends at Baitakusan Rest Area (D7)
The Ridgeway beyond is Kanazawa Forest
we’ll visit later.
To Kanazawa Forest …

Having said that, I recommend you to approach to Segami Forest from the east ridgeway which is a community road cum service road for radio relay stations in Enkaisan Area 円海山. The reason is, before the entrance to the Forest, there is a wonderful spot where we can see from the above the Segami Pond within a deep forest (; the first photo of this post), and later, in a fine day, Mt. Fuji in its elegant feature. In 2005, the place was chosen as one of the 100 best viewingspots for Mt. Fuji in the Kanto region. The approach there is first going to Konandai 5-chome Traffic Light 港南台5丁目信号 which is the nearest Traffic light to Sakae High School. (It’s about 3k from Konandai Station.) When you come to this point from the JR Station, you’ll see Konandai Fire Station 港南台消防署 at the opposite side. Cross the traffic light, and turn right at the corner of the Fire Station. The road is a slow slope and you’ll find a billboard of the familiar map for Enkaisan Area Forest Map ahead of you. There, it is a kind of T-crossing, with one road goes down and another goes up. Take the road up. This road skirts the farmlands around the Segami Forest on the right. Simply keep on going until we reach to the Segami Pond viewing point. (There is a sign saying so.) After enjoying the view, proceed along the road, and on the right we find a Y-crossing which is E1 point of the map.

Konandai 5-chome Traffic Light
Konandai Fire Station. Take right here, then,
Oh, hello.
This way, please.
And keep going …
beyond is the View Point for the Pond.
After the View Point, on the left is
first Konandai-saezurino-oka Park
then the garden of Konandai Hiyodori Housing Complex
We have reached to E1! 

When we take the road on the right at E1, we go down to the Segami Pond which has Dojyomaru Plaza 道場丸広場 in the middle. Before the Plaza on the left is a private farmland behind the trees. Dojyomaru Plaza is a tiny cozy space surrounded by camellia trees with many colors. From there, the route descends down steeply to the Pond. On the other hand when we take the road on the left at E1, we start to see on the right with a wider slope of farmlands. This is the view point for Mt. Fuji. (Here, also has a sign post for it.) Beyond the Mt. Fuji Point huge radio relay stations start to appear on the left. (More for them for Hitorizawa Forests.) The place where we meet the first relay station is A1 of the map. About 50 m into the forest on the other side of the Tower, there is a toilet that is the only toilet for Segami Forest. From the toilet, about 100 m ahead is a crossing with Isshindo Plaza いっしんどう広場 (A2), where 4 roads meet to Hitorizawa Forest to the east, Segami Pond to the west, and to the south Ridgeway. The Ridgeway is a part of popular hiking course called Beetles Trail (; a-hem, yes, it is not “Beatles” Trail). As such, Issindo Plaza is a kind of Shibuya Crossing, Times Square, or Piccadilly Circus for hikers enjoying the Citizen Forests Complex.

To Dojyomaru Plaza
He has an enviable career …
Dojyomaru Plaza

To the left from E1
It was a fine day! Though … where are you Ms. Fuji?
Just proceed …
The toilet for Segami Forest looks
like this.
Isshindo Plaza,
just one chance to take a photo without people!

The nature bulletin for Segami Forest in Isshindo Plaza:
it says at least weasels, small Japanese moles,
and raccoon dogs call the place home.

We return to Beetles Trail when we visit Kanazawa Forest and Hitorizawa Forest. So, today, I just tell you my experience for the roads descending down from the Beetles Trail to Segami Pond. Although Beetles Trail is very popular, and we meet many fellow hikers when we go there, going down to the Pond is a quieter affair. There are 3 roads from the Trail to the Pond, all of which steeply go down. The road from Isshindo Plaza to the Pond is the widest, and probably the least wet.  In the middle of this route is Nakaone Rest Area 中尾根休憩所 (E2) with a bench in the middle of mainly cypresses. The road runs on the ridge descending to the Pond so that here and there both sides are very steep cliffs. The undergrowth changes from shrubs around Isshindo Plaza to lots of ferns near the Ponds. At the bottom, we cross a tiny stream coming out from the Forest and pouring to the Pond. We enter the Ikenoshita Plaza at E5 where currently the maintenance work is taken. A small river starting here is Segami-sawa. The natural environment of the Pond and Segami-sawa has strong volunteer supporters for preservation, named NPO Hotaru-no-furusato Segami-sawa Kikin (NPO Firefly Habitat Segami-sawa Fund ほたるのふるさと瀬上沢基金). They strongly oppose the urban development plan of the area by Tokyu Co. (Yeah, it is the developer that orchestrated the massive house-pasting on the hills of Shishigaya Forest.) Let us see how the movement evolves …

To Nakaone Plaza

The bridge over the stream

To the Pond
The maintenance work, not development, is on-going.
The beginning of Segami-sawa

Due to the maintenance work around the Segami Pond, another two routes from the Beetles Trail presently form a kind of circular route with the Urushikubo Rest Area 漆窪休憩所 (E8) of the southern end of the Pond. Both of them have similar distribution of vegetation as the road started from Isshindo Plaza; near the Ridgeway is of evergreen needle-leaved trees with shrubs, and then with ferns at the bottom. Half the way of the both roads is along the streams so that the routes are far more wet and slippery. The way starting from A5 is steeper, narrower, and along the indigenous habitat where Volunteer Organization Segami Satoyama-mori no Kai 瀬上さとやまもりの会 takes care of. When we reach to the bottom, the place is a tiny wet land nestles in the valley of Segami Forest. The road of wooden decks are prepared for us to enjoy the quiet atmosphere with rustles … wind, trees, fallen leaves, birds, stream … It would be more vivacious during summer with frogs, I guess. At the end of the wooden decks is Urushikubo Rest Area which is currently inaccessible due to the maintenance work. After the completion of the work, we should be able to go to Ikenoue Rest Area (E9) and the Pond from there.

The road from A5 point
going down to the Pond

A water source along the road
This is interesting.

… A Jungle …
And we reach to the bottom.

Urushikubo Rest Area. Hm, OK. We’ll wait.

From Urushikubo Rest Area, We can return to Beetles Trail via Omaru Plaza 大丸広場 (E7) that is along another stream to the Pond. From Urushikubo, first we climb up the somehow drier swamp within a wider valley. After climbing up small steps, on the left is Omaru Plaza with several benches with a view of the Segami Pond. The Plaza spreads along a stream. The trekking road is led by the small natural hedge of moss J, and finally goes into the steps of logs. The road this side between the Pond and the Beetles Trail is drier than the one down to Urushikubo. It seems to me the Volunteers of Lovers of Segami Citizen Forest (Segami Shimin-no-mori Aigokai 瀬上市民の森愛護会) do a good job for thinning and clearing the trekking road for the safety of us. Thank you!

Around the trek to Omaru Plaza

Omaru Plaza
We can see the Pond from Omaru Plaza.

The Segami Pond is like Etoile for Paris in Segami Forest, especially in terms of the water system. Before, when satoyama around the Forest was busy for agriculture, the Pond served as the main water source for the business. E.g. in Jike Forest, Oh-ike 大池, and in Oiwake Forest, Dragonfly Pond とんぼ池. It was an important tradition, called Kaibori かいぼり, all over Japan that once in several years village people cleared such ponds by hands to prevent natural sedimentation since if the ponds were gone, it was the end of agricultural production of the village. This made the water system of Japanese traditional village relatively clean with a larger biodiversity. The current maintenance work for the Pond follows the tradition at least purpose-wise. It started this September and is planned to be completed by the end of the coming March. The work is to dredge the Pond, to study the current habitat of the system, and to improve the trekking roads and the rest areas around the Pond. Along the way, the City is capturing invasive species that drive the natives into extinction. Last week, on December 12th, there was a session for Kaibori, open for the public to see how the work goes. (I knew it just this week.) I think in near future the City can disclose what they have found during the procedure in the Pond.

Segami Pond from Urushikubo Rest Area,
taken with a selfie stick

If you find a problem in the Forest, or want to call Volunteers, please make a contact with

Office for the Park Greeneries in the South 南部公園緑地事務所
Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局
Phone: 045-831-8484 (I guess in Japanese only)

FAX: 045-831-9389 (I hope there is somebody who can read English …)