So here are some basics to enjoy the Forest, according to my experience. ;-)
Yokohama is a city, but Citizen Forest is a country-side. So, don’t come with your pin heels to the forest, but with the most comfortable walking shoes. Some places even beg mountain shoes to walk. All in all, the attire in a Citizen Forest is for hiking. For example,
What to bring
When available, I link each report of a Forest to the official site for its map (though it is in Japanese). You can download it from there. For hard copies, each City Ward Office distributes the maps of Citizen Forests (er, well, in Japanese). It would be worth visiting them. Also, some large Citizen Forests have Administrative Office that serves as a Visitor Center where we can have the maps as well.
In case you’ve lost your way in a dark forest, having a compass could be useful. For your Japanese shopping experience …
|Lots of Choices here and there ...|
By the way, carrying a compass even around Tokyo Station might be a wise move. When in March 11, 2011 the Great Tohoku Earthquake made metropolitan Tokyo dark, many people had to figure out which way home where familiar scenes of neon-signs and traffic lights disappeared. Knowing the direction of your way is always useful even in a urban jungle.
C. Food and trash bags
It is very easy to find a convenience store just next to an entrance of the Forest.
|Lawson Near Miho Forest|
But, inside, no shop or cafe. BBQ is prohibited either. Bring your own packed lunch and lots of drinks. There are no trash-bins in the forest. All the garbage must be removed by ourselves.
D. Toiletries with towels
The majority of Citizen Forests have picnic areas with benches and toilets.
|In Bugenji Forest|
Normally toilets have toilet papers, but the washing basins lack soap and towels in general. Japanese drugstores, Tokyu Hands, Don Quijote, Muji, or Lofts, have cute portable soap and hand-sanitizing products. Some of them are called Kami-sekken (paper soap, or soap films).
|At Tokyu Hands, that blue package is Kami-sekken. Next to them are portable soaps in tube.|
|At Muji. Middle 2 tubes are hand-sanitiser and cream soap, respectively. Kami-sekken is in 2 rows on the right of the tubes. Muji’s version is with a refill option; it’s a good idea!|
The other is “soap tablet.”
|Actually, these tiny soaps can be used for washing our entire body so that using them only for hands can be overkill.|
|Come to think of it, we can use small bottles for carrying liquid soap.|
Enjoy your shopping!
What (not) to do in the Forest
If you are a trail-runner, the Forests provide an ideal training ground. On the other hand, off-road running/biking is prohibited in the Citizen Forest. Please do not deviate from the provided road in the forest; both side of the promenade is full of fauna and flora that should be preserved. Your shoes and foot of your dog attached with alien matters could damage the forest. i.e. We must keep the lead to the dogs in the forest.
In the same spirit, please do not take away any of those ferns or animals you find cute there. They are the part of the Citizen Forest. Everybody must be able to enjoy their company at their forest home … What is for sure is, thanks to the endeavor of citizens of Yokohama, the natural habitat of Citizen Forests becomes more and more rich and attractive to many forms of theft. People are saying professionals come to the Citizen Forest, collect their bounty, and run away via Yokohama IC of Expressways. (True, some of the Parks are just 20 minutes car ride from Ginza.) The city and the police are receiving many reports such as “This morning, we have found our beautiful colony of orchids has gone,” or “It seems to us last night, somebody came to catch all the identified larvae of rare butterflies by cutting the known bushes of their habitat in such-a-such corner of the Forest.” Some Parks have prepared “Yellow Card” notice for visitors asking to call the offices if we find something fishy during our stroll. I’ll tell you the relevant phone numbers for each Park.
|Yellow Card from Niiharu Forest|
Also, no loud music or commotion such as playing ball games in Yokohama Citizen Forest, please. Yokohama is a big city. Right next to a Citizen Forest is often an ordinary residential area where loud noise is a taboo.
By the way, basically Citizen Forests do not have official parking space. (Though some have small “unofficial” parking lots open only for weekends thanks to the understanding of the neighbors of the Forest.) Let’s enjoy punctuality of Japanese public transport system to visit Yokohama Citizen Forest!
Forest is a dark place when there is no sunshine. A Citizen Forest is open from sun rise till sun set.
From around May to the end of October, there could be nests of hornets in Yokohama Citizen Forests. During the season, it is common for us to hear local news saying that groups of people are attacked by hornets in the Citizen Forests.
So, if you encounter them issuing a peculiar menacing sound, leave the place ASAP. Their territory is about 10m of diameter from their nest. It is often said that perfume and black garment enhance the aggressiveness of wasps; a moral of the story is, you do not have to be cool in Yokohama Citizen Forest. In case you are assaulted by them, call 119 (emergency rescue number in Japan) immediately and leave the place promptly towards the nearby road accessible for vehicles. Carrying Epinephrine autoinjector could be a good idea.
During summer, Gloydius blomhoffii (mamushi) slithers actively in the fields and forests of Yokohama (whether it is Citizen Forest or not).
Its bite can be lethal. The best protection against mamushi is walking with sound. In the supply stores of mountaineering in Japan, we can buy bells to issue warnings to mamushi (and bear).
But if we make sound when walking with walking sticks or the like, it would be enough to tell mamushi that we are approaching. Mamushi is a gentle creature. They do not attack us unless we make them surprise. Anyway, don’t deviate from the promenade in the Citizen Forests. That bush beyond the corner ahead of you could be home for venomous vipers. In case you are bitten, call 119 and take a rest at the place; when you move around, your heart pumps the venom all over your body. The standard treatment of a bite is an injection of medical serum within 6 hours of the incident. Citizen Forest is not that big. Call 119, and tell the rescuer exactly where you are (… preferably in Japanese).
For your lawyers …
The official rules of the usage of Yokohama Citizen Forest横浜市市民の森の利用に関する要綱can be found here (in Japanese, so sorry …).
In short, it says,
<Rules of Yokohama Citizen Forest>
Before entering the Forest
ü Wear clothes (including shoes, bag, and hat/cap) suitable for trekking.
ü Bring your own drinks and foods.
ü No ball games.
ü Preserve quietness of the forest.
ü Do not remove/bring in fauna and/or flora.
ü Keep the lead of your pet.
ü The park can be entered only between sun rise and sun set.
ü Take home your trash.
ü Keep the designated route; do not deviate into the habitat of the forest.
ü No usage of fire in whatever form.
ü Do not trash.
Let’s enjoy our adventure, then! ^o^