Thursday, April 9, 2015

Introduction to Niiharu Citizen Forest 新治市民の森

NiiharuCitizen Forest 新治市民の森
Niiharu Citizen Forest 新治市民の森can be reached by about 15 minutes’ walk from Tokaichiba十日市場 Station of JR Yokohama Line. Tokaichiba Station is next from Nagatsuta 長津田Station where JR and Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line 東急田園都市線connect.

Den-en-toshi Line has been one of the main drivers for Kanagawa Prefecture to be bed towns of Tokyo. Tokyu Corporation has been the leading advocate in Japan for the idea of Ebenezer Howard, the giant of modern city planning. Simply put, Tokyu’s idea was (1) to build a commuter service which connects country-sides and the center of Tokyo, and (2) around the new train station in the countryside to construct new towns with modern and fashionable housing complex for commuters, then (3) to repeat this until the train line reaches to a too faraway place for ordinary people to contemplate to commute every morning. True, the idea has transformed many communities as drivers for economic development where otherwise they could remain at a sleepy farming village. The latest success story for Den-en-toshi Line may be the industrial complex around Futako-Tamagawa Station 二子玉川(“NikoTama”) where lots of companies from Silicon Valley chose to locate their Japanese HDQ. Before, the area was just a town with farms and houses mingled along Tama River. Now the station boasts housing skyscrapers for the techies to report daily to their office.

When Den-en-toshi Line reached to Nagatsuta, Tokaichiba area was destined to be developed for bed towns of Tokyo. Niiharu Citizen Forest occupies the area of 67.2 ha. When it became Citizen Forest in March 2000, the landlords of the area formed a group and made an agreement with the city to preserve their traditional landscape against the ever-approaching housings for Tokyonites (; they have a Japanese moniker, “Yokohama Tomin横浜都民,” meaning, “they sleep in Yokohama, but in the end they are Tokyonite”).

Tokaichiba is a new JR station. It opened for business in April 1979. Now its two Squares (North and South) lead us to familiar chain stores such as Macdonald’s, supermarkets, and the like. We exit the Station to the South Square, and proceed strait-ahead along a pedestrian promenade between a drugstore and a fitness center. If you need food, drinks, and any other things to enjoy your walk in Niiharu Forest, you can finish your shopping somewhere here.

Then, we find a narrow flyover ahead. Toyota dealership is below the overpass, along the main pathway which meets with Route 246 near Nagatsuta Station. Over the flyover, there is a gigantic new housing complex called Tokaichiba Hill Town with a post office and an elementary school. Keep going and beyond the traffic light named Tokaichiba Shogakko (elementary school), we meet a T crossing at Asahigaoka Kindergarten あさひが丘幼稚園. Turn left; on the left, the housing complex, and on the light, ordinary detached houses and small shops. When we find Building Number 4-4 of Tokaichiba Hill Town on the left, there is a small pathway on the right between discreet houses, with also a small billboard saying “Niiharu Citizen Forest, This Way” in (of course) Japanese. Just few steps from there, in front of you, Niiharu Citizen Forest, the biggest of Citizen Forest in Yokohama, is waiting for you. 

Map of Niiharu Citizen Forest is here (Japanese). Niiharu has 3 main buildings for visitors. One is Administrative Office 管理事務所 where we can have information about Niiharu Citizen Forest including maps, and the Citizen Forest system in general.

Inside, it has a small library, some rental toys made of materials from the forest, and a tiny souvenir shop with potpourri and others made of Niiharu Forest.

For winter when you’d like to stay to browse the books …
We can also find two maps just outside of the Office showing the Niiharu Forest, so visiting this tiny house could be useful to acquaint yourself with the Forest.


The office coordinates the activities of citizen volunteers for Niiharu Forest, and distributes the flyers. The planned events at Niiharu for April-May 2015 are

April 1              2 hour walk for Niiharu Satoyama (200 yen, RSVP)
April 4              A concert for Japanese harp (free)
April 12            Kids’ Adventure Program in Satoyama (1st event of 3 sessions, 1000 yen for  3 sessions to kids, 2000 yen for an adult; RSVP)
April 13-15       Bottling of hand-made soy sauce (with serving a rice cake dipped in the      fresh shoyu for 100 yen)
April 15            Craft salon for local ladies (free)
April 18            New volunteer orientation for preserving Satoyama (free)
                        Story-telling party for kids (free)
April 25            Herb gardening class (free). Theme: Tropaeolum majus
                        Spring Concert by Wind Orchestra of Tokaichiba Junior High School
                        Nagayamon 長屋門Farmer’s Market serving bamboo shoots miso soup for shoppers
May 2              A concert for Japanese harp (free)
May 5              BBQ party (need reservation; 2000 yen per group, RSVP)
May 6              2 hour walk for flowers and butterflies of Niiharu (200 yen, RSVP)
May 7              Bamboo weaving class (the 1st class of 10 sessions; 19,000 yen for the entire course, RSVP)
May 10            Soba noodle making lesson (2,000 yen, RSVP)
                        Kids’ Adventure Program in Satoyama (2nd event of 3 sessions)
May 12/19/26  Chamomile Tea making (200 yen)
May 12/19       Natural Dye lesson for silk with Chamomile (2,000 yen, RSVP)
May 16            Story-telling party for kids (free)
May 17            Cooking class for making Kashiwa-mochi かしわ餅(; seasonal sweet rice cake with bean cream; 2,000 yen, RSVP)
                        Kids’ Research Adventure for the nature of Umeda River 梅田川(free, RSVP; I will write about Umeda River in a different post.)
May 20            Craft salon for local ladies (free)
May 23            Herb gardening class (free). Theme: Chamomile
June 3             Let’s play in Yato; discover your inner Haiku master!
June 6             Kids’ Adventure Program in Satoyama (3rd event of 3 sessions)
June 7             Let’s grow your own satsuma-imo; planting the cuttings (1st event of 4 sessions; 3,000 yen for each group, inclusive for the right to bring home the harvest and the cost of cooking lessons in the final session, RSVP)


In addition to these, Niiharu Forest has regular events such as
ü  Volunteering activities every Thursday and  2nd and 4th Sunday for maintaining the Forest (with bonus; when you join the activities 4 times, you’ll awarded 500 yen ticket usable at Nagayamon Farmer’s Market)
ü  Nagayamon Farmer’s Market 長屋門朝市for every Saturday morning
ü  Open Herb Garden for every Tuesday morning

A staff: their uniform is an arrangement of traditional working clothing of monks. Cute.
If you are interested in any of these events (and others), you can make a contact with the office at
Phone: 045-931-4947
Fax: 045-937-0898

I guess, although they may be shy in speaking English, they will try reading your email or fax even if it's in English. ;-)

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