Friday, May 29, 2015

Porridge, FIFA World Cup, and Shinkansen: Kumanojinja Citizen Forest 熊野神社市民の森

As Tokyu Toyoko Line 東急東横線 connects Shibuya and Yokohama, it is a fashionable commuter line. One of the “trendy” stations of Toyoko Line is Okurayama 大倉山. The west of the station has several cute patisseries and restaurants. This side also has Okurayama Park 大倉山公園 where its plum blossom party in every early March has been famous since its inception of 1931. The east of the Station is more ordinary, urban, and residential. KumanojinjaCitizen Forest 熊野神社市民の森 is on this side. (Map here.) 5.3 ha of Kumanojinja Forest joined the family of Citizen Forests in 1980.

Get out of the Station from its east exit, we can find a small alley (where a vegan restaurant resides) beyond the area map signpost. Go into this way forward, up then down the steep slope (actually, below your feet around here is a tunnel for Tokaido Shinkansen, which I will mention later), to meet Tsunashima Street 綱島街道. Go north Tsunashima Street and soon there is a bus stop and a traffic signal both of which are named Kumanojinja Iriguchi (“Entrance to Kumanojinja” 熊野神社入口). The other side of the crossing at Kumanojinja Iriguchi traffic light has a large stone signpost saying Moro’oka Kumanojinja 師岡熊野神社. We take the road running northeast from this signpost. Soon on the left there is a temple, Hokkeji 法華寺, and the next to this temple is Kumanojinja 熊野神社, the beginning of our Forest.

An area map in the east exit of Okurayama Station
If you miss vegan food …
Tsunashima Street
Bus Stop. The traffic light is over there.
Stone signpost.
Moro’oka Kumanojinja

If you travel around Japan, you may notice there are lots of Kumanojinja. It’s a franchise of Shito Shrine whose HDQ is in Wakayama Prefecture 和歌山県. For a brief explanation of Kumanojinja’s historical “business” expansion, please see here (in Japanese). Kumanojinja here was established in 885 AD by Emperor Kohkoh 光孝天皇. As it is ancient, its influence remains in names of towns in Yokohama. E.g. Oguchi 大口, a name of a town and a JR station next to Kikuna 菊名, was taken from the name of an official pants, Oguchibakama 大口袴, wore by Imperial Envoy for this Kumanojinja. The Shrine has a small museum containing historical artifacts of itself and the neighboring community (RSVP; Admission, 200 yen for adults, 100 for kids).
Kumanojinja Main Shrine
No-no-ike Spring 「の」の池 at the back of the main shrine
Toilet at Kumanojinja

It is said that their annual festival on January 14, Tsutsugayu-shinji 筒粥神事, began in 949. The event is one of those traditional Japanese agricultural prayers to predict happenings of a year, done all over Japan. In Moro’oka Kumanojinja version, the priests prepare rice porridge in a huge rice cooker using water from No-no-ike Spring, the spring back of the main shrine. They insert empty and open bamboo or reed containers before boiling rice. Naturally some rice float in the bamboo during the cooking. When the porridge is done, the priests read the way the rice is in the container. You can see how it is done hereAnybody can join this ritual, starting at 14:00. Added bonus for the spectators; the shrine distribute the cooked rice to the people attended the ceremony. The porridge is said to have a magical power to fend off flu of the year as a kind of mystically subsidized flu shot. The prediction for 2015 is displayed here: it seems to me the harvest for 2015 is not bad, but not so good either. The general prediction for 2015 is “Well enough.” OK-dokay.

Kumanojija Forests contains several historical remains. One of them is I-no-ike pond 「い」の池 in front of the Shrine that becomes a protagonist for another festival of Kumanojinja every August. The pond could be very old and used for irrigation to rice paddies since the 8th century or so. Now it is home of Water God and lots of sun-bathing turtles.

I-no-ike pond

Back of I-no-ike is a small hill, Shikisaka Hiroba 式坂広場, here Imperial Envoy did official rite before entering the Shrine. This tiny hill is also a part of the Kumanojinja Citizen Forest. Despite of its steep slopes, it’s a piece of cake to walk.

From the pond, the steep steps lead us to
Shikisaka Hiroba.

The way around Shikisaka Hiroba

The back of the main Shrine is another part of the Forest with an steep slope leading to Gongenyama Hiroba (“Gongenyama Space” 権現山広場). The hill is a typical Shasoh-rin 社叢林, or forest village shrine 鎮守の森. Japanese have been finding something to assimilate to the place for a long time. In Gongenyama Hiroba, there is a kitchen midden, Moro’oka Kaizuka 師岡貝塚, of about 10,000 BC which tells us our ancestors had their daily life here.

The slope to Gongenyama Hiroba
Gongenyama Hiroba with picnic tables.
We can enjoy the view of ordinary urban residential area from here.
Moro’oka Kaizuka.
The excavation was completed in 1994.
The area is now covered for protection.

So far, Moro’oka Kumanojinja sounds like a well-established spiritual place to pray. Er, well, this shrine is also famous among local athletes to pray for a good result in their competition. I know at least one official cheer leading troop of a college 某大学体育会応援団 brought their school banner to the Shrine to be “purified” for successfully supporting a season of inter-collegiate championships. There is a reason; please see this coat of arms of Kumanojinja franchise;

It is a 3-legged crow that is a sacred bird that led the way when the legendary first Emperor, Jinmu, 神武天皇 to conquer and build a country of Japan. And here is the emblem of Japan Football Association. Of course, Kumanojinja is the first and JFA borrows the legend. Anyway, as this Kumanojinja is nicely located very near to Nissan Stadium, the venue for 2002 FIFA World Cup Final, lots of soccer funs visit this Shrine to ask victory for their team to the three-legged crow. For their convenience, the Shrine sells the talisman for soccer. (They also accept internet orders worldwide. For your spiritual and soccer experience, please visit here! No FBI investigation necessary!)

I don’t know if this talisman is valid to cheer for the Brazilian side.
Guardian Lion Dog狛犬at the entrance of Moro’oka Kumanojinja.
It is NOT an official World Cup Match Ball.
Guardian Lion Dogs always have a ball all over the world!
It’s a pre-era Chinese invention.

In addition, the product line of omikuji おみくじ by this Shrine is substantial. According to your aesthetics, you can choose omikuji and its accompanied talismans. You love cats? There is omikuji that comes with Manekineko. Do you like a kitsch version of Japanese traditional lucky charms? No problem. On budget? Of course, there is the simplest version of 100 yen …

Omikuji Booth in Moro’oka Kumanojinja

Returning to the map of the Forest, you may have noticed 5 ha of Kumanojinja Citizen Forest is divided in 3 parts by roads and residential areas. 2 sections are directly connected to Kumanojinja. The third part is a bit away, and has the majority of 1.7 km of roads in the Forest. Considering the historical background of Kumanojinja, I guess the larger area was owned by Kumanojinja before it became Citizen Forest in 1980. Between the Shrine and the larger part of the Forest, there is a community of residences. Somebody developed this area for housing before 1980.

I found a notice board of the Residents’ Association along the way from Kumanojinja. Dated November 2014, the President of the Association notified to his/her neighbor that the Association had a meeting with JR Tokai concerning the noise and vibration caused by Shinkansen Bullet Trains. According to the communication, the vibrations would be due to the aging of the tunnel so that JR Tokai is currently engaging in the upgrades of tracks and related machineries underground. “Please be patient, and we keep you informed for every communication we have with JR Tokai.” … Shinkasen of this part began its service in 1964. When did the people move in here?

The residences with vibe.
Ahead is our destination Forest.

Coming from Kumanojinja, the larger part of the Forest first has only one road. Simply keep going, and we eventually come to Tenshinhira Hiroba (“Tenshinhira Open Space” 天神平広場). This space has lots of picnic tables, and 3 roads to go out of the Forest. You can also hear a humming of Shinkansen Trains coming and going every 5 minutes or so …

The Forest entering from the direction of Kumanojinja
Soon we will find the road sign.
Just go strait,
to visit the backside of this residential area,
and finally to meet Tenshinhira Hiroba
with lots of picnic tables.

It seems to me Tenshinhira Hiroba is frequented by locals a lot. The entire space and the surrounding road have a compacted soil … a kind of sign for urban desertification. At the corner of the Hiroba there is a sign by the Forest administrator begging the visitors, “Please mind the steps. Trees cannot move, but you can.” Hmmmmmmmmmm

For spoiled urbanites, pls be kind to the nature.

The end of this part of the Forest is another Shrine, Sugiyamajinja 杉山神社. According to Kanagawa Shrine Agency 神奈川神社庁 website, it was once an abandoned shrine with the village forest behind (ah-ha). The current structure is rebuilt in 2002-2005. I thought it makes sense … a compacted soil in the Forest, the begging notice, a brand-new shrine, shaken residences, Shinkansen …

The Brand-new Sugiyamajinja

If you find a problem in the Park, please make a contact with

Office for the Park Greeneries in the North 北部公園緑地事務所
Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局
Phone: 045-311-2016 (I guess in Japanese only)
FAX: 045-316-8420 (I hope there is somebody who can read English …)

No comments:

Post a Comment