Saturday, May 9, 2015

Walk from Zoorasia to Niiharu / Miho Citizen Forests

When we combine the area for Niiharu 新治 and Miho 三保 Citizen Forests 市民の森 with Yokohama Zoorasia and Shikinomori Park 県立四季の森公園, it becomes a large are of forest in the northern Yokohama. Actually, it is a designated area for maintaining the cohabitation of traditional Satoyama and newer residential area. It is required to obtain a permit from the Mayor of the City when in the area anybody tries to build / redesign any architecture, to cut / harvest vegetation and soils, and to use an open space for anything. That’s why we find the scenery here so different from the downtown Yokohama. 

We can plan a full-day hiking to cover all the area starting from Shikinomori Park or Zoorasia. This time, I write about a route from Zoorasia to Niiharu / Miho Forest.  

From the bus terminal of Zoorasia, we can start to walk to the north along the well-manicured road. Actually it is the road along the Zoorasia parking so that we can sometimes hear the voices of animals (human included) and birds from Zoorasia. In the middle of it there is a superbly clean toilet with washing soap. Finishing the necessary things there, we proceed further along the drive way. The opposite side from Zoorasia is a planned site for another Forest park of the City.

From Zoorasia bus terminal to the north, it’s a beautiful boulevard all year around.
There is a small entrance to the botanical side, actually. I’ll write about this place later.

The Forest is a partner of Zoorasia. Together they will be called as Yokohama Animal Forest Park, which has the concept, “co-habitation of every living creature – nature’s harmony.” Contrasting to Zoorasia, it is planned to be a kind of botanical garden that preserves traditional Japanese forest. This forest welcomes annual out-side art exhibition by young artist all over the world. (I will create an independent entry for this forest later.) We just walk along the drive way and eventually find the huge parking space for Zoorasia at the end of the road. Just before the parking, on the left, is a recycle plant of green waste from municipal parks, operated as a public-private project between City of Yokohama and Yokohama Green Project Cooperative. Seeing from the entrance gate of the plant, you can find a small entry way on the right of the parking gate to the planned forest park. Let’s dig in.  

Recycle Plant entry
The entrance to the Forest has this sign.

Just 30 m or so from the gate into the forest, we’ll see several installations created during the previous exhibitions. Looking these on the right, proceed to the way on the left, downward. Whenever you find parting ways, always choose the left one. Eventually we’ll find the end of the parking lot of Zoorasia on the left beyond the caged fence. From here, the way becomes graveled road, then a paved way.

An installation in a previous art exhibition
Proceeding this way, we reach to …
a gravel road, and
the bottom of Zoorasia parking lot.

Sometimes, you’ll see a biker or two coming into this road. In late autumn, leaves turn their color yellow and red between the beautiful bamboos. By the way, this part of forest is so natural that especially during spring and summer there are nests of vespinae and gloydius blomhoffii, both of them can be deadly when you are bitten. Also, the point of having a city forest park is to preserve the precious vegetation in the modern city, including the tiny floras on the ground. If we stomp our feet over them, they can die. When you venture into the off-road, please do it at your own discretion and decency.

Fall in Satoyama

Keeping strolling down for 5 more minutes or so, we eventually see roofs of houses, many of them are traditional Japanese kind. It is Miho 三保 community, whose historic name was Umeda-yato 梅田谷戸. The area preserves the traditional village atmosphere. There are very few “newly developed” housing units in Miho. Many houses maintain traditional design of Japanese village with large front yard which was for chores of large farming family.

We come out of the forest-village and find a commuter bus stop Umeda 梅田. There is a large map for the area at the bus stop. In front of you, there is Lawson, a convenience store. If you are hungry, you can get your lunch here to bring it to Miho or Niiharu Citizen Forests.

Umeda Bus Stop

Turn left along the bus route, cross at the traffic light over a tiny road going to JSAT Office, Toyo Eiwa University Campus 東洋英和女学院, and the Niiharu Forest weekend parking space. Further ahead, first you’ll find a billboard for horse launch, Avalon Hillside Farm. Passing the billboard, now you’ll meet the bus stop for Miho Forest Park (Miho Shimin-no-Mori) with the shelter.

Traffic light to JSAT, Toyo Eiwa, and Niiharu parking
After the traffic light, on the right, the huge antenna for satellite is poking into the sky.
The next bus stop from Umeda to Miho Forest is Umeda-Yato.
Finding the billboard for the Avalon ...
and we arrive at Miho Shimin-no-mori Bus Stop.

To Niiharu Citizen Forest, we turn right at Umeda Bus Stop. Keep walking along the bus route for less than 10 minute, we find a beginning of pedestrian promenade along Umeda River 梅田川, parting from the bus lane. Although the local kids may venture into this way on their bike, it is basically for strollers to enjoy a relaxed walk with seasonally changing scenery along the river.

The beginning of the pedestrian promenade
Early spring along the river is full of cherry blossoms and thunbery spireas …
and early summer is for enjoying river.

Before reaching to Niiharu Elementary School 新治小学校, there are two basins for flood control. The place is located in the valley of Yaman’me Yama やまんめ山 and Mukebara 向ヶ原 of Niiharu Forest. It becomes a kind of bathing place for birds living and coming to Niiharu Citizen Forest. Early morning, there also could be enthusiastic photographers to catch a glimpse of natural birds.

A bird and a bird watcher in the basin
We can walk along the promenade, and find Niiharu Administrative Office beyond the Niiharu Elementary School. Ahead along the promenade is a small bridge and Ippon-basi-Medaka Hiroba 一本橋めだか広場 where local elementary schools have science classes for learning nature and cohabitation. The way goes to the confluence of Umeda River and Onda River 恩田川 some 1km ahead. Before reaching to Onda River, there is Enkohji Temple 円光寺 on the left which was located along the main road from Nagatsuda 長津田 to Tohkaido 東海道, the present-day Route 1 going from Tokyo to Kyoto. The temple has traditional festival on 16th of January and August. From Zoorasia to Onda River along Umeda, it would be about 2 to 3 hours walk. The scenery changes from formidable zoo park, to traditional Satoyama, then to an ordinary residential area surrounding an ancient temple. It’s one way of finding modern Japanese city life.

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