Friday, June 26, 2015

In search of lost peaches: Tsunashima Citizen Forest 綱島市民の森

TsunashimaCitizen Forest is located near Tsunashima Station 綱島駅 of Tokyu Toyoko Line, right next to Tsunashima Park 綱島公園. It joined the Citizen Forest family in 1991 as the 18th Forest. (Map here.) It has 5.8 ha with 360 m of walking road, i.e. a small forest right next to the fashionable Toyoko Line running between Shibuya and Yokohama. Probably inevitably, it has a similar issue of urban desertification as the other Citizen Forests along the Toyoko Line, Kumano-Jinja, Komaoka-Nakagoh, or Shishigaya. The volunteers of neighborhood showed a sign board in Tsunashima Park saying that the soil is compacted and the entire forest showed stresses of long-time neglect. But, they declared, the community is striving for restoring the nature of the area as much as possible. I’ve met an old lady who is one of those volunteers for Tsunashima Forest, and inviting helping hands to deal with the bounty of the forest. ;)

To reach to Tsunashima Forest, the easiest is first going to Tsunashima Park. Leave Tsunashima Station from the North Exit, and take the west side road along the elevated railroad of Toyoko Line. It soon becomes a steep slope with greenery at the top. It is Tsunashima Park that has tennis courts (winter) cum an outdoor swimming pool (summer), and a log house for kids to play. Go through the Park up to the Log House (nicknamed “Mocky”) and find ancient tumulus at the back of the house. On the left of the remains, there is a path leading to the residential area. Keep going the left way of this path, and within 5 minutes we come to an entrance for the smaller part of Tsunashima Forest as we find in the map. Oh, by the way, there is no parking for both Tsunashima Park and Tsunashima Citizen Forest. Also, Tsunashima Citizen Forest does not have toilet. There is a toilet near Mocky, though.

Toilet of Tsunashima Park
The remains of the 5th century tomb
for a local grandee of the time.
The excavation was done in 1989.
Take left,
and we meet an entrance
for the smaller portion of Tsunashima Forest.

This part of forest has only a paved walking path which serves as a kind of short cut to the Station for the community. In the middle of the forest there is a cemetery of local families which, I guess, provided the reason for the landlords to pave their way. The scenery we can see from the road is a typical Yokohama for us. Er, yeah, Yokohama for tourists is ports, China Town, and other attractions. Yokohama we live is, hm, like this ... lots of small hills and houses.

The Short Cut!
The local cemetery
This is our city.

Moving to the larger part of the Forest, we have to return to the entrance we come from Tsunashima Park. Pass the entrance to the smaller Forest, keep going the road running along the Forest. Soon the road straight ahead presents us a forest which is a larger part of Tsunashima Forest.

Small road leading to …
to …
the Forest.

At this entrance, there is Hinokinomori Hiroba (Cypress Open Space ひのきの森広場) with several picnic benches. Further into the forest, there is the remains of Ohkita-tani Shrine 大北谷神社跡. According to the signpost in the Forest, this shrine was built in 1599 by a local farming family to ask the gods of agriculture for a help developing farm land around the hill. The community held festivals for the Shrine till around 1950s, then the building became derelict. When the area became Citizen Forest, the volunteers cleared the Shrine for the safety of strollers; i.e. this Forest can again trace its origin to Village Forest Shrine.

Hinokinomori Hiroba
The remains of Ohkita-tani Shrine

Turn right at the remains, we can exit the Forest to the residential area. Else, keep going straight, the forest becomes somehow deeper, but we can still “feel” the daily lives of ordinary families living around the Forest. Passing the bamboo forest, and we will find another open space. It is a small viewing platform where we can see Minato-Mirai Area. 

Ahead is …
a platform.
Can you figure out the skyscrapers over there?

From the platform, the road soon descends to Momo-no-sato Hiroba (Peach Tree Open Space 桃の里広場). Thephotograph of the official site of Tsunashima Forest is the scenery of Momo-no-sato Hiroba circa 1991 when the concept of the Forest was “To restore peach growing tradition of the community.” The wooden pavilion in the photo is alive and well for us to have a picnic. The surrounding fruiting peach trees are now … well almost, gone. Instead the area is like a jungle of flowering (but not fruiting; they are different) peach trees, apricots, plum, and persimmon trees.

From above, the Hiroba looks like this,
and the inside is this much busy.
Baby persimmons
Good-ol pavilion
One day in June, when I visited the Hiroba, there was an old lady within the orchard, clearing the ground. She was a landlady and the guardian matron of the Forest. According to her, the original idea of keeping the fruiting peach trees flopped and the volunteers planted the other trees instead. Apricots become so-so successful fruiting once every 2 years. This year (2015) is disappointing for apricots as we had spring days of strong winds when apricots flowers were blown off. Though, trees for prunus mume fruit abundantly every year without fail. And so, she has the problem … too much ume fruits and she is the only one to cook. Volunteers to cook this bounty are seriously needed! Her ume fruits ripe well, and I guess they will be very good pickled plums (Umeboshi 梅干).

After about 20 minutes of clearing
This large plum trees with lots of fruits …
By the way, at the entrance of Momo-no-sato Hiroba from the residential area, there is a very tall tree whose leaves looks suspiciously like peach. At the top boughs, there are lots of plum-sized, but still green fruits in June … Japanese wild peaches are small, and the leaves are a kind of gourd shaped … Aren’t they peach?

Japanese wild peaches are not that large
nor too sweet,
but certainly loved for millennia.

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 …)

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