Friday, June 19, 2015

Leaky Cauldron, Yokohama Forest Style: Kamoihara Citizen Forest 鴨居原市民の森

If you’ve been to Lalaport Yokohama, the biggest shopping mall in Yokohama, from JR Kamoi Station 鴨居駅, you may have been surprised that we have to go through a very narrow road within a half-residential / half-industrial area to the entrance of Lalaport. The area around Kamoi Station has been like this for ages, which, it seems to me, causes irritation among locals about the mismatch of roads and development. This Wikipedia entry about Kamoi Town is almost angry for the situation and calls for wider roads.

Well, yeah, it’s understandable. The roads leading to Route 246 or Route 16 from Kamoi Town are almost always clogged. All of them are winding one lane roads for both directions. During rush hours going through this area by bus will give you a very good napping time before you reach to your bus stop. Though … if constructing wider roads means bulldozing the remnants of satoyama, or destroying the greenery of the area, I would feel very sad. At least, the tiny 2 forests of KamoiharaCitizen Forest are legally protected from such imminent dangers.

Although they are just next to the residential area, and from anywhere in the Forest we can hear buzzing of cars, the place has the magic. I don’t know exactly why it’s not like Shishigaya Forest where the residential / industrial area is dividing the Forest as Kamoihara. It could be because Kamoihara Forest is so tiny … it has just 2 ha, and the entire length of the trek in the forest is 200 m. (Map here and here.) And I am sure it is because the volunteers have done a great job to make the Forest lovely. (The group’s home page, here.) Actually, the PR Office of the City reported the volunteers’ activity last winter in Kamoihara Forest at their web site.

The Kamoihara Forest joined the Yokohama Citizen Forest family in 2005, 10 years ago. According to the volunteers’ and City’s web sites, before the place was a dumping ground for old tires and broken fridges. (So, now I understand why one of the roads in the South Forest has the name “Tires’ Way.”) Local volunteers cleaned the Forest, and prepared the routes for strollers. Now the tiny two forests have distinct charm within an ordinary town, just like Leaky Cauldron on Charing Cross Road.

To go to Kamoihara Citizen Forest, leave JR Kamoi Station of JR Yokohama line from the Southern exit (the opposite to Lalaport Yokohama). From there on foot, it is about 30 minutes of climbing up to Takeyama Housing Complex 竹山団地. Or, take City Bus /Kanachu Bus #56 to Takeyama Danchi Orikaeshi-jo 竹山団地折り返し場  to Takeyama Danchi Iriguchi (“Takeyama Housing Complex Entrance” 竹山団地入口 ) for about 5 minutes. On the left, you’ll see a forest of bamboos that is the North Forest of Kamoihara Citizen Forest. Your bus will turn right to Takeyama Danchi, but you keep on going the same road (Kendoh, “Prefecture Road” 県道, #109) to the south, then turn left the first narrow road. Proceeding a little bit, there is a tiny stair way on your left which is the entrance to the North Forest.

The entrance to the North Forest

Alternatively, we can walk from Kamoi Station to Kamoike Ohashi 鴨池大橋 busstop on Kaomike Ohashi  (which is a large bridge we can see from the way to Lalaport Yokohama), or Lalaport Yokohama Westbus stop at Lalaport. From there, take City Bus #124 to Sasayama Danchi Chuoh 笹山団地中央. Get off the bus at Jizohmae Stop 地蔵前. (This bus also runs Kendoh #109.) Go north along the same bus road a bit, then turn right at the first corner. The road soon has 2 ways; take the left one to climb up. Within 10 or 20 m on the right, you’ll see a discreet sign, “Kamoihara Citizen Forest, this way,” directing to a very narrow road. On the right is a tiny apartment house, and beyond is the entrance to the South Forest.

Jizohmae bus stop
I would say,
a TYPICAL sign for a Yokohama Citizen Forest.
The Entrance to the South Forest

From here to go to the North Forest, we climb a little bit of the road coming from Kendoh #109 within residential area to a T crossing. Turn left, and then first right to find the Entrance to the North. When we move between North and South Forests of Kamoihara Citizen Forest, they are the entrances easiest to find.

T crossing to left
Ahead is the North Forest

From the entrance to the North Forest, along a very narrow paved way, we’ll find a signboard of Kamoihara Citizen Forest North. From here on the left there is a trek leading us in to the Forest. The North Forest is mainly consisted of bamboos so that the entire road within the Forest is covered thickly with bamboo leaves which make the way very spongy. Columns of bamboos are occasionally disrupted by large wild cherry trees. Although we can here the noise of Road #109, the rustling of bamboo leaves carry us somewhere else. Bamboo port-keys? The trek within the North Forest goes around Yonyama Hiroba よんやま広場 that is a kind of atmospheric center of the “Force” (yeah, Star Wars’ kind) from bamboos. Bamboos are strange trees. They shoot up straight to the sky even if at the root the ground made them difficult to do that. Standing in the middle of them is strangely empowering …

A very narrow paved way
Kamoihara North Forest signboard

Yonyama Hiroba
In early summer,
shooting up young bamboos are everywhere.

When we enter the South Forest, we first find Fureai Hiroaba (“Fureai Open Space” ふれあい広場 ) with picnic benches. This open space with lush vegetation is strangely inviting (though I suspect mamushi could hide somewhere …).  From here, 2 routes are climbing up to Hankachinoki Hiroba (“Davidia Open Space” ハンカチの木広場 ) where we can find a toilet.
Fureai Hiroba
Climb up!
Hankachinoki Hiroba
Toilet for Kamoihara Citizen Forest

The South Forest is a broadleaf forest with charming bushes beneath. Logs left by volunteers host a colony of mushrooms. Ants, butterflies, beetles … Insects are busy in the forest. Although it is surrounded by residential area, this tiny forest makes its own enchanted world inviting us inside … I don’t think it is wise to enter South Forest in Midsummer Night … though, it might be possible to encounter an entourage of Titania …

Farfugium japonicum
A colony of Houttuynia cordata
Indian strawberry

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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