Friday, July 31, 2015

This just in – Laboratory of the Forest 2015 横浜の森美術展

I planned to write about Laboratory of the Forest 森ラボ when the annual art exhibition starts. Then, the latest news told me there is a slight change in the “venue” of the exhibition in 2015, and the previous places could be off-limit for about 2 years soon. So I decided to write about Forest Lab in 2 installments: one for the actual 2015 Event, and another is this post for the installations of previous exhibitions.

First, the introduction for Laboratory of the Forest project. It’s organized by GROUP the Creation and Voice of the Woods 創造と森の声. The GROUP presents art exhibition annually since 2008 in the forest next to Yokohama Zoorasia, or to be more exact, in the forest next to the second parking lots of Zoorasia. The basic concept of their activity is, to experiment the cohabitation of mega city and natural forest via art. They volunteer the maintenance work of the forest year-round, and organize an annual exhibition in late summer, called “Art Exhibition in the Forest of Yokohama 横浜の森美術展.” 2015’s show is their 8th exhibition. It will be held for August 30 - September 23. They welcome anybody to be the member and help their volunteering works. If you are interested in becoming a member, please make a contact with Mr. Ishiyama (Phone/FAX: 045-933-1460, Mobile: 090-1777-5881, Email: Membership fee: 1,000 yen. Their Facebook is here.)

As I posted in last May, this forest is a planned area for botanical part of Yokohama Animal Forest 横浜動物の森公園. This April, animal part, i.e. Zoorasia, has completed its development and opened its entirety to the public. Now this is a turn for botanical section to sort things out. Moreover, in 2017 City of Yokohama presides over the 34th National Urban Greenery Fair 全国都市緑化フェア, where Prince Akishino 秋篠の宮, the younger brother of the Crown Prince, opens the event as his annual royal duty. The botanical section of Yokohama Animal Forest becomes one of the two venues of this national event (; another venue is Minato-mirai). The preparation begins this summer. According to GROUP the Creation and Voice of the Woods, the area next to the parking of Zoorasia will be soon closed temporarily for 2017 event. Let me introduce you what were there in this post.

The access to the forest is either from the west, i.e., Zoorasia, or from the east, i.e. Shikinomori Park 四季の森公園. From Zoorasia, I posted the way in May. The Forest does not have a parking, but Zoorasia Parking is available for 1,000 yen (for an entire day; hmmmmm, a bargain). From the east, you can either climb up the hill of Shikinomori Park to find Nishi-Hikarigaoka 西ひかりが丘 bus stop, or take bus. If you choose bus from JR Yokohama station, it is Sotetsu bus Asahi 10 line to Yokohama Zoorasia. (Its time table here.) Get off the final stop, and the rest is as I wrote in May. Another bus option is from either JR Nakayama 中山 station or Sotetsu Tsurugamine 鶴ヶ峰 Station. There are the routes Asahi 11, 13, 14, and 15 all of which connect two stations. (From Nakayama, the time tables are here and here. From Tsurugamine, the tables are here.)  For weekends, the bus from Nakayama goes to Tsurugammine via Zoorasia so that you can enter the forest from the west if you take this bus. Otherwise, if you ride the bus from Nakayama, get off the bus at Kohdan-Shukaijoh-mae 公団集会場前. If you turn right from the bus stop, beyond the traffic light, you’ll find a building looks like an old school. It is now closed Hikarigaoka Elementary School ひかりが丘小学校 (as this Hikarigaoka Housing Complex becomes the town of elderly people with very few kids). If you ride the bus from Tsurugamine for Nishi-Hikarigaoka, it actually takes you in front of this building at the bus stop, called Nishi-Hikarigaoka.

Kohdan-Shukaijoh-mae stop
if you take a bus from Nakayama
Nishi-Hikarigaoka stop
if you take a bus from Tsurugamine
Former Hikarigaoka Elementary School
seen from the direction of Yokohama Animal Forest

You walk to the gate of Hikarigaoka Elementary. On the left, there is the South Gate of Kanagawa University High School 神奈川大学付属中高 (within a kind of forest which, of course, we cannot trespass). Walk toward this direction for 30 m or so, we meet a T-crossing. Turn left and proceed about 50 m ahead. On the left is a housing complex, and on the right is a forest, the botanical part of Yokohama Animal Forest. At the edge of the forest, we see a swamp below the road, and steep steps that leads us to the promenade running along the swamp. Over the swamp, on the left of us is the venue for 2015 Laboratory of the Forest. 8 artists start working for their installation from August 2nd. Their work in progress is for public viewing so that if you go there before the actual exhibition starts on August 30, it would be possible to have a chat or two with them. I post my report at the end of August for this year’s exhibition. J

The forest to be Yokoham Animal Forest
Going down this steps,
On the left is the place for this year’s exhibition, and,
On the right is the way
to the site for previous years’ exhibition.
During summer,
the swamp is covered by tall
Phragmites australis.
But early spring, we can enjoy this vista.

Walk the way along the swamp, it eventually brings us to a small open space. It was the entrance of previous exhibitions where several totem poles greeted us.

Like this
They are now removed, and the space looks like this … sad.

I hope those installations will be there for the new site. Anyway, from here we find 3 roads. The paved road ahead leads us to Miho-Niiharu towns. The road immediately on the left keeps going along the swamp leads us directly to the entrance of the forest next to the parking lot of Zoorasia. This part of swamp is not that wet, and the GROUP held before a puppet show using a log felt over the dry swamp. The road was also used for several shootings of TV samurai drama. Yeah, the atmosphere is a kind of “300 years ago the road was like this in Japan.”

For sward-fighting lovers
Open air theatre for puppets

Another road at the left bottom of the open space is into the forest, and the main route for previous exhibitions. There still remains a whiff of previous installations, like …

Into the woods,
It was an installation several summers ago.

Well, those white poles were not fences, but art.

And few minutes’ walk in the woods leads us to another open space where before several small sculptures greeted us. I hope the GROUP moved them too to the new venue.

Open space now ...
and then.

From the end of open space, a bit of climb and go along one road, we eventually reach to the open space next to the entrance from Zoorasia parking lot. Along the way, the exhibition presented several interesting installations. For example

It was an installation
using fiber optics with solar generator.
Now it becomes like this.
This one was interesting.
It enclosed a space within the forest
with yellow construction tape for the exact size
of the space of a condo the artist lived in downtown.
It was tiny, honestly.
An homage to dying bagworms

The open space next to Zoorasia-side entrance was for large presentations, and picnic. It is now empty with logs here and there. All are gone … sad, sad …


By Kestutis Benedikas from Lituania
“Sprit of Tree.”
It is now, at the end of July 2015.
I personally loved this one best.
“Pyramid of Life”
by James Robert KokoBi from Cote d’Ivoire.

Looking over the parking lot, the way to the right is to Miho village as I posted in May. On the left, there are two road; the immediate right one brings us to the place for this year’s exhibition. Another goes down is the way from the entrance from Shikinomori Park connecting to Zoorasia. This part also had several installations, aside from TV film shooting locations.

An artist tried to create “ordinary garden”
within the forest. This is the result, ha ha.

8th Art Exhibition in the Forest of Yokohama, 2015, titled “Shinso Kaiten 森創開展,” starts on August 30. I hope this years’ exhibition gives us again inspirations within the forest. The 2015 venue is in the forest we have seen beyond the swamp before coming to the place of this post. As a related event, during August 23 - September 13 there will be an exhibition for the concept of the event, “Woods-ArtLand-Town,” in the concourse of Nakayama Station of Yokohama City Subway. On August 23, there is an event in the exhibition forest to create an installation with flags by anybody who bother to go there. (10:00-14:00, free. The event will be continued during the exhibition every weekend.) The opening of the exhibition is August 30, with artists presenting their installations by themselves. + From 13:00, there will be open-air concerts by Sushi-oke Drum Fu-chin すし桶ドラムふーちん, SORA, and Naoyuki Tsuchiya 土屋直之. During the show, the art-tour will be held every Sunday and National Holidays from 11:00. Every Sunday during the exhibition, there are events to play with the forest and art for 10:00-15:00. I write you for the detail in another post for this year’s exhibition.

If you find a problem in the site introduced in this post, the best contact address will be GROUP the Creation and Voice of the Woods. The events also receives grants from Culture and Tourism Bureau of the City 横浜市文化観光局. The contact address of the Bureau is

Minatocho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0017
: 045-671-3715 FAX: 045-663-5606

Friday, July 24, 2015

Water, water everywhere: Oiwake Citizen Forest and Yasashi Citizen Forest 追分市民の森・矢指市民の森

Yokohama Citizen Forest system has several concentration areas. Niiharu area and Jike Town are two major areas in the northwest of the city. In the west of the city we have another focus spot around Seya High School 瀬谷高校 and Saint Marianna Hospital 聖マリアンナ医大横浜西部病院. Oiwake 追分 and Yasashi 矢指 Citizen Forests are part of this complex. They stand side-by-side.

To go to these Forests, reaching to the southern part of Oiwake Forest would be the easiest. (Oh, by the way, none of them has parking space.) If you plan to hike for a day in this part of Yokohama, you can first go to Imajuku Citizen Forest 今宿市民の森, cover Oiwake and Yasashi Forests, then finish with Seya Forest. (The map covering Oiwake, Yasashi and Seya is here.) For this plan, from the northeast exit of the Imajuku Forest go to Sasanodai Elementary School 笹野台小学校, and find the way in the residential area to the Old Nakahara Street 旧中原街道 that is a ridgeway whose northern slope contains Oiwake Forest. For visiting Oiwake Forest without going to Imajuku Forest, the easiest route could start from Mitsukyo Station 三ツ境駅 of Sotetsu Line 相鉄線. Leave the station from the North Exit (opposite side of the exit to Koyokan Inn 光陽館), and proceed almost exactly to the north. After 20 or so minutes of walk, you bump into the Old Nakahara Street. Along the Old Nakahara Street, there are only 2 entrances for the Forest. The way nearer to Imajuku Forest is standard trekking road, called Hiyama Michi 桧山みち, for pedestrians only. Another entrance is capable for small cars to go in. As it is, the road from western entrance is easier to walk.

Sign post for Old Nakahara Street
Western entrance to Oiwake Forest
from Mitsukyo Station
Along Hiyama Michi

The wider road is for landlords of Oiwake and Yasashi Forests to take care of the forests and their field. These two forests contain the sources of Yasashi River 矢指川. The river is a tributary of Katabira River 帷子川, one of the 3 main rivers running in the City of Yokohama. So the area acts as a natural water reservoir for the health of the city’s environment. A narrow field expands between Oiwake and Yasashi Forests, i.e., Yato 谷戸, and the landlords and volunteers organically plant there flowers in addition to agricultural products, for anybody visiting the Forests to enjoy. In every late March, they have a party for watching canola painting the entire Yato bright yellow. After this ritual, they make a plan for the design of flower beds from year to year. This year, from the north to the south of Yato, we expect to enjoy the flowers of Dahlia, Buckwheat, Sunflower, Alfalfa/Cosmos, Salvia, and Zinnia. As of early July 2015, none has yet flowered, but all the leaves looked healthy so that they will be gorgeous from early August.

Waiting for the flowers to come …
The promenade along Yato has
lots of bushy flowering plants.
Early July was the time for bushclovers.
Snapdragons … might be wild.
The signboard notifying the planting plan.

When we come from Mitsukyo Station, after encountering the southern tip of Yato, we’ll see a flyover of the New Nakahara Street, which is an industrial 4-lane road with lots of cars. Walking beneath the overpass, we encounter a spread of the Yato and the Forests. On the left is Oiwake Forest, and on the right is Yasashi Forest. 100 m or so from the flyover, there is a sign post saying “Yasashi Forest, this way.” If you look right of this sign, there are very narrow steps going into the Yato flower field. Simply entering into this way, crossing the flower field, and we find the entrance to Yasashi Forest.

This signpost (on the left of this photo)
could be easy to be dismissed,
and this very narrow steps, ditto.
Ahead is the entrance to Yasashi Forest.

YasashiForest became a part of Yokohama Citizen Forest in 1991. In the 3 Citizen Forest Complex of this area, this is the smallest; 5.1 ha with 1 k trekking road. Toilet wise, this one has the best and large facility among 3; it is taken care of by the local girl-scout troop very strictly. I recommend you to finish whatever you need to do with toilet here before proceeding to the other 2 forests. Inside, hiking roads for Yasashi Forests are wide and soft so that it is easy to walk. The center of the forest is called Sunshine Open Space 太陽の広場. Sure enough, it is a small open space with lots of sunshine with picnic benches (and toilet is about 30 m above from there). The impression of Yasashi Forest is something of a place well-taken care of, and relaxing.

Sunshine Open Space
The forest allows lots of sunshine inside.
After the rain, lots of such mole/ant hills.
What are they?
This is the biggest Indian Strawberry bush
I’ve ever seen.

Returning to the point where we come to Yasashi Forest (actually this is the only way to move between 2 forests without going into the residential area), the left is Oiwake Forest, the largest of the 3 Citizen Forest of the area, with about 30 ha and 3.4 k of trekking road (; it includes the forest we have passed from Mitsukyo Station). It became Citizen Forest 3 years later than Yasashi Forest, in1994. 100 m from the entryway to Yasashi Forest on the left, it also has toilets with potable water, but they are smaller. From this toilet point in to the forest, there is an area called Oiwake Open Space 追分ひろば with picnic benches. Though, it seems to me, the area is really the source of Yasashi River so that right beneath a picnic benche there is a small spring where waters coming out, continuously (and hence, unusable for picnic). If we go along the Yato field more, for about 200 m or so, after passing a rustic café Flower Field お花ばたけ, there is a small pond called Dragonfly Pond トンボ池. Water is everywhere along this valley side. So, I find so many colonies of pollia japonica that love wet soil and have pretty flowers early July. Dragonflies are hovering above our head. Shiny tails of eumeces japonicas greet me many times …

Oiwake Open Space with picnic benches
Water, water …
Pollia Japonica

The allowed hiking roads for Oiwake Forest are mostly wide, and even bikes are passable. It is because basically they are the community roads for generations. So, they have names of ancient sounding … Yatsuduka 八ッ塚, Oiwake 追分, Yasashi 矢指, Tsukamatsu 塚松, and Hiyama 桧山. I imagined the scenery of 200 years ago when people were busy coming and going along these ways, sometimes with cows or horses, carrying their products and other things for their daily life. The roads are still well-maintained, and not-compacted so that it is easy to walk. I have met several joggers when I’ve been there. No wonder.

Beyond the bushes are cabbage patches;
one of the main agricultural products of Yokohama.

West side of Oiwake Forest runs a rather nice road, called Nosakai Road 野境道路 that is secretly loved by locals for a relaxed driving. When you enter here from the north from National Route 16, the left is Oiwake Forest (sadly, this part does not have allowed hiking way for us). The forest on the right is one of the most prestigious golf courses in Japan, Hodogaya Country Club 程ヶ谷カントリークラブ where for being a member you must have a corner office at one of the TOPIX 100 companies. Sure enough, the area is very serene, and hence wonderful to drive. … I personally prefer walking in the forest to going along the drive way for a fenced golf course so that I recommend the exit from Oiwake Forest at the traffic light named Entrance to Seya High School 瀬谷高校入口, next to Saint Marianna Hospital. Beyond is Seya Forest 瀬谷市民の森 which is an interesting forest in its own right. I’ll write about it next week. J

Beyond is the corner office.

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 …)