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 …)

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