Friday, August 7, 2015

Battle Cry! Seya Citizen Forest 瀬谷市民の森

Probably thanks to our location next to Tokyo, unlike Okinawa, it does not become a huge political issue in Kanagawa about the existence of US military bases. The US 7th Fleet headquarters in Yokosuka. Atsugi has Army’s command, i.e. Camp Zama … Apart from strategic and logistical reasons, there is, to some extent, a historical reason for this. Before 1945, Kanagawa Prefecture hosted numerous military bases for Japanese Imperial Military. Imperial Navy even constructed underground HDQ for the “Final Battle” under the current campus of Keio University 慶応大学 in Hiyoshi 日吉, Yokohama. The area from Niiharu to Seya Citizen Forests could have preserved greenery relatively well because it was the training ground for Japanese Army.

Then, why it was so is, the northern part of Kanagawa Prefecture is not good for rice paddies. Oiwake or Miho Forests are situated near the edge of the City of Yokohama. They are the sources of major rivers for the City, which run west-east to Tokyo Bay. All the other rivers in Kanagawa go from north to south, from somewhere of Mount Fuji to Sagami Bay, and make the in-between areas, Sagamihara Plain 相模原台地, very dry. Loamy layer made by Mount Fuji lets the water retention of the ground not good for paddies. The stories of traditional life of the region depicted in Averbatim Note of Diet in Kanagawa Prefecture (1992) 聞き書き神奈川の食事 imply harsh subsistence agriculture 70 years ago. The upshot was, unlike the standard geography of Yokohama, the expansion around cities from Yamato 大和 to Hatano 秦野 is flat, i.e. good for military. Then, not-for-nothing, US Navy Kamiseya Communication Unit resides at the north of Seya Citizen Forest, next to the Hodogaya Country Club 程ヶ谷カントリークラブ

Seya CitizenForest 瀬谷市民の森 is located west of the City of Yokohama, close to the border to the City of Yamato 大和市. To go there, the easiest would be from Seya Station 瀬谷駅 of Sotetsu Line 相鉄線. Leave from the North Exit of the station, and go northeast to the direction of Aizawa Elementary School 相沢小学校, and Seya High School 瀬谷高校. After Aizawa Elementary, we begin to see patches of small vegetable fields between houses, and then the forest beyond. It takes about 20 minutes on foot. The forest is Seya Citizen Forest, established relatively early in 1976. (Map, together with Oiwake and Yasashi Forests, here.) It surrounds Seya High School by about 19 ha of land and 3 k trekking roads. Its toilet is near to this entrance from Seya Station. On the other hand, if you come from Oiwake Forest, actually the Seya Forest is beyond the “Entrance to Seya High School 瀬谷高校入口” traffic light. By the way, to the west of the Seya Station, there runs “Navy Road 海軍道路” that is a straight North-South road (rarity in Metropolitan Tokyo area) going through the former field of US Navy Communication Unit. (The majority of the land of the Unit was returned to the landlords in the late 1990s.) This is a hidden spot for cherry blossom party early spring. The land still maintains grassy expansion ideal for kite flying, and old and large cherry trees line along the straight road with not much crowd around. It is the place for calm and relaxed picnic. J

Southwest tip of Seya Citizen Forest
Welcome to Seya Forest!

Seya Forest is, DIFFERENT, from the other Citizen Forests we have visited so far. It is flat. It is almost at the end of Tama Hills, and the beginning of Sagamihara Plain. The trees, both coniferous and broadleaved, look taller. I don’t know if they are really bigger, or it is due to optical illusion by the flat terrain, but the entire forest makes us believe it is larger than the other forests of hilly space. Come to think of it, next to the Japanese archipelago is Siberia, a flat and vast land-mass with lots of large trees. It might not be so strange to have a “continental” place within a tiny Japanese island.

Wasn’t there something like this
when Luke Skywalker competed with
stormtroopers on speeder bikes?

Flat space is good for military whenever it is. According to the local historians, this forest was a meeting point for a large number of soldiers several times. In 1333 the warlords, Nitta Yoshisada 新田義貞 and Ishikawa Yoshimitsu 石川義光, called for the rebellion against Kamakura national government. The large number of their sympathizers gathered in the area of Seya Forest to attack Hohjoh clan 北条氏 governing Japan from Kamakura. Hojoh clan was annihilated and Kamakura government was ended. Hmmm … the government established with the help of families in Jike Forest in 1192 was destroyed by the force from Seya Forest in 1333. Later, in 1417, Seya Forest again became a battle ground among another warlords in a sort of Braveheart style. The chief of the rebel, Uesugui Senshu 上杉禅秀, lost and killed himself. With very large trees spreading horizontally, it is easy to imagine the camping of soldiers with large swords and horses here and there, or the crash of samurais in spaces between large trunks. There is no picnic table for present day hikers in the Forest; only small stool “chairs” made of tree stems. Intentional design? As we should avoid stomping the ground between trees, we cannot sit on the ground as those samurais did 600 years ago. … Sitting on a stool can bring us to the time when no soldiers expected to have a well-crafted table for lunch …

Cute chairs
Camping ground for troops

The undergrowth is rich.

Japonica Saepestriata in Seya Forest

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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