Friday, September 25, 2015

On the matters of final resting place: Shinbashi Citizen Forest 新橋市民の森

In contrast to the South Exit, the North Exit of Yayoidai Station of Sotetsu Line is very quiet. The first impression I had there was, it was a middle of ordinary residential area with detached houses. Coming to this direction, we notice the Station is on the top of small hill, and the roads from there are descending. To go to Shinbashi Citizen Forest 新橋市民の森, we have to take the road goes down directly to the north. Passing the Hatono-Mori-Aino-Uta-Nursery 鳩の森愛の詩保育園 on the right, at the corner of the vehicle road curving right, there are a small pedestrian route with a notice board, and next to it with steps going down further. The notice board says “Stop the development of cemetery to leave water and greenery in the North of Yayoidai Station,” with signature of Neighborhood Associations of the area, the Nursery we’ve just passed, and the Lovers of Waterfront and Stream of Kame-yato 亀谷戸. Hmmmm …

Going down the steps from the Station
The road in front of the Station goes down.

If we go down the steps, we find a small stream with a promenade. Turning left along the promenade, there are several signs explaining the names of vegetation, and asks strollers not to trash the stream as the community is striving to restore the environment for fireflies. Just before the pedestrian promenade meets another vehicle road, there is a large sign for the Lovers of Waterfront and Stream which notifies they meet every 3rd Sunday at 10:00 for the maintenance work, along with a poster presentation for the natural environment of the area by kids of Shinbashi Elementary School 新橋小学校. On the right of the notice boards, there is a sign we are now at one of the entrance of Shinbashi Citizen Forest. It takes less than 10 minutes’ walk from the station.

Notice Board of the Lovers
Poster presentation
The right of the boards is a trekking road into the forest.
At the mouth of this road is,
The entrance sign of the Forest.

Shinbashi Forest is another baby Citizen Forest, opened in January 2015. It has 3.3 ha with short trekking roads where lots of maintenance works are on-going. Intriguingly, the Forest is consisted of 2 separate areas divided by another “forest.” The Forest we meet first from the Station is larger. Another can be accessed by walking along the small, and very new, cemetery-forest. When we move between the two areas, it is obvious the division is done by the planned cemetery site by Sengenji Temple 浅間寺 in the downtown of Yokohama. Based on a quick google search, it seems to me they are mainly engaged in funeral service business, not proselytizing. The monks in the city have already built a slick office building, parking lots, and some well-manicured subdivisions which is, well, clearly different from the natural scenery (i.e. Shinbashi Forest) surrounding the graves.

Map of Shinbashi Forest
Seen from the notice board from the Lovers;
to another part of the Shibashi Forest
we have to go a narrow road on the first left
at the corner of the red house.
The building before is the office of the cemetery.
The construction works go on …
The road along the cemetery

It seems to me Volunteers who maintain Shinbashi Forest is another group called themselves the Lovers of Shinbashi Citizen Forest. The accessible part of the second part of the Forest is around a small Yato which is returning to a marsh, and where the Lovers of the Forest have their own notice board. The news in the board says they are a partner of Firefly Restoration Committee. I don’t know how these groups are connected to the signatory groups of the poster asking the stoppage of cemetery development. In any case lots of things must be going on in Shinbashi Forest now …

Entrance to smaller part of the Forest
Yato in Shibashi Forest. I guess this is Kame-Yato.
This part of the Forest has picnic benches.
The forest seen from Yato

Aside from humans surrounding the Forest, Shinbashi Forest is a typical of Yokohama Citizen Forest. It is made of a steep hill and a Yato valley at the bottom. The trees are mix of bamboos, coniferous trees, and broadleaves. When we enter from the first entrance we meet from the Station, two trekking roads are climbing steeply to the ridge which is the outer edge of the Forest. I found this edge goes along the railway of Sotetsu Izumino Line to Shonandai of the City of Fujisawa. It is really a baby Citizen Forest. We find several log piles along the trekking road, made by volunteers doing maintenance works. The difference between a clean 21st century cemetery construction site and here is, the logs in the forest become the home for so many living creatures ... fungi, insects, bushes … 

Into the forest
Those mushrooms looked very like cloud ears
… are they?
Here is another mushroom.

… In the end we are all consumed by bacteria like those logs, become a part of soil. Maybe, the first procedure to be incorporated into the earth is the point of contention. Even Buddhism monks could not reach to a peaceful solution for the matter … we are so … pre-enlightenment.

If you find a problem in the Park, please make a contact with

Office for the Park Greeneries in the South 南部公園緑地事務所
Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局
Phone: 045-831-8484 (I guess in Japanese only)

FAX: 045-831-9389 (I hope there is somebody who can read English …)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rhinoceros Beetle! Nakada-Miyanodai Citizen Forest 中田宮の台市民の森

Whatever people say, this is the news: this summer, I’ve met a Japanese rhinoceros beetle (aka Kabutomushi かぶと虫) in Nakada-Miyanodai Forest! They were the superstar of every summer when we were in elementary school. It was a ritual of the battle of will between the noble insects and greedy kids during long summer vacation. Of course the top secret was the name of the forest we could find rhinoceros beetles. … And nowadays, kids in Yokohama ask their parents in shopping malls if they can check pet shops if they find rhinoceros beetle there … TRAVESTY! I proudly declare I’ve met your highness strolling majestically within the quiet Yokohama Citizen Forest this summer. Proof: please see the photo above. This is THE legitimate way to be allowed an audience of our king! J

Actually, Nakada-Miyanodai Forest is a new and very small Citizen Forest, opened in the summer of 2012. It is a toddler Citizen Forest of 1.3 ha whose circumference is only 350 m. There is no internet homepage or links to official map for the Forest. The nearest railway stations of the Forest are Yayoidai Station 弥生台駅 of Sotetsu Line or Nakada Station 中田駅 of Yokohama Subway Blue Line. From either station, the key to find the way to the Forest is heading to ancient Goryo Shrine (五霊神社 “Nakada no Goryo-sama”) of roughly 1000 years of history. From Nakada Station, it is something of climbing up north within the residential area and the Forest is over there next to the Shrine. As this tiny Forest does not have toilet, using the toilet in the Shrine (next to Boy Scout’s Office) could be a nice move. From Yayoidai Station, we first climb up the slope and do a bit of walking along a local ridge way where in a fine day we can see large Mt. Ohyama 大山 and Mt. Fuji on the right. The distance to the Forest is about the same from Nakada Station or Yayoidai Station. Here is the Forest’s map.

To Goryo Shrine, exit
from the Southwest corner of this map
and take the left road.
Goryo Shrine
Carps in Goryo Shrine
Toiletin Goryo Shrine

As I love open views, here I report you the way from Yayoidai Station to the Forest. We leave the station from the south exit where bus stops are. Take the bus road in front of the station. Go past Mos Burger, and the venerable local establishment, Coffee-en Café 珈琲園 (where locals and expats have regular English-speaking party) on the left to meet Yayoidai-Iriguchi traffic light 弥生台駅入口信号. Turn left and walk a bit to meet Yayoidai Post Office, Bakery La Pignon on the left, and Kokusaishinzen General Hospital 国際親善病院 on the right. Cross the bus road at the end of main Hospital entrance where Kokusaishinzen-Sogo-Byoin-mae 国際親善病院前 traffic light is, and climb up the hill along the hospital campus. At the end of the campus is Nakada-kita traffic light 中田北信号. Turn right there to the direction of parking lots for the Hospital. Climb up a bit more, and at Nakada-cho-Miyanodai traffic light 中田町宮の台信号, we reach to the ridge way. If it’s a fine day, huge Mt Fuji is in front of you.   

In front of the South Exit of the Yayoidai Station
Bakery La Pignon
The crossing
at Kokusaishinzen-Sogo-Byoin-mae traffic light
Nakada-cho-Miyanodai traffic light

Turn left at Nakada-cho-Miyanodai traffic light, and enjoy a bit of panorama beyond the farm land. Soon we’ll see Miyanodai Missionary Kindergarten 宮の台幼稚園 along the ridge way. Take the narrow road at the end of the Kindergarten on the right. Now, simply follow the road in front of you, past the first small crossroad within the ordinary residential area, After 10 houses or so on the left, there is a tiny road with its end as the entrance to Nakada-Miyanodai Citizen Forest.

Ordinary residential area to the Forest
An entrance to the Forest

The Forest is designed like a garden. About a meter or so clearing surrounds the trees of broadleaves in the middle. The clearing is a circular road where we can find benches. The road inside the forest runs very slightly up-and-down. Having said that, the forest is nearly flat that gives us more impression of “garden.” The vegetation is very rich, and the volunteers are busy clearing and planting in the forest. This year they were doing the maintenance every Thursday morning (9:00-11:00), though they are taking summer vacation for July to September. (For volunteering enquiry in this Forest, please call city’s Office for the Park Greeneries in the South; phone number below.) The entire trekking road of the forest is covered by mulch of wood chips that gives us very gentle touch for our knees. All in all, its tiny size gives us a homely feeling. It seems to me at least one cat is making this place as her territory. And, yes, rhinoceros beetles, stag beetles, butterflies …

The outer road of the Forest
Just outside of the Southwest exit
from the outer road is another clearing.
When I’ve been there
I could see Mt. Ohyama.
Mt. Fuji was under the clouds …
Road within the forest

At the end of the summer, the grounds of Nakada-Miyanodai Forest started to be covered by acorns. Cluster Amaryllis began blossoming. Autumn equinox is just around the corner.

If you find a problem in the Park, please make a contact with

Office for the Park Greeneries in the South 南部公園緑地事務所
Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局
Phone: 045-831-8484 (I guess in Japanese only)
FAX: 045-831-9389 (I hope there is somebody who can read English …)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Intermission: Cooking acorns

Now we are approaching to the season of acorns. So, in this post, I report my cooking adventure of acorns last year. Actually, I nurtured my ambition for eating acorns that can be found very easily in almost any forests of Yokohama. They looked so appetizing. My ambition grew year by year … 

There were several excavations of prehistoric settlements in Japanese archipelago where researchers found numerous evidences of our ancestors eating nuts, acorns inclusive. Meanwhile, some of my friends told me their mums warned not to cook or eat acorns since “They are bad for your memorizing skills!” Hmmmmmmmmmmm … are they a kind of tranquilizer? Another friend taught me eating acorns are quite common and traditional in Tohoku area of Japan and in Korean peninsula. The most traditional Korean recipe is dotorimuk (or tot'orimuk), i.e. acorn jelly, she said. Well, at least, they are edible, then. Last year, a book was published from Yamakei Library, titled “I’ll be a stone-age man!” written by Hideki Sekine (2014,ヤマケイ文庫「縄文人になる!縄文式生活技術教本」関根秀樹著). There, Sekine explains how to cook acorns. Хорошо! So, I followed his instructions at first …

1. I collected acorns.
I’ve been to the forest of 2014 Art Exhibition in the Forest of Yokohama, and collected acorns of sawtooth oaks for about 2kg. That forest had many other acorns as well, but I thought large acorns of sawtooth oaks were “cost effective.” It was INDEED so.

Sawtooth oaks
and beneath.
There was one of the installations for 2014 Exhibition,
“Wind Communicator”
by Katsuyuki Ishiyama and Takeshi Fududa.

2. I washed acorns.
At this stage, I discarded acorns with cracks and warm holes.

3. I soaked acorns in fresh water for 3 days.
I changed water in the morning and evening. I thought peeling the skin of acorns would be similar to peeling the skin of chest nuts. Some of those worms within the acorns came out and drowned. Amen.

Water became brownish, though transparent.

4. I peeled the skin of acorns, and soaked the skinned acorns in fresh water again for about 1 week.
What I learned: Acorns are very hard to skin. All of my fingers got blistered, and the scars remained until spring. In the process, I beheaded several worms hided within the nuts … Amen, amen. I changed water every morning and evening as before.

5. When the water became somehow less brownish, I crashed the acorns in the food processor, and soaked the acorn meals again for a week.
I several times strained the meal by cheese cloth, and returned them to the clean water. Up to this point, it was as written in the book. The water became somehow transparent in the morning after a week or so, but still brownish, which Sekine did not mention. So, I decided to take the matter in a different direction from the book.

The water was murky
immediately after soaking the acorn meal.
A week later

6. I decided to boil the acorn meals.
The acorn meals rendered lots of lye. So probably what I did was not that bad.

The pan was full of lye. 
7. When the pan reached to the boil, I removed it from the heat, and strained the acorn meals with cheese cloth. 
After letting it cool, I stored it in a Ziploc bag. 2kg acorns became 650 g acorn meal.

Immediately after heating
Acorn meal in a ziploc
(er, well, IKEA bag, really)

The acorn meal I made was probably too coarse for making dotorimuk; it did not settle. I mixed it with agar powder for the muk. The taste was … very light (or “no taste at all”). It was strange because the acorn meal itself remained somehow oily after boiling. It may be because of agar. I did not use all the acorn meal for dotorimuk. They kept well in the freezer, and I used the remaining meal for “Acorn Bread” later in winter. I substituted bananas with acorn meal for the standard recipe of banana bread. The bread had a distinctively nutty flavor, which was different from any other bread. Success!

But … reaching to this point, I found myself not being tempted to collect acorns to eat any more … I still had aching fingers with scars of blisters. I now know why many of our ancestors stopped eating acorns … we are impatient bunch. People in Tohoku and Korea are awesome!