Friday, October 30, 2015

Ghosts in the Forest (Thriller!): Kamigo Citizen Forest 上郷市民の森

5 days after the first Citizen Forest, Iijima Citizen Forest, was born in April 1972, another Citizen Forest opened its gate. It was Kamigo Citizen Forest of 4.8 ha with 1.3 k trekking roads. As this is another oldie of the Citizen Forest family, it also keeps a Skeleton in the closet. My google search says the gazebo in the open space at the top of the hill was once a popular spot for suicide, and hence it is obvious for psychics to meet wondering souls around there. I just imagined the scenes of first few minutes in the video “Thriller” of Michael Jackson … (Map of the Forest, here.) Very unfortunately, I have not seen Nearly Headless Nick this time. When I’ve been to Seibei Hiroba (清兵衛広場 Seibei Open Space), the weather was warm, sky was blue, and the view from the wooden observatory was open-wide. (It was supposed to be able to see Mt Fuji, but the horizon was misty then.) I had a very good lunch. Legend says 17 people killed themselves in Kamigo Forest so if you are blessed to have such powers, you can utilize your skill for supernatural communication there, perhaps.

You may be able to recognize
the existence of spirits here. I cannot.

Actually, if you plan to hike Enkaizan 円海山 area, which is a complex of 4 Citizen Forests and Yokohama Nature Sanctuary (and Zoo; more to them in the later posts), Kamigo Forest can be a good starting point.  If that is the case, using Kanachu Bus from JR Konandai Station 港南台駅 of Keihintohoku Line would be a wise choice for the access to Kamigo Forest. From Number 1 and 2 Bus Stops of Konandai Station, there are numerous services to go to Momijibashi Bus Stop 紅葉橋停留所 that is the most convenient stop for the Forest. Also, I may recommend you to use toilet of Macdonald’s in front of Momijibashi Stop since currently toilets for Kamigo Forest is out-of-order. On the other hand, if you do not intend to hike, but enjoy Kamigo Forest only, I would suggest to going there on foot. It is only about 30 minutes’ walk that would be about the same time-investment even if we use bus from Konandai. Besides, along the way, we can have an incredible vista of “unexplored region” of Yokohama.

Konandai Station.
Bus stops are behind this monolith
(which is art, mate).
Momijibashi Bus Stop and Golden Arch

From Konandai Station, leave the South Exit, and take the road to Yokohama Women’sJunior College 横浜女子短大.  Eventually, we meet Konandai Station Entrance Traffic Light 港南台駅入口. Cross the road at the traffic light, and proceed to the narrower road ahead going into the residential area. The road mildly goes down and reaches to a crossing of 3 forked road with a coffee shop at the corner. Take the left road that first leads us to the main entrance of Yamate-Gakuin Jr. and Sr. High School 山手学院中高. The way curves along the campus, and becomes pedestrian only going up and down a hill where the school buildings are situated over the fence on the left. At the end is the back gate of the school, and on the right there is a steep paved slope going down to Prefecture Road #23 where Momijibashi Bus Stop is. And here, stop at the top of the paved slope, and look the other side. I simply wondered if it was Yokohama: no housing complexes, but green hills and valleys. It is the vista of Enkaisan Area of 700 ha greenery in Yokohama, aka “unexplored region.” We’ll go there eventually.

Konandai Station Entrance Traffic Light
Coffee shop
The main entrance of
Yamate-Gakuin Jr. and Sr. High School
Along the campus road, take the left narrower way
The road goes down,
and we can see the hardpan of the hill,
i.e. typical of Miura Peninsula.
The nearest green hill should be Segami Citizen Forest.

Going down the hill to the Road #23, turn left, and in front of us on the right over Itachi-gawa (いたち川 Weasel River) is Kamigo Forest. This is one of the oldest members of Yokohama Citizen Forest family, and last March the collaboration of the 3 groups of volunteers (including Boy Scouts) and the City created a conservation and management plan for the next 4 years of the Forest. The plan is funded by Yokohama Green Tax. So it is official, called “The Environmental Planning forthe Future of the Kamigo Forest.” They held several meetings and field studies, and defined the outcome of the project to make Kamigo Forest that cohabits with ordinary lives of people.  For making this to happen, the plan defined divisions of labor among volunteers and the City, the zoning, and the schedule of maintenance works and volunteer training to learn and develop the plan more. It sounds like a typical project cycle – Most Significant Change M&E approach, doesn’t it? When we approach to the Forest from Momijibashi Bus Stop, we first cross Momijibashi, then take the road on the left as the sign post suggests. At the end of the road, there are 2 ways; one on the right goes into the Forest, and another is going to Mizuki Hiroba (みずき広場 Mizuki Open Space) where it has a billboard and warehouses for volunteer works.

Kamigo Forest
Sign post saying “Forest this way to the left”
Mizuki Hiroba
The billboard shows
“The Environmental Planning for
the Future of the Kamigo Forest.”
Believe it or not, in front of Mizuki Hiroba,
there is a house of Mori,
i.e. Forest, Family.
To the Forest
Entrance to the Forest

When we enter the Forest from Momijibashi, we fist climb up the wooden steps and corridors constructed on the steep hardpan at the bottom of the hill.  We then first enter into the route called Bamboo Way (竹のみち for obvious reason), and later to a coniferous forest. The way eventually becomes Momiji-Zaka (もみじ坂 Maple Tree slope) where there are maple trees young and old. They were unfortunately still green in the middle of October, but will be very beautiful at the end of November. At the end of Momiji-zaka is haunted Seibei Hiroba. All along the climbing, I could not feel the existence of human ghosts, but was able to figure out Taiwanese squirrels running here and there. Cute.

Wooden route
We can recognize hardpan easily
along the way.
Bamboo way
Momiji-zaka with benches

Seibei Hiroba is a wide open space with lots of grass, sunshine and a high-tension transmission tower. The place spreads along the ridge way, and surrounding vegetation is more of large deciduous trees. The biota of Yokohama is evergreen broad-leaved forest, and when humans cut trees for utilitarian purpose, deciduous trees comes out from the soil left from the post-Ice Ages. The deciduous trees were then used for building materials, fuel, and the source of fertilizers to the agriculture. So, the top of the Kamigo Forest has a long history of human intervention. One of the targets for the Plan was to recreate deciduous tree forest in the ridge of the hill. This summer the volunteers transplanted in pots sprouts of quercus serrata and others from another parts of the forest. They, including kids of 99th Yokohama Group of Boy Scouts, are now nurturing the sprouts home. Next year, they will bring them in Seibei Hiroba.

Seibei Hiroba Observatory
The vista from the Observatory.
Mt Fuji was supposed to be in front of us!
From Seibei Hiroba, we can go down the hill to Ozuki Residential Area 尾月町. Southern route via Tsubaki no Michi (つばきのみち Camellia Street whose camellias were planted by volunteers) has another observatory called Miharashidai 見晴台. From there, we can see Araizawa Forest Hills on the right and Yokohama Nature Sanctuary Hills on the left, sandwiching a housing area along the valley … typical in Yokohama!

Camellia Street
and its view
Going down from Miharashidai to Hie Shrine
This slope is from the north of Seibei Hiroba.

From Ozuki residential area, if we proceed to the north, we find Weasel River and Road #23 where we started. Actually, there is a quiet promenade along Weasel River. The source of the Weasel River is Nature Sanctuary. We’ll go there later.

Weasel River

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 …)

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