Friday, November 27, 2015

Suspended motion: Mine Citizen Forest 峯市民の森

In October 1974, a year after OPEC sent the Oil Shock throughout the world, or at the end of high growth era of post-World War II Japan, 12.9 ha Mine (pronounced Me-nee) Citizen Forest debuted as the 6th member of Yokohama Citizen Forest with 2800 m trekking roads. It is situated right next to the Enkaisan 円海山 Nature Sanctuary Area, separated by Yokohama-Yokosuka 横浜横須賀 (Yoko-Yoko 横横) Road.  The Forest was established about the same time as the first forest of the Nature Sanctuary (Kamariya Citizen Forest 釜利谷市民の森, we’ll visit there in December). Once a forest in Yokohama becomes Citizen Forest, the development of the area is to some extent controlled. And to open gate as a Citizen Forest, people need time for preparation. So, the present-day Mine town with the Forest is a kind of indicator for a traditional Japanese Satoyama community at the very end of “Japanese miracle economic development.” … Having lunch in the Mine Forest, I imagined how the towns around Beijing will look like in 2050 …

At one entrance to the Forest
from Yokodai Station
there was this handsome cat,
very friendly to me.
Could be a warden for the Forest … yes.

The access to Mine Citizen Forest is the easiest on foot from JR Yokodai Station 洋光台駅 of Keihin-Tohoku Line 京浜東北線. It takes just 15 minutes or so from the station. But, if you really prefer economizing your foot-mileage, you can take bus from JR Isogo Station 磯子駅, two stations before Yokodai Station. Ride City Bus #10 to Mine Town 峯の郷, one service per an hour by microbus (; time table, here), and get off at Sakashita 坂下, or next Kohshinbashi 更新橋 Bus Stop. They are in the middle of Mine Town, and in front of us we see the turnpike of Yoko-Yoko Road, and the Nature Sanctuary beyond.

Sakashita Stop
A bus at Kohshinbashi Stop from Isogo Station
Mine Town and Yoko-Yoko Road

From Yokodai Station, leave the bus terminal in front of the Station to the south along the 4-lane street, passing the Bank of Yokohama Yokodai Branch on the right. The road is slowly climbing up to the crossing of Yokodai 6-chome Traffic Light 洋光台6丁目信号. Along the way, there are supermarkets, restaurants, and a convenience store so that you can procure your foods and drinks there. If you go left from the Traffic Light, you directly enter the gate of Isogo Country Club Golf Course 磯子カンツリークラブ, which is located next to the Mine Forest. Instead, we cross the road and go straight into a residential area. In front of us is odd-shaped Yokodai 6-chome Koen (garden) 洋光台6丁目公園. Go to the other side of the garden and walk into the road which is the nearest to the eastern edge of the garden. Soon we will meet a T-crossing: take the way to the right, then there is a crossing whose two roads lead us to Mine Forest. If you choose to turn left here, in about 20 m on the right, there is an allotment with a sign board saying “Citizen vegetable patch with the help of Lovers of Mine Citizen Forest.” A trekking road begins from there, running along the northeastern edge of the Mine Forest, and ends at Sakashita Bus Stop. (Map of the Forest, here. It is the map of entire Enkaisan area, and Mine Forest is a kind of an orphaned forest on the right.)

JR Yokodai Station
The road goes up to …
Yokodai 6-chome Traffic Light
Yokodai 6-chome Koen
This way from Koen;
in front of us is already the Mine Citizen Forest.
The allotment at the mouth of Route #1
The road to Sakashita Bus Stop …
goes like this … and
we can see a large part of Mine Forest ahead
from this road.

The road brings us to this entry way
to the Forest at Sakashita Bus Stop.

On the other hand, if you choose to go 10 m or so more ahead from the crossing, and turn left, you will see another entrance to the Forest (where I met the regal cat). This route of the Forest is called Yamano-kami 山の神 (God of the Mountain) Street. Sure enough, almost next to the entrance there is a small shrine and a huge machilus, which is a recorded tree at the City registry. It means the forest around the shrine is a Shasoh-rin 社叢林, or a forest village shrine 鎮守の森 preserving the biota. It is a one-way street along the northwestern edge of the Forest going through broad-leaved evergreen forests (biota) and bamboo forests (man-planted) appearing alternately. On the right beyond the forest, we can see the several roofs of houses in Mine Town. They are not many, and maintain traditional village housing design:  large independent houses with a wide front yard each for agricultural works. The other side of the houses is another hill with a broad-leaved forest, and Yoko-Yoko Road ... Yamano-kami Street ends at Kohshinbashi Bus Stop.

Route #2: turn left here, and
Another entrance to the Forest
and bamboos.
… telling …

The Mine Forest is divided into two by this bus route. We have just gone through the smaller part of the Forest. The other side is a larger chunk of Mine Forest. Along the bus road is, I guess, the original Mine Town, which would have been an agricultural village, but now a kind of small industrial zone. Majority of the business around here looks like for construction … painting, construction-car lease, materials storage, construction waste site …, and one large industrial laundry where trucks unloading lots of towels and sheets. The construction for Yoko-Yoko Road was started in May 1970, at the height of Japanese miracle. They first started to build the road between (now) Kariba Junction (狩場JC) and Asahina Interchange (朝比奈IC) that is the south of Nature Sanctuary, i.e. very near to Mine Forest. Surmising from the topology of Mine Town, and the opening dates of the Forest and Yoko-Yoko Road Construction, the traditional Satoyama community of Mine could have had a turmoil around 1970. It may have transformed the agricultural village into a mini-industrial town with noise of industrial machineries, sandwiched by the silent Forests. In 2015, the scenery has remained as such, almost in a schizophrenic way. I could see the agony of the village people in the 1960s … the ancestral land or economic development?

A large traditional house along the bus route
A yard for a construction company
Industrial laundry
The bus route

Along the bus route, there are 3 entrances to the larger part of Mine Forest. All lead us to the ridge way whose other side is Isogo Country Club. The northern most entry way is at Sakashita Bus Stop. This route gradually goes up and leads us to Zenshoh-yama Rest Place 善正山休憩所 with picnic benches surrounded by huge wild cherry trees. The place must be patronized by locals for cherry blossom party. The ridge way start here to the south to Amanuma Rest Place 甘沼休憩所 where the road meets with the way from the second entrance to the Forest. The toilet for Mine Forest is at this second entrance (behind a construction company). In November 2015, I found the road for these places have been taken care of by the volunteers. Coniferous trees, which, I guess from the size of the stumps, were planted decades ago, were thinned and undergrowth of bamboo grass was mowed. From Amanuma Rest Place, the way goes down to Amanuma Open Space 甘沼広場. From Amanuma Open Space, Koshinbashi Bus Stop is just 50 m down. Along the ridge way, we can hear the voices of golfers. To the east between the trees, we can see immaculate green of a golf course … Just beyond the Sakashita Bus Stop is already an ordinary residential area of Yokohama. Mine Town is … besieged.

Entrance from Sakashita Bus Stop
first goes along the material storage
of the construction company.
At the end are a small wooden bridge
and the Forest. The route is one way.
Zenshoh-yama Rest Place
Many of the trees at the bottom are cherries.
The remnants of volunteer works,
And an art work,
aka a creative collaboration of nature and volunteers!
Amanuma Rest Place
Next to the Amanuma Rest Place
there is another place called Viewing Platform
展望台 with sitting “chairs” where we cannot see the vista,
but trees surrounding the space.
From the 2nd entrance to the Amanuma Rest Place:
Volunteers mowed the bamboo grass here.
Behind of this site is …
The second entrance to the Forest and …
The toilet.
The road from Amanuma Rest Place goes down …
down …
to …
Amanuma Open Space …
and …
Entrance to the Forest from Kohshinbashi Bus Stop.
Seen from the allotment
in the smaller part of the Forest.
Could you figure out skyscrapers in downtown?
Trichosanthes cucumeroides

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, November 20, 2015

Violetta, or The Marschallin: Shimonagaya Citizen Forest 下永谷市民の森

In the north of Maioka town, there is a smaller Citizen Forest. It is Shimonagaya Citizen Forest. Though it is smaller, the Forest too is a representation of the 21st century Satoyama. It surrounds small but productive agricultural fields, maintaining a traditional topology of Japanese agricultural village in the sea of residential houses.

If there is a parking, the access to the Forest would be the easiest by car. It situated few hundred meters from Kan-2 Han’nya-ji Traffic Light 環2般若寺信号 of 6-lane Circular Road #2 (Kanjoh 2-go-sen 環状2号線). As there are several large warehouse-stores and drive-ins (e.g. Yamada Electronics ヤマダ電機, Yoshinoya 吉野家, Tonkatsu-Matsuya とんかつ松屋, Sukiya すき屋, Tsutaya ツタヤ, Lawson ローソン…) around the traffic light, you can try your luck by parking your car there, and keep crossing your fingers the stores do not notice … Otherwise, the least physically taxing way to go there is by bus. Take Kanachu-bus #30 (time table here and here), #71 (time table here, here, here and here) or Kami-202 (202 time table here) from Keikyu Kamio’oka Station 京急上大岡駅, and get off at Han’nya-ji Bashi Stop 般若寺橋バス停. From the bus stop, walk few meters to the Circular Road, and find Kan-2 Han’nya-ji Traffic Light. Cross Kan-2, and take the road next to Lawson. Less than 300m from there, you’ll find steps with the sign “Shimonagaya Citizen Forest.” If you don’t mind navigating the residential sea on foot, the Forest is in 2k south of JR Higashi-TotsukaStation 東戸塚駅, or to 1.5k north of Shimonagaya Station 下永谷駅 of Yokohama City Subway.  

Kan-2 Han’nya-ji Traffic Light
Take the road behind the sign post of this Lawson to …
Shimonagaya Forest in front of you
South-east Entrance to Shinomagaya Forest

As we can see in this map, 6.1 ha Shimonagaya Forest looks like a comb same as Shishigaya Forest. Shishigaya is eaten from all directions by residential developments with houses right next to the trekking road of the Forest. Shimonagaya Forest is nestling productive farm lands and orchards, almost protecting them against the tsunami of housing developments from the north. When we look down small valleys from the 1.2 k trekking roads of the Forest, we can see well-established chestnuts orchards, vegetable farms and greenhouses where farmers are busy tending their products. I could not find remains of rice paddies or streams there, which would mean the area has traditionally been for vegetable cultivation. Actually, Shimonagaya Forest is the 3rd oldest Yokohama Citizen Forest, established in 1972, 5 days after Kamigo Forest. If the first 2 Citizen Forests (Iijima and Kamigo) are grandpas, Shimonagaya is a grandma. It has a very gentle atmosphere, and lots of camellias.

Off-limited chestnuts orchard

From the entrance from the Circular Road, the trekking way climbs up along the trees which separate the road of the Forest and the agricultural land. Few meters into the Forest, there is an open space, with picnic benches and a view of residential areas surrounding the Forest from the South. Keep on going and take the road to the left when we meet a T crossing. It leads us into the northern circumference of the Forest, separating the Forest and residential area of the North, almost along the fences of private houses. The route gives us a feeling the Forest is indeed protecting the agricultural field from the urban development. Almost in the middle of this road is Tsubaki-no-Hiroba (つばきの広場 Camellia Open Space) where camellias are surrounding the open space with toilet and potable water faucet. North of the Camellia Space has several private houses … I imagine they see this space as a kind of their garden … OK, with toilet.

The road climbing up
The farm field is demarcated
by the zoning ordinance of the City.

The first open space with picnic benches

… and its view

The road to the West to Camellia Space
ctd. …

Camellia Open Space
Toilet for Shimonagaya Forest

From the Camellia Space to the south, the road soon becomes a paved pedestrian promenade where, it seems to me, the locals use as a shortcut to the Circular Road. The huge bonus of this route: a spectacular view of Mt. Oyama, Tanzawa Mountains, and Mt. Fuji for a lucky day. Along the way, there is Gosanmi-tei Open Space 五山見亭 with benches. (Though, the view from the benches is covered by trees.) Further to the South, when we see the roofs of houses ahead, turn left into the woods, and there is Yamanokami-Inaridai-Hiroba (山ノ神稲荷台ひろば the Hill of Mountain God and Inari Shrine) where there is no shrine, but several benches. They might have had a shrine. i.e. The Forest around here has the remnants as Shasoh-rin 社叢林, or forest village shrine 鎮守の森. I could not feel here the existence of Taiwanese squirrels or “Wanted” posters of squirrels as in Maioka …There are another beautiful camellia trees in the open space … in a fine day of autumn, very good smell, wafting within the forest. No, it is not a fragrance of camellia …

A promenade
When I’ve been there,
Mt Fuji was under the clouds … sigh.
To Yamanokami-Inaridai Hiroba
Yamanokami-Inaridai Hiroba
A view from Yamanokami-Inaridai

From there, we can dive into the Forest more to Momi-no-ki Hiroba (もみのき広場 Fir Tree Open Space) which is just below the Camellia Hiroba. The fragrant, almost noble, air continues, and I could find the reason at Momi-no-ki Hiroba. Within the Forest, and around Momi-no-ki Hiroba, many white osmathus fragrans open their white flowers in a November morning. I didn’t know they had such a refined smell … not that showy as bright orange fragrant olives. In spite of the vicinity of such huge industrial road, Shimonagaya Forest keeps its elegance in a very decent way. Aging graciously, really … 

Momino-ki Hiroba
Beat my rudimentary skill of photo …

If you find a problem in the Forest, 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 …)