Friday, November 13, 2015

Bacon, Cabbage, Action! Maioka Our Country Home 舞岡ふるさと村

City of Yokohama has two Our Country Home (Furusato-mura ふるさと村) forests. One is Jike Forest situated right next to Tokyo. Another is Maioka Forest which joined Citizen Forest Family in 2002. Unlike Jike Forest that became Citizen Forest in 1982, Maioka is a relatively new Citizen Forest. It could be handy to remember this fact when we think why these two Our Country Home Forests are different. It also shows us the changes in thinking about natural environment in our City of Yokohama. Very interesting.

Access to Maioka Our Country Home is the easiest for Citizen Forest. We just take Yokohama City Subway Blue Line to Maioka Station. Leave the station from the South Exit, and let’s turn to the south at the top of the stairs coming out from the underground. In front of us is Maioka Our Country Home, and the forest on the right is Citizen Forest and continuing Maioka Park. (舞岡公園 Maioka Park has a small car parking at the southern tip which is always full.) The community contains 55 farming families in 103 ha.  i.e. The area consists of small farming families. Even though, basically Maioka has been an area famous of its vibrant agriculture for ages in Yokohama. The soil is almost at the edge of fertile Tama hills. The farmers accumulated the knowledge of land-husbandry for small to medium sized agricultural business. Before they became Our Country Home, they produced at least 30 vegetables in their small plots and catered Yokohama urbanites who demanded variety of vegetables at reasonable prices. Now the community produces at least 170 varieties of vegetables, rice, and pork. They sell their products under “Maioka” brand in stores in Yokohama.

Maioka Station South Exit
At the exit of Subway Station, they have this large map.
After rice harvesting, right next to the subway station

And so, the area is a kind of 21st Century version of Japanese Satoyama. The environment of Maioka is majority under human intervention, but in a particularly symbiotic way. 19.5 ha of Citizen Forest has the controlled trees and undergrowth in order to maintain water source for small scale farms, providing a diverse ecosystem. People try to maintain the area at Goldilocks Zone good for biodiversity and agriculture. The food production is based on a traditional crop routine, but aggressively incorporating new trends of consumer demand. They sell Koshihikari rice for sushi, and give us beautiful kohlrabis that would be gorgeous appetizer for European style Christmas dinner. Unlike Jike where the emphasis is more on tourism, Maioka is more for small-scale agricultural production.

Next to the Maioka subway exit, there are two shops, official storefronts for MaiokaOur Country Home where we can purchase Maioka products. One is Maioka-ya 舞岡や where they sell very fresh vegetables, rice, and horticultural plants such as pot flowers, supplied by farmers in Maioka. (Open 7:30-12:00 for weekdays, 7:30-14:00 for weekends and holidays. Closed for Tuesday.) Another is Maioka Ham Workshop (Maioka Ham Kohboh 舞岡ハム工房; Open 9:30-16:00, Closed for Tuesday.) where they sell artisanal bacon, ham, sausages, and pork made in Maioka. (Damned WHO!) As their product is indeed handmade, they are not cheap (e.g. 200g of bacon costs about 1000 yen), but DELICIOUS. Maioka Ham Workshop also has some vegetables, pasta, and others including bento lunch boxes at reasonable price (like 500 yen for plat-du-jour lunch box). It is an ideal place to procure your lunch in Maioka Forest.

Flagship shops for Maioka, seen from Subway exit
Maioka-ya sells rice made in Maioka.
The community also markets their pickles
(tsukemono) home-made with Maioka vegetables.
Next to Maioka-ya,
they have spacious toilets for visitors:
all the structure of Maioka-ya is built
by national agricultural subsidy from
the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry
… wow.
Maioka Ham Kohboh
Ham Kohboh sells not only processed meat,
but also pork itself.
By the way, their marinated pork is mouth-watering.

The route within Maioka Forest is a network of community roads for farming families to use. (Map, here.) Many of them are wide enough, if not paved, for a small tractor to reach to a field within the Forest. We stroll within the Forest, and suddenly find a small orchard of persimmon trees, or a cabbage patch. There are several allotments for amateurs lucky enough to win the city lottery to use the land there. One of the missions for Maioka Our Country Home is disseminating the hands-on knowledge of food production among city dwellers of Yokohama. … Do you know, these days, some moms in Japan submit a petition to head teachers of elementary schools not to show photographs of butterflies in classrooms? The reason: they think the photos of insects are “creepy, and so, not good for educating our urban kids.” WHAT are they thinking!? … Maioka allotments have really a serious goal.

The road leading to inside of the Forest.
On the right is allotment for amateurs.
It would be difficult for tractors here …
but thinking the Citizen Forest standard …
All the notices in Maioka Forest are
by Agricultural Office of the City,
not by the Office for the Park.
Picnic tables within the Forest
and in front of the table has this notice board
by the Ministry saying
the road around here is constructed
by national subsidy for agriculture.
Hence, it is wide enough ...
to bring us to a small farm within the Forest,
and to an orchard (on the left).
Right next to the Forest to the west is
ordinary residential area which was
before one of the largest factories of Bridgestone.

Very intriguingly, Maioka Forest connects to 28.5 ha of Maioka Park, established in December 1992. The Park has 5 restricted areas that prohibit the human access, in order to maintain biota of the area. The Park also has gates to shut-off pets to enter. The road within Maioka Park is more of the trekking roads of other Citizen Forests. It is a kind of role reversal. The original intention of Citizen Forest is more emphasis on nature conservation, and many areas within the Forests are off-limit for visitors. (Do you remember Kashiwa-cho Forest? Its ¾ is off-limits for visitors.) On the other hand, urban parks in Japan are under the jurisdiction of Urban Park Act that requires in general the facilities for citizens of free-entry. In Maioka, the roles of Citizen Forest and the Park are in the other way round.

Between the Citizen Forest and the Park,
there is a small paved road.
Then, the road dives into the Forest.
Within Maioka Park

The ridgeway of Maioka Park has
several open places with a view.
Many people are spending their autumn
in the Park reading.
By the way, next to Maioka Park is
Yokohama Campus of Meijigakuin University
One of the gates in Maioka Park
In general,
the toilets for Maioka Park are clean and spacious.
Many have booths for western toilet.

Within Maioka Park, there is an old farm house, Koyato-no-sato 小谷戸の里, surrounded by small ponds and rice paddies. It is now used as a community house for volunteers of Maioka Park. (Phone: 045-824-0107.) The place also has a small museum with artefacts of satoyama life in yesteryears. There, we can know about 130 years ago there was a girl who studied in Maioka Elementary, and received a certificate of her attendance of the study. The place hosts very popular annual Harvest Festival on November 23rd. (This year, from 9:50-about 13:00.) They sell mochi, rice balls, vegetable soup …, made of bounties from Maioka at nominal price. This year, from 12:30 there is a ceremony for 2015 Champion of Maioka Scarecrow Competition. (The champion is decided by vote of visitors to Maioka Park.) Koyato-no-sato itself snuggly nestles in the forest of Maioka. I envy that girl who lived there years ago …

One of this year’s competitors
er, well,
the artist for this scarecrow says it is tofu.
Enemy of moms

The rice paddies and ponds around Koyato-no-sato is a source for Maioka River that eventually joins Katase River (via Kashio River) pouring in to the Pacific Ocean at Fujisawa City. Maioka Citizen Forest and Maioka Park is spreading along the Maioka River. About 300 m from Maioka Subway Station along Maioka River, there is Niji-no-Ie (虹の家 Rainbow House, Open 9:00-17:00) that is an information center cum community gathering place for Maioka Our Country Home. It seems to me they have many cooking lessons using bounties of Maioka throughout the year (e.g. “Let’s make Sausages!” Welcome Sir Winston.) You can first start your visit from there and dive into the forest. Their seasonal maps of Maioka (Link here for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter) are cute. They also have a small museum explaining the area. I was shocked to see an exhibition of two georamas. One is constructed based on the data of the 19th century.  Another is of the 1980s. Once Maioka area was of agricultural villages. After 100 years or so, the hills and forests surrounding the present-day Maioka Our Country Home were bulldozed to be the huge factories of Hitachi and Bridgestone. At least Bridgestone is gone in the 21st Century, and Hitachi factory is now company’s research center. Vicissitudes …

A stroll along Maioka River

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 …)

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