Friday, December 4, 2015

How Green Was Our Valley: Shomyoji Citizen Forest 称名寺市民の森

In the family of Yokohama Citizen Forests, there are two monks. One is Bugenji Temple 豊顕寺, another is Shomyoji Temple 称名寺 in Kanazawa Bunko Town 金沢文庫. 10.7 ha Shomyoji Forest is definitely bigger in many ways. The Forest surrounds Shomyoji Temple and Kanazawa-Bunko Museum. In about 10 minutes’ walk from the Temple, we can reach to Yokohama Marine Park of 1 k sand beach with several beach-volley courts. It is possible to pack your whole day in Kanazawa Bunko Town by hiking, visiting historical sites, checking the latest art exhibition, wind-surfing, and sea-food BBQing ... I know several Tokyonites who chose to go to college in Yokohama and to live in Kanazawa Bunko Town. They seldom went to see their mom (er, just a 30 min. train ride), or ventured into the downtown Yokohama. Reason? Their neighborhood has everything. I admit it is a very cozy town.

Shomyoji Temple
Kanagawa Prefectural Kanazawa-Bunko Museum
Asaba ArtCafé (vegetarian) near Shomyoji Temple
Marine Park

To go to Shomoyoji, the easiest would be on foot from Keikyu Kanazawa Bunko Station 京急金沢文庫駅. The standard access to Shomyoji Forest is first going to Shomyoji Temple, and then venture into the Forest behind. If you can read Japanese, you’ll notice there are lots of road signs directing us to Shomyoji Temple from Kanazawa Bunko Station East Exit. Having said that, I recommend you to enter the Forest first, and then going down to the Temple. Either way, it is less than 15 minutes’ walk from the Station to the Temple / Forest. Leaving the Station and we meet Kanazawa Bunko Ekimae Traffic Light 金沢文庫駅前信号. Let’s cross the street, and turn LEFT (right to the precinct of the Temple). Walk about 50 m or so to find Kanazawa Bunko Koban-mae Traffic Light 金沢文庫交番前信号. Now, we turn right and the road climbs up in an ordinary residential area. After finishing a U-turning slope, first turn right and go straight. We’ll see steep steps ahead. It is the entrance to the Forest.

East Exit of Kanazawa Bunko Station
East Exit also has a map of the town
with directions to sight-seeing spots.
Kanazawa Bunko Ekimae Traffic Light
A stairway to the Forest
Here it is, at the top of the steps.
From this entrance,
we can see Kamariya Forest and beyond to the west.

Basically, Shomyoji Forest is a part of Shomyoji Temple. The Temple was started as a private prayer house for Hojoh Sanetoki 北条実時, a kind of Lord Chamberlain for Hojoh Tokimune 北条時宗 who governed Japan from Kamakura in the middle of the 13th century. In 1267, the prayer house became Shomyoji Temple of the Shingon Ritsu Sect 真言律宗, and served as the family temple for the Kanesawa-Hojoh clan 金沢北条氏. So, the Forest is a typical Shasoh-rin 社叢林, i.e. a forest belonging to a religious institution. It also was a private property, a garden, of one of the grandees for Japanese national politics. After the Hojoh clan (including Kanesawa-Hojoh family) was annihilated by the rebel army coming down from the Seya Forest in 1333, the Temple became a pure religious (and academic; more for this below) institution and suffered a gradual decline of 600 years. In 1897, the first modern Japanese Prime Minister, Itoh Hirobumi 伊藤博文 (yeah, that national enemy for Korea), re-established the place as the archive for historical documents, but the facility was destroyed by the 1924 Great Kanto Earthquake. Then, in 1930 Kanagawa Prefectural Government revived the place as the central library for the Prefecture. After 1945, the City of Yokohama academically excavated the remains of the property, put the neglected promenade and trekking roads in good order to open the Citizen Forest in July 1979, and repaired the then-derelict buildings and the pond. The entire project was completed in 1987. The 1950 m trekking road shows this history. (Map, here.)

Temple Gate 仁王門, rebuilt in 1818
Asin Deva Kingsthe at the Temple Gate
阿行金剛力士立像 sculpted in 1323;
registered as Important Cultural Treasure
for Kanazawa Prefecture 
Yeah Deva opposite to Asin at the Gate
吽行金剛力士立像 also made in 1323;
registered as Important Cultural Treasure
for Kanazawa Prefecture)

The Main Hall (Kondoh 金堂), rebuilt in 1681
Inside of the Main Hall (Kondoh)
The pond has several legends
including a tale of princess who was drawn
and became the island in the middle.
The garden is in the Pure-land Style
浄土庭園 like Byodoh-in in Kyoto
平等院 UN World Heritage Site).
Kanazawa-Bunko Museum has a historical map,
registered at the Important Cultural National Artifacts
dated 1323 depicting this pond and the temple.
It confirms it is the latest remaining
Pure-land Style garden in Japan.
The army of volunteer-guides donning a blue cap
could tell you the story of Shomyoji Temple.
This was a very kind gentleman-volunteer
at the entrance Info-booth.
You can just approach them to ask for the tour, free of charge.
(I don’t know if there is somebody
who can manage foreign language, though …)
Toilet of the Temple for tourists

First of all, the Forest does not have a bamboo forest. Before, bamboo forest was very important resource for ordinary Japanese life. It provided materials, i.e. bamboo, for construction and daily necessities of people. Shomyoji Forest was not for ordinary people; it was a private garden of the rich and powerful. There was no need to have a bamboo forest. It also belongs to a historic temple. Except around the temple buildings, human intervention to the vegetation was kept to a minimum so that it consists of evergreen broad-leaved trees, i.e. the biota of this part of Japan. Having said that, people have entered the forest nearly for 900 years, which makes the trekking roads hard with gnarled roots of large trees exposed here and there below the carpet of fallen leaves. It may be an ideal training ground for trail runners. In one fine Saturday morning of November, I’ve met a handful of them.

When we enter the Forest in the way we approached, we immediately come to Dai-no-Hiroba (台の広場 Dai Open Space). It is almost at the beginning of the ridge way of the hill. From there, the road, called Gyoda-no-Tori (行田の通り Gyoda Street) gradually climbs up to Hakkakudoh Hiroba (八角堂広場 Octagonal Gazebo Open Space). Oh, yes, before reaching to the Hakkakudoh Hiroba, there is another road going down to Kanazawa-Bunko Museum. More to this later … From Hakkakudoh Hiroba, we can have wonderful views of Marine Park and the ports of Yokosuka City. The road going down from here to the Temple is called Kan’non-Dori (観音通り Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Street), and if you take this way you know the reason why. After going down the steep stairs to Kan’non Hiroba 観音広場 in the middle of the street, there appears successive spots full of statues of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. They are 100 of them, and a kind of cheat-place for pilgrims to Bandoh 33Kan’non 坂東33観音 (“33 temples with Bodhisttva in Kanto Region” which is a pilgrimage route, well, similar to the route of Santiago de Compostela), Saigoku 33 Kan’non 西国33観音 (; it’s the itinerary for Kansai region), and Chichibu 34 Kan’non 秩父34観音 (; it’s for Chichibu Mountainarea). You can spend your whole day by examining the feature of each of them J.

Dai-no Hiroba
Beyond this stair is ...
Hakkakudoh Hiroba
A view from Hakkakudoh Hiroba.
 The large cranes over there are for
 Nissan Oppama Factory.
They make Nissan Leafs.
The Kan’non-dori “falling down” from Hakkakudoh Hiroba to
Kan’non Hiroba
Lots of Bodhisattvas
She looks very gentle …

If you continues to walk the ridgeway, we first come to Inariyama Rest Place 稲荷山休憩所, and then to the grave of Sanetoki Hojoh. Going down the steps in front of the graveyard, we come to the north-end of a field at the back of the temple. According to the 1323 map, the place had several buildings for monks to study. It was an ancient campus. Now it is really an open space surrounded by the forest and the temple ... very open. Another road from the Graveyard is called Hinatayama-dori 日向山通り. It runs through the eastern ridge of the hill surrounding the Temple, and coming down to the south end of the field of the former-campus ... The color of the sky over the field was of the sea. Open, blue, and clear ...

Inariyama Rest Place
The graveyard for Kanasawa-Hojoh Clan
The tombstone of Hojoh Sanetoki
The open field behind the Temple.
It had at least 5 lecture halls in the 14th century

To the field

And now, I really must write about Kanasawa Bunko, because the Wikipedia entry of the place in English is a junk. Western side of the Temple garden with the pond is another open space, whose hill has two tunnels. One is closed with meshed wires. Another leads us to Kanazawa-Bunko Museum. The space at the mouth of the tunnels had a chateau of Kanasawa-Hojoh clan. Hojoh Sanetoki was a skilled politician and a dilettante who was already famous for his intelligence when he was 10 years old. Sanetoki started to collect books and in 1275 built the first organized library in Japan (for private use, of course). He built the archive not next to his chateau, but another side of the hill separated by the fireproof hardpan. For the convenience of the book owner, they dug a tunnel to connect two properties which is now covered by the wire-mesh for safety. Sanetoki 実時 treasured the books and thought the contingency “just in case.” His son (Akitoki 顕時), his grandson (Sada’aki 貞顕), and his great-grandson (Sadayuki 貞将 who was killed in 1333) were also functioned as “Lord Chamberlain” for Kamakura Government, which made them study traditional culture of Kyoto deeply as their dad / grandpa. With their power and money, they continued to amass lots of fine books at the time. Their love for learning and caution were paid off. Even after their family was extinct, the library survived and was maintained by Shomyoji Temple that became a seminary. From time to time the grandees of Japanese politics supported Shomyoji Temple to maintain the facility … some of them requested the return for their help. Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 moved huge volumes from Kanasawa Bunko to Edo Castle (the current Imperial Palace). The PM Itoh returned the books taken by Ieyasu to Kanasawa Bunko in the late 19th century. In 1930 the place became the Central Library of Kanagawa Prefecture by the national law. In 1954, it became Kanagawa Prefectural Kanazawa-Bunko Museum specialized in historical documents and artefacts. The treasures of the Museum includes 5 National Treasures; portraits of 4 chiefs of Kanasawa-Hojoh clan, and the only remaining copy in the world for The Wen Xuan , the 5th century anthology of classic Chinese poems composed in BC. (It is considered that it was hand-copied in the 9th to 10th century.) The place is an information center for researchers of Japanese Middle Age, publishes an academic journal (“金沢文庫研究 Kanazawa Bunko Kenkyu,” May 1955 -), and organizes numerous symposiums, lecture series, and exhibition for Japanese history. At the moment, they collaborate with Yugyoji Temple 遊行寺 in Fujisawa City for an exhibition of a national treasure, Ippen Hijiri-E (一遍聖絵 “The pictured story of Saint Ippen”) until December 13, 2015.

The place where the chateau was.
The tunnels. Older one is behind the trees on the right.
The mouth of the old tunnel seen from the Museum
If you come to the Museum directly from Dai-no-Hiroba,
… this way,
going down,
to the museum.

Ippen 一遍 was a funky scantly-clad Buddhist monk who in the 13th century travelled around Japan dancing for proselytizing. According to one of the ancient books displayed for the exhibition, his way of sending holy messages was “shaking the head and moving the shoulders” in an “indecent attire” and “very funny.” He established Jishu Sect 時宗 whose current HDQ is Yugyoji Temple in Fujisawa City. The main exhibition for the show is the 12 volumes of the 13th century Japanese, I would say, “manga” depicting the life story of Ippen in pictures and words on silk. Kanzawa-Bunko exhibits 4 of them, and the rest are showed in Yugyoji Temple and Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History 神奈川県立歴史博物館 (in Bashamichi Street 馬車道 of downtown Yokohama) till December 13. The related display at the Kanazawa-Bunko Museum includes stunning Toma Mandala (当麻曼荼羅, painted in the 17th century for Jishu Sect). The exhibition shows us the result of an x-ray studies of the “manga” indicating the artist of 800 years ago, Monk En’i 円伊, first painted naked Ippen, and then covered his bodies in clothes. It was about 100 years before the trouble of Michelangelo ... Everybody had the same problem ... The manga says Ippen travelled all over Japan of lots of forests. I imagine the most consumed paint for this work was green. How green was our valley …

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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