Friday, December 11, 2015

Yoda, yes, Master Yoda … Kamariya Citizen Forest 釜利谷市民の森

The hill side from Keikyu Kanazawa Bunko Station 京急金沢文庫駅 has one of the entrances for the 700ha complex of four Yokohama Citizen Forests / Yokohama Nature Sanctuary. An entrance to Kamariya Citizen Forest is about 2k from the West Exit of the Station (map here). Together with Kanazawa Zoological Gardens 金沢動物園 and Kanazawa Botanical Park 金沢自然公園 (map here), Kamariya Citizen Forest is in the south of Yokohama-Yokosuka Road. There are two ways to enjoy the area. One is to stay the area, and to explore each of these parks. Another is traversing the area as a part of Rokkokutoge Hiking Trail 六国峠ハイキングコース that runs between Kanazawa Bunko Station and Kamakura Ten’en 鎌倉天園 (and to Kenchoji Temple 建長寺, Zuisenji Temple 瑞泉寺, or Kamakura-gu 鎌倉宮). This time, I talk about staying the area. I promise later I post my adventure of the Hiking Trail that is a popular route for locals. J

The easiest to visit the area is by car, via Yokohama-Yokosuka Road exiting from Kamariya JCT and follow the direction to Kanazawa Zoo Parking. The place has several large parking lots, 600 yen / a day for a family car, or 1800 yen /a day for a bus. If you choose to use Keikyu Bus 京急バス from the West Exit of Kanazawa Bunko Station, take Bun-1 -1 service (to Nomura Jutaku Center 野村住宅センター行き: time table, here) and get off at Natsuyama-Sakaue Stop 夏山坂上停留所. At the stop, in front of us is a large billboard saying “Zoo, this way,” and hence we follow the instruction, i.e. climbing up the slope of about 300m to almost at the top of the hill … There is also a weekend only service that brings us directly to the entrance gate of the zoo 金沢動物園行き, i.e. no need to climb up (time table, here). If you approach to the area in this way, the Zoo is beyond the gate on the left, and on the right and down is the Botanical Park. To reach to the entrance of Kamariya Citizen Forest, we have to cross the Botanical Park to the end of a large parking lot. When your main destination is Kamariya Forest, it would be better taking Keikyu Bus from Kanazawa Bunko Station (Bun-107 service -107 to JR Yokodai Station 洋光台駅行き: time table here, and Bun-8 -8 to Nokendai-shako-mae service 能見台車庫前行き: time table, here) or from KeikyuTomioka Station 京急富岡駅 (Tomi-3 -3 service to Kanazawa Bunko Station: time table, here), and get off at Shimin-no-mori Iriguchi Bus Stop (市民の森入口停留所 “Entrance to Citizen Forest”). In front of the bus stop, there is another parking for the Zoo et al of the same fee. The entrance to Kamariya Forest is at the northeastern edge of the parking. Having said all of these, I think the most natural approach is on foot to go to Shimin-no-mori Bus Stop. It’s just about 2k walking simply along the wide Sasashita-Kamariya Road 笹下・釜利谷道路 from Kanazawa Bunko Station. Also, along the way, there is a shop for gourmet German sausages, hams, and pates (“Wurst,” phone: 045-785-0192). The place is only for freshly made raw sausages (I mean, no eating place). You can visit there when you return from the Forest, and buy your nice dinner to be cooked at home. J

The parking when you come from Kamariya JCT
Get off at Natsuyama-Sakaue Stop,
and over there is the road to the entrance of the Zoo.
Climbing-up …
and we reach almost to the top of the hill.
The Tokyo Bay is below us.
Main Entrance to the Zoo
The parking in front of Shimin-no-mori Iriguchi Bus Stop.
Over there is Yoko-Yoko Road overpass.
Entrance to Kamariya Forest where ...
it also has this map of Citizen Forests Complex,
including Kamariya Forest.

When we enter the Forest from the direction of Shimin-no-mori Iriguchi Bus Stop, the first thing we notice is the road is paved. It is a steep slope climbing up, and I worried the route would be very slippery when it is wet, or snowed. I also wondered why they paved such a steep and narrow road of the mountain. The paved way leads us to Umano-se Hiroba 馬の背広場 (“Horseback Open Space”) where the pavement is somehow ended. This open space has picnic benches and tables. Then, and later more into the deep of the Forest, I noticed there is not much difference between man-made paved roads and the hardpan of the soil. Yes, Kamariya Forest is really in the south of Enkaisan Mountain 円海山. It is geologically a part of Miura Peninsula 三浦半島. The “natural” part of the road has many sections of large rocks covered by leaves of sawtooth oaks or moss which must be very slippery if wet. The road often runs a kind of mini-valley where both sides are the walls of huge hardpan covered with a shallow top soil. The strong large trees of the forest bare their gnarling and huge roots over the hardpan wall and reach down to the cracks of the rocks for nutrition. They are really tough guys. Even in one fine dry day, especially when we go down the treks, it was sometimes tricky to navigate the slippery route. I strongly recommend wearing work gloves when you enter Kamariya Forest.

The paved way to Umano-se Hiroba
hmmm, if it is yellow,
the road could be to the Land of Oz …
Umano-se Hiroba
which is an elongated open space
with lots of picnic benches along the road.
The end of “Grey” Brick Road
The proof of plate tectonics

About ten minutes’ walk after Uma-no-se Hiroba, we reach to Umano-se 馬の背 that is really a horseback place. The road is only less than 1m wide and the both sides are tumbling down to the bottom of the valley. And still, the road is going on the hardpan: the Forest could be on the rocky hill. Soon after passing the Umano-se, on the left, there is a road steeply going down to the west of the parking where we have departed. If we continue ahead without going down, we meet a T-crossing with the Rokkokutoge Hiking Trail. Turn left here and go along with the Trail, and there appears the parking from Kamariya JCT on the left. Rokkokutoge Trail proceeds ahead from here, but this time we turn left along the parking space. The parking and the road of the Forest is separated by that standard “looks-like-made-of-logs-but-actually-synthetic” fence. Then, we reach to Niko-Niko Plaza にこにこプラザ which is a rest place of the Zoo for the people coming from Kamariya JCT. Let’s cross this space and Kaneki Bridge 金木橋 over the drive way. Turn right immediate after the Bridge to go up the stair and on the right there is another entrance to the Forest. 

This way returns to the parking.
A meeting place with Rokkokutoge Trail
Walking along the parking …
We are reaching to Niko-Niko Plaza.
At the end of Kaneki Bridge
Another entrance to the Kamariya Forest

From Kaneki Bridge, a few minutes of a climb brings us to Tenboh Hiroba 展望広場 (Scenic View Plaza) with picnic benches with a view for Tokyo Bay and the “Forest” of beachside condos. There is a road going down west from here that leads us to a small mound, called Sengen-tsuka 浅間塚. The stone on the Mound says “For the Great God of Mount Fuji” (ah-ha, dear UNESCO World Heritage …) although it is difficult to see Mt Fuji there due to not only trees but also the forests of the Zoo and the Nature Sanctuary beyond. Development or not, I don’t think we cannot view Mt. Fuji from Sengen-tsuka of Kamariya Forest … Why for the God of Mt Fuji? Next to the Mound there stands a tall tree … I think it is Machilus thunbergii … Is this place sacred because of this? From Tenboh Hiroba to the Mound, the forest consists of broadleaved evergreens. The continuing road from the Mound steeply goes down and reaches to a small shrine that must be Sengen Shrine 浅間社 where two branches of cleyera ochnacea have been left at the front. It is interesting when we approach to the shrine the forest becomes more and more of artificially planted cypresses. It means the Mound was the original sacred place, and the shrine building may be a kind of branch of the Mound for the convenience of worshippers. Sure enough, from the shrine the road goes down very rapidly to the final “slopes of rocks” ending at the residential area. I was really glad I wore gloves descending from the Forest.

Tenboh Hiroba
Trees of condos over there
Very large …
To the shrine
The road is hardpan
covered by fallen leaves.
The shrine
Tumbling down …
Natural stone road …
reaches to the residential area of
Kitayatsu Community
The very end of trekking road
from the Forest to Kitayatsu Community

The entire Kamariya Forest is fairly-well tended. There are not much protruding sharp branches of trees over the hardpan trekking road. Bushes are cleared where picnic benches are situated. The place is cared by a non-profit volunteer organization, Kanazawa Mori-dakusan no Kai かなざわ森沢山の会. (Contact: Mr. Ichikawa. Phone: 045-783-3169. Email: They normally meet on the 2nd Sunday and the 4th Saturday of the month to look after the Forest and the Botanical Park. They also support the educational events by the Zoo. According to them, the area is the water source for Miyagawa River 宮川 that pours into Tokyo Bay from Kamariya Forest at Kanazawa Hakkei 金沢八景. The nutrients from the Forest and the entire Nature Sanctuary feed the Bay that makes the sea very good for seaweed cultivation. When Tokyo Bay was a stinking mess during Japanese Miracle Era of the 1960s to the 70s, this industry died once; it was around the time when, in 1973, 10.2 ha of Kamariya Forest became the 5th member of Citizen Forest Family with 2.3 k trekking road. Since then for about 40 years, people have been busy restoring the Forest, along with cleaning the entire water management system around Tokyo Bay. Now the seaweed farms have returned, and the volunteers are teaching school kids traditional way of making Nori (yeah, that black sheet you eat with your sushi). The next free lesson for kids will be on February 27th, 2016. It’s free, and, sorry for grown-ups, under-15 years old (and a parent/guardian of them) only. If you are interested in this event, please email to The bounty of the Forest is not only on the land but also in the sea. J

The work done by Mori-dakusan volunteers

So, Botanical Park next to Kamariya Forest is also the territory of Mori-dakusan volunteers. It is an open air museum of botany. It consists of roughly 3 parts; the forest of biota of the area おもしろ自然林 +  the valley of ferns しだの谷 in the north, and the large garden with naturalistic design + BBQ place + a 100m roller-slide ローラーすべり台 in the south. At the middle is Nonohana-kan Building ののはな館 which consists of rest places, restaurants, small exhibition area and the information booths for the botanical park. Nonohana-kan provides us written information for the feature of the Botanical Park, and booklet of quizzes for kids to learn the nature of the Park. As a museum, Botanical Park is more of controlled and artificially planted vegetation than Kamariya Forest, but it certainly is beautiful and fun for a family to enjoy weekends. (The roller-slide is VERY popular among adults.)

Valley of Ferns in the Botanical Park.
It has around 30 kinds of ferns.
The forest of biota.
This part is closer to the feel of Kamariya Forest.
In front of Nonohana-kan,
an open view of Kanazawa Bunko Town
Beyond the BBQ place is the valley garden みずの谷of stunning maple trees.
You can approach there easily
from Kitayatsu Community.

Kanazawa Zoological Gardens is one of three zoos Yokohama hosts. It’s like the second kid of 3 brothers. The oldest Nogeyama Zoo 野毛山動物園 keeps the atmosphere of zoos born in the 19th century. The youngest Zoorasia is the high-tech research zoo with a large campus. Kanazawa Zoo is not that small as Noge, but nor large as Zoorasia. The atmosphere of the Zoo is really a “garden” so that family with toddlers or babies in strollers can visit all the animals in one day with a very slow stroll. It is easy for the elders with canes and wheelchairs to conquer. Even though, it is home for a male and female couple of gibbons, two female black rhinos, and one Indian rhino all of which are on the verge of extinction. The Zoo also houses red-crowned cranes, Japanese serows, and Arabian oryxes which are recovering from the danger of extinction. I was standing in front of a large glass that separated us from Mr. Gibbon who was sitting at the top of an artificial tree in Ardha Matsyendrasana with his left thumb in his mouth. He looked me in very calm, contemplating eyes … Yoda … Yes, Master, we have to calm our soul to provoke our Force … I could not take the photo of my Jedi Master … 2015 is the Year of the Gibbon. In the afternoon of December 20th, 2015, at Hongo Campus of University of Tokyo, there will be an international symposium for discussing the future of gibbons. If you are interested in the meeting, please email to

Indian rhino
She’s sleeping …
The kite is WILD!

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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