Friday, April 1, 2016

Mantle Vegetation: about the Associations for Bounty Community

Early this year in the post for Yokohama Nature Sanctuary, I wrote the area of Niiharu-Miho Citizen Forests and Zoorasia has the third largest biodiversity in Kanagawa Prefecture, next to the National Parks such as Hakone and Tanzawa. I mean, better than the Nature Sanctuary, even though Niiharu is just 1K south of the busiest freeway in Japan, Tomei Express Way. I’m not trained for ecology so that I cannot say for sure, but I suspect one reason for the abundance is its neighbors.

Stachyurus praecox Siebold et Zucc.
in a forest next to Zoorasia.
It is one of the bounties in Satoyama.
Its berries can be used as dye for black.
Their boughs would be a good material for household utensils.

In the first page of the map of Niiharu, we can find how the Citizen Forests and their small brothers, the Friendship Forests ふれあいの森 (; when a landlord offers his/her forest of less than 2ha for the Citizen Forest family, the forest is called Friendship Forest) are distributed within the City. The south Forest of Yokohama where Nature Sanctuary belongs is indeed the largest, and another large family member, 19.5ha Maioka Forest, is in just 4K northeast. The south of Nature Sanctuary continues for the hiking area of Kamakura City. Not bad. Turning our eye to the north Forest, from Miho Forest to Yasashi Forest in the southeast, it is also approx. 4km. Niiharu and Jike are separated for about 6km. If the continuation of vegetation is important for biodiversity, Niiharu looks handicapped? Not so fast. Actually, Niiharu-Zoorasia part of the city is in the middle of another kind of greenery of the City.

In 1968 when Japan was busy for miracle economic development, the (new) City Planning Act became effective. It defined the way to demarcate and control within a city for the area allowed to be a forest of skyscrapers (“urbanization promotion area”), and the place to keep some natural forests (“urbanization control area”). For developers, the point is how to interpret the “controlled urbanization.” The conclusion is, very near to urbanization control area = suburbia with rows of houses and condos. The result is scenery you can find in Tokyo prefecture: from the downtown it takes more than half an hour of commuter train ride to meet a meaningful volume of natural greenery. In-between is the sea of houses. Tokyo’s landscape is not much different from the place where the Yokohama Nature Sanctuary is located. The ocean view from Omaruyama in Kanazawa Citizen Forest is the rows of houses with (assertively intervened) parks + large Nissan Factory in Oppama. The west side of the Yokohama’s south Forest is also residential areas. We have to reach Maioka Forest to meet an operational agricultural community. The south Forest is besieged by housing developments (and the construction of huge freeway is penetrating).

From Omaruyama to Tokyo Bay.
The forest on the left is Shomyoji Temple Citizen Forest.
On the right is the park of the campus
for Yokohama City University.

Yokohama has industrial policies for agriculture, “Bounty Community Plan.” The City collaborates with JA-Zenchu and designates 4 farming communities with JA Yokohama’s local offices as Associations for Bounty Community. The policy is to promote agriculture in the urban setting by subsidizing the activities that connect farmers and urbanites via low food mileage. Yes, Niiharu Association is one of them, and operating with JA Yokohama for their business of selling agricultural products. The other 3 Associations are Tana Association 田奈恵みの里, Tsuoka Association 都岡恵みの里, and the newest and the smallest Shiba Seaside Association 柴シーサイド恵みの里 designated in March last year. Except for Shiba Association that resides near the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise Amusement Park 八景島シーパラダイス, the other Associations are actually consisted of farmers operating on the land next to Niiharu-Zoorasia area.

The eastern edge of Tusoka Association.
It is a hidden point to see beautiful Mt. Fuji regularly.

The oldest is Tana Association that became Bounty Community in 1999. The area Tana Association covers starts immediately next to Jike Forest and borders in the east with Niiharu Association ... The fact Jike’s farmers have a certain distance with Tana Association speaks tons of things about the proudly independent Jike Forest. (ha ha.) Tana Association and Niiharu Association are sharing the northern border of Tsuoka Association. Tana and Tsuoka Associations are larger than Niiharu Association. Tana Association continues to the farmlands in Kawasaki City and Tokyo’s Machida City. The western edge of Tsuoka Association is Yasashi and Oiwake Citizen Forests.

In between Yasashi and Oiwake Forest.
This is the land of a member for Tsuoka Association.

Take Tsuoka Association. It covers 230ha of agricultural land spreading in 1820ha including “the controlled urbanization area,” aka suburbia. If we compare the area of Tsuoka Association with the place around Shomyoji Temple Forest by Google Earth (; a bit of zoom might be necessary), we can see the difference. The world of Tsuoka Association looks like tiny uneven polka-dots of greens, whereas the area around Shomyoji is composed of geometrically aligned colorful roofs, and occasional neatly squared gardens. i.e., Unlike the residential areas in the south of Yokohama, the north Forest of the City is still surrounded by the lands for agricultural business although each of the fields is really tiny. The place of Tsuoka Association acts like guards for Niiharu quarterback from the tackles of relentless housing development from the south.

The west of Zoorasia, within Tsuoka Association territory
Private Forest within Tsuoka territory.
Comparing with the forest like this,
I've realized the special treatment Niiharu receives.
The warning from the City to follow the City Planning Act
within Tsuoka Association area.

Bounty Community scheme does not have the power of legal enforcement. Different from Niiharu Association surrounded by Citizen Forests with special treatments for environmental conservation, Tana and Tsuoka farmers must deal with the same problem Niiharu Association members face, by themselves. So, if a farmer decides it is the time to sell his/her land for housing development, that’s that. One volunteer lady for Niiharu Lovers told me in her home town far from Tokyo lots of farming families decide to quit and her nostalgic memory of Satoyama has gone. She comes to Niiharu every weekend from the downtown, taking an hour of commuting by train … She said, “You know, farming business is very difficult with inheritance taxes and other things. In my hometown people said if a family can keep the business for 3 generations, it’s a tremendous success … The neighborhood is disappearing with retired farmers dying out … Niiharu is a miracle. The Forest has us, and lots of people who care the place. It’s possible because we are in the metropolitan Tokyo area. We enjoy forestry and agriculture, but if it’s for our livelihood, it would be a completely different story …” Hmmmmmm.

The converted farm for … a solar power farm.
Well, it’s a farm anyway.
The farmland is becoming a row of houses …
So the notification says.

Although the housing development still continues, it seems to me the area for Tana and Tsuoka Associations are approaching to a kind of stable equilibrium. Aging labor force is of course a problem, but the recent “discovery” of eco-friendly food among urbanites offers (1) the market of the products the local farmers can offer, and so (2) the hope for younger farming generation in the suburb of Tokyo to retain their land and business. For example, in the middle of the area of Tsuoka Association, there is a town whose old name was Kawai-juku 川井宿. The farming community there is an old one. It was along the route to Kamakura from the north of Kanto Region so that the army of the warlord Nitta Yoshisada 新田義貞 must have passed in 1333 on their way to Seya Forest. Once we went into a residential area off Route 16 in Kawai-juku area, the road is very narrow (i.e. suitable enough for a horse carriage could pass), and among newly built houses here and there are large old houses accompanying vegetable patches (i.e. the house of farmers who engage in agriculture in the area). Near Kawai-juku (in Imajuku-Nishi town), Tsuoka Association has a direct sales store, called Mercado Tsuoka, for the products harvested in the Association area. This being in the middle of a huge residential area, it is a popular place among Yokohama urbanites. Some farmers of Niiharu also sell their produce here. Well, Nagayamon Market in Niiharu is Saturday only. Mercado Tsuoka is basically open 7 days a week. The reason for the cooperation between the Associations is obvious.
A farmland near Yasashi Citizen Forest.
The place is very near to Yokohama IC of Tomei Freeway,
which is always congested. *sigh*

A farmland in Kawai-juku
In the Mercado,
I bought leeks the other day.

Mercado Tsuoka.
It’s a small supermarket,
with gardening (er, well, agricultural) supplies.
The product line they offer includes pork (everyday)
and beef (Friday and Saturday only)
harvested in Yokohama.
Koshin monuments 庚申塚 near Mercado Tsuoka.
There are 5 monuments in this shack.
As a Koshin monument is built every 60 years
in the year of Koshin, i.e. Wood Moneky,
from the oldest monument to the newest one
we can count at least 250 years of community activity.
Route 16 near the Mercado

The community road near the Mercado.
Although the houses are standing side-by-side in a modern way,
the place keeps a scent of previous Satoyama community.
A cabbage patch next to Oiwake Citizen Forest
and Hodogaya Country Club.
Yokohama is near to self-sufficiency
with regard to spring cabbage (applause) …
so the front view of C-suite is cabbages, then (ha ha ha).

I have not checked in detail in any way, but I suspect the easiness to depart from the land depends on the historical length for a family being attached to a particular lot. When Japan lost the WWII and American GHQ issued a decree for land reform in 1947, many farmlands in Yokohama were partitioned among the previous sharecroppers. As long as I remember regarding my neighborhood (not far from Niiharu), by the end of the 1970s the majority of those thank-you-GHQ lands changed the ownership and became rows of houses. PTA of public schools at that time was full of gossips regarding the issue, and my mom often briefed us about the “local situation.” It went like, “So, her family has tons of money now,” or “The transaction involved Yakuzas, they said. We have to be careful now when we walk on that street …” Er, long time has passed since then. Land ownership issue is one of the most difficult for any development policy, yeah. But when something remains for the recollection of ecosystem, even after the huge wave of rapid urbanization, I think it would end up OK. Who knows what comes next. Japanese are getting older and dying by day! Just like arrowroots and aucuba japonica, when the memory remains in the soil, they can be a mantle vegetation to shelter the biodiversity against the strong winds from concretes and bulldozers (be it of Caterpillars, or Komatsus). J

The flower beds for Yasashi / Oiwake Forests
are full of field mustards in late March.
Could you figure out rice paddies and agricultural greenhouse beyond?

If you find a problem in the Niiharu / Yasashi / Oiwake/ Jike Forests, please make a contact with

Office for the Park Greeneries in the North 北部公園緑地事務所
Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局
Phone: 045-311-2016 (I guess in Japanese only)
FAX: 045-316-8420 (I hope there is somebody who can read English …)

And for your veggie shopping (and polishing brown rice Japanese way)

Mercado Tsuoka / Hamakko Direct Sale Store
289 Imajuku-Nishi Cho, Asahiku, Yokohama, 241-0031
Phone: 045-953-9558 (I guess in Japanese only)

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