Friday, May 27, 2016

Building walls … is not that simple, FYI from Niiharu for somebody in election

Basically, Zone C which occupies the southern half of the Niiharu Citizen Forest is an area for ecology to thrive with the least human intervention. And so, inevitably, it is the most popular area. The zone is home for lots of birds including turquoise alcedo atthis and goshawks. A fine weekend morning, many photographers with bazooka-sized lenses enter the area, and jostle along for the best spot to get a killer shot. Those knowledgeable families with small kids intentionally enter Zone C to have a secluded and intimate weekend lunch, avoiding nosy eyes of tourists. Despite of wasp attacks, the area certainly provides us pure and quiet joy of being in a deep forest, which is a difficult thing to have in Metropolitan Tokyo area.

Meanwhile, the capacity of the Zone C to receive human visitors is the smallest within Niiharu. People can forget this fact with their excitement surrounded by the nature. Many visitors would create hard-pressed soil not only of the trekking roads, but also of the off-track forest floors where rich ecology can flourish if left undisturbed. It is problematic. Moreover, as the area is intentionally kept natural as much as possible, off-track activity can be dangerous for naïve urbanites ... these are the thinking of the City. One of the missions for Lovers of Niiharu is to maintain the safety of trekking routes within Niiharu. One May weekend of clear sky, the Lovers received a request from the City: please build a barrier along a road in Zone C to prevent visitors from entering into the off-track area.

Volunteers with mission
We must protect it.

The road the City told us to build a barrier was along a contour whose eastern edge is a cliff falling down to a stream 3m below. The dense rain forest tricks our eyes so that it is easy to miss the discontinuity of the ground. An uninitiated, especially toddlers, can innocently venture in the forest floor and free-fall to a stream. The western side of the road is coniferous tree forest whose floor is to be protected from stomping. As always, the modus operandi of Lovers volunteers is non-mechanical. “Barrier” is a cordon along the route with a nylon rope and pegs. Volunteers have a pile of 2m long + Ø10cm charred wooden pegs made of timbers from thinning. We carried them to the site by hand, situated each along the road, and started to work. 

“It’s already a muddy swamp.
We don’t think a barrier is needed here to stop visitors to enter.”
The rope
Provisionally distributing pegs

For a peg to be secured, first, we made a hole of about 70cm deep on the ground with an iron bar. Then, insert a charred peg whose tip was sharpened somewhat. Next, we 2-3 times secured, but not fastened, a rope above a thru hole which was drilled on the upper part a peg. Two people pulled the rope from the opposite directions to make the peg stand vertical, and with a huge wooden mallet a third person stroke the peg-head to drive it into the soil. Forth member of the volunteers watch from the front to make it sure the pulling is even to let the peg go down straight. I thought it was a clever way! Ideally, the mallet shall strike the peg’s head from exactly above so that the operation could keep the surface of the head horizontal. When a blow hit the target in a slanted way, the head became oblique, or the thru hole could be disfigured that could make the later tasks for fastening the rope difficult. Next time when you enter somewhere with wooden pegs and ropes to barricade an area, you can just check the head of pegs for the skill level of the people who did the operation. J

First, making a hole with an iron bar
Pull and strike
with a guidance
After the pegs are secured on the ground, we put the rope through the holes of the pegs, and fastened. … I observed so many times how my senior volunteers tied the thick nylon rope around a peg … and couldn’t understand. After putting through the rope into a hole, making two rings where at least one of them was in a twisted way, strapping them around the head of a peg, … and with some complicated maneuver, the rope was secured.   ???????? During the Forest Volunteering 101, our instructor, Mr. Jimbo, told us rope-work was important. Indeed …

First, put through the rope into a hole.
Making rings …
And from here, it is beyond the capacity of my brain …
Pulling for a final touch

The work we did on that day turned out to be not so difficult. We completed the task along 200m road in less than 3 hours, and returned home with a grin “easy, easy.” Then, next week, we heard from the City praising our job well-done, and sending another request to cordon around a little hill. The hill is a property of the City who thinned the large sawtooth oaks and zelkova serrata last winter there. It is at the mouth of Zone 3 with very steep slopes. Both sides of the hill have small stream, and the groundwater level in the hill could be high. Considering the heavy traffic of the road running on the foot of the hill, I guess the City fears possible accidents of land slide … BUT, this hill is very popular for kids. It is a home of lots of rhinoceros beetles and stag beetles. During summer recess every year, kids (and often parents) with insect nets and small cage clamber the slope for precious summer prize. All the volunteers muttered, “Er, well, yeah, the City does not want to have any trouble, do they? But ….” ”OK, OK, it’s just a rope. Those who have a will can easily enter the hill. If they are injured beyond the barrier, the City can say they risked themselves due to poor judgement and the mandarins are free of accusation.” “Ah-ha, so, we just play a part of the game, don’t we?” “Certainly …” The task was easier than the week before.

The hill of rhinoceros beetles is in this picture.
I won’t say which. It’s a top secret!

These days, it is rare for kids in Tokyo metropolitan area to encounter wild rhinoceros beetles. Many believe they can purchase the insect in shopping centers. They asked parents money to buy, keep and feed a beetle in a plastic box, write an observation diary for a couple of days as a summer recess homework, and see that store-bought creature die easily before long. No open air. No sunshine of summer. No rustle of leaves of trees. No thrill of hunt. No tears when the prize has gone forever. I’m just keep crossing my fingers there still are naughty kids who are brave enough for the adventure of crossing nylon ropes cordoning around the hill of hidden treasure …

Berries of lonicera gracilipes var. glabra, near Zoorasia.
They say they will be ripened in June,
but in mid-May this year in the north of Yokohama,
the berries are fully soft and sweet … Global warming?

If you find a problem in the Niiharu Forest, 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 …)

Niiharu Administrative Office / Satoyama Exchange Center 新治管理事務所・里山交流センター
Phone: 045-931-4947
Fax: 045-937-0898

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