Friday, June 17, 2016

Maioka Redoux: Mr. Asaba and Citizen Volunteers for Maioka Park 舞岡公園

Let me continue with “The Story of Making Satoyama Park and Citizen Forest: YokohamaMaioka Park and Niiharu Citizen Forest” written by Yoshikazu Asaba浅羽良和(あさばよしかず)「里山公園と『市民の森』づくりの物語」. (Tokyo: Haru-shoboh はる書房, September 2003, ISBN 4-89984-042-X) There is a reason why the relation between Maioka Citizen Forest and Maioka Park is a kind of role reversal. Maioka Citizen Forest has wide semi-paved roads for vehicles, but Maioka Park is with more of trekking roads. Actually, Maioka Park that is next to the Citizen Forest has the history with forest volunteers similar to the other Citizen Forests in Yokohama. According to Mr. Asaba, the planning for Maioka Park began in 1973 with an aim to preserve the scenery and tradition of Japanese countryside amid an extensive urban development. In the early 1970s, although housing development was everywhere in Yokohama and the pressure to bulldoze forests was enormous, the city established a policy to avoid becoming Tokyo, i.e. a megalopolis sans-green but as an ocean of buildings. Then as now, the forests of Yokohama are private property of farmers so that to preserve the greenery the city had to promote local business of farmers. From the beginning, the idea was unique. Mr. Asaba said when he became in charge of the Maioka Park in 1986, he tried to find a urban park with a similar concept and couldn’t discover any. For Maioka of 360ha the city planners demarcated the area with agriculture zone, nature conservation zone, and urban park zone, which was spelled out in 1975 Maioka and Nobo Area Green Plan 舞岡・野庭グリーンプラン. When in 1977 Ministry of Construction notified all the municipal governments to draft Master Plan for Greenery Conservation 緑のマスタープラン, Yokohama responded with Maioka-way where agriculture policy and urban park construction stood side-by-side to preserve and create greenery. Maioka, in effect, became the pilot for green urban planning in Yokohama. The policy implementation started with agriculture promotion in Nobo town (in 1975) and Maioka town (in 1979). At the same time, Maioka-Nobo and Jike areas in Yokohama received grants from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery to define their agri-business in a very urban setting. Jike community decided to make their enterprise as agri-tourism, with ample visitor parking spaces around rice paddies. Maioka chose to supply agricultural products, such as veggies, ham and sausages that are on demand of urbanites in Yokohama. Later these two areas became Our Country Home Forests. So, Maioka Citizen Forests have lots of veggie fields and orchards whose access is made of paved roads funded by the national grant.

Well-paved road leading us to
ag fields within Maioka Citizen Forest
A work of professionals
A vehicle-capable road along an orchard
within Maioka Citizen Forest

“The ownership of the land is private in Yokohama” means it takes time to enclose enough acreage for a park. The south of the current Maioka Park is a sea of houses developed by Keikyu who was in the 1970s eager to advance their territory as quickly as possible. The process of securing land was in competition among the always-poor municipality, large developers including Keikyu, and any other private sectors. In 1979, Meijigakuin University announced they would open Yokohama campus in the planned area for Maioka Park. The urbanites in Maioka were outraged to hear the news. They submitted the city the petition to fund Maioka-Nobo Area Green Plan before permitting the college campus. Though in the end Meijigakuin University took 20ha of the area, the push by the local communities succeeded in budgeting the Maioka-Nobo area plan that made possible 1981 planning for Maioka Park. A housewife who lived nearby housing area, Mrs. Tetsuko Koyanagui 小柳徹子, was one of the community leaders for the Petition. She just wanted to preserve the nature of Maioka for healthy childhood memory of her kids. Mr. Osamu Jumonji 十文字修 who was born and grew up in a town next to Maioka engaged in volunteering to clean Kashio River 柏尾川 that is the end of Maioka River running through the planned Park area. In the summer of 1983, Mrs. Koyanagi, her husband, Mr. Katsuhiko Murahashi 村橋克彦 who lived near the Koyanagi family and also volunteered to clean Kashio/Maioka River, and Mr. Jumonji organized 2 months exhibition for the nature of Maioka Yato in a community center near JR Totsuka Station. The public reaction was enthusiastic: at the end of the exhibition in September, 80 like-minded people founded a group, the Organization for Maioka Water and Green まいおか水と緑の会. Next month, the Organization submitted a request to the mayor about the planned park in Maioka that should preserve traditional country-side scenery and biodiversity, and provide hands-on experience of farming for Yokohama people. Within months, the group started to engage in actual field works such as vegetation surveys, cleaning up, and reconstruction of abandoned rice paddies within the planned park area, but no PR shouting of “save the green.” Their activity soon attracted funding from the Fujifilm Green Fund that was a part of CSR of the company, and in October 1984 the city allowed the group to work in a larger area of planned construction site. Until the official opening of the Maioka Park, the group kept on going with forestry and reconstruction of rice paddies with new members from nearby kindergartens and elementary schools.

One of the Organization’s activities that
has become a tradition of the community
is scarecrow contest every fall.

In 1986 when the city was still struggling to obtain agreement with the landlords, Mr. Asaba became in charge of securing enough acreage for the Maioka Park. Although people from the Maioka Organization loved to preserve the land as traditional Satoyama, the farmers who actually own the land had another idea. For one thing, Japanese stopped increasing the demand for rice long ago and the farmers were in effect forced to stop planting rice in their ancestral land by governmental decrees. (Until 1995, Japanese market for rice was strictly controlled by the national government.) That’s why Maioka Organization found the “abandoned” yato paddies and forests. It was certainly not fair. Mr. Asaba run around for the negotiations with landlords day and night and could not find time to meet Maioka Organization. When in 1988 he succeeded in piling up the acreage to 30ha for the park, the Organization became impatient to hear the detail of the design of the park. By then, they submitted several times the idea for the design of the Park based on their research and activities, and the city was already constructing an “artificial urban park” in the south of the planned area. The Organization visited the city office to demand explanation of the design. It became the first meeting for Mr. Asaba to meet the forest volunteers in Yokohama. They pointed out fancy names in the plan, such as “Valley of Fireflies” for a place without actual fireflies, were nonsense since they were not based on the real ecology of Maioka. According to Mr. Asaba, the city realized they were too busy for the negotiation with landlords, and left the detail of the park design to consultants lacking town hall meetings or scientific field surveys. The partnership between volunteers and Mr. Asaba began. In any case, the construction of urban park by bulldozing coppice continued for some time, which in the end created the scenery of Zelkova Plaza けやき広場 with the municipal administration office for the Park, and Maple Rest Area もみじ休憩所 where wide paved roads go through artificially created lawn field with neat hedges of azaleas and boxes.

Maple Rest Area
Zelkova Plaza

The Organization defended their activity fields in the yato valley and the remaining coppice next to Maple Rest Area. Mr. Asaba was moved by their passion and raised his hand in 1992 to be in charge of yato area construction. He discussed with the Organization countless times about the design of the park around yato. The Organization submitted a detailed plan not only for architectural park design but also for yearly event proposals, facilities for community activities, and an organizational chart for park management. Using the plan Mr. Asaba boldly re-designed the original plan of the city in order to reflect the Organization’s request for nature conservation in traditional scenery. The city and the Organization decided to adopt the detailed zoning in Maioka Park. The area where the Organization was planting rice was designated for educational area to learn traditional agriculture. The places such as Zelkova Plaza and Maple Rest Area are for standard urban park. The remaining coppices are for nature conservation with limited access. I guess this approach to Maioka Park became the masterplan for Conservation and Management Plan of each Citizen Forest.

Urban park area
The nature conservation area of the coppice
next to Maple Rest Area.
The place was called Ninja Forest.
Educational area to learn traditional nature husbandry

To my surprise, the traditional style old farm house, Koyato-no-sato 小谷戸の里, and surrounded ponds and rice paddies are artificially created prototype of “Japanese traditional country house.” Before the construction, this place was a swamp and a small stream. The city reclaimed the large portion of the bog, and moved an old farm house from Higashi Totsuka to make the place a base for the Organization. So, the house with a small museum was not there before 1992. The roads running around Koyato-no-sato and educational rice paddies were also intentionally designed. Mr. Asaba wrote in the book that the city originally wanted to pave all the routes in the Park with fluorescent street lights. Mr. Asaba negotiated with his bosses to keep the roads unpaved with good-ol wooden power poles equipped with ancient-looking naked light bulbs, as we can see in My Neighbor Totoro. Of course the offices in charge of safety in parks were against the idea. Mr. Asaba let energize the light bulbs with underground cable, and made the yato area closed during nights. The electric cables in the Maioka Park are decoration without real electricity running.

The house was rescued
when Higashi Totsuka area was developed for housing.
These ponds, hedges of tea tress and charcoal huts
are re-creation at the end of the 20th century.
It’s really a designed road for
idyllic country life in Yokohama.
One of the gates to yato area opening only with day light.

2 weeks before the opening of the Maioka Park in June 1992, the volunteers and the city dissolved the Organization into a new organization called the Organization to Nurture Maioka Park 舞岡公園をはぐくむ会. The original idea was to mobilize further citizen volunteers for the management of the park with the city maintaining the upper hand. At the beginning coordination between the city and the new Organization did not go smoothly, but volunteers persevered in challenges and kept organizing fieldworks such as rice cultivation, forestry and educational activities for Satoyama knowledge. In 2000 the city transferred the entire control to the volunteers whose organization is now called Yato-Human-Future やとひと未来. Mr. Asaba wrote Maioka Park turned out to be the first Satoyama park in Japan where the partnership between local communities and the government is essential for development of a urban park, and preserves original scenery of pre-industrial life where the urbanites can learn and experience the tradition directly. I think Maioka is an evidence for the evolution of urban planning in Yokohama. The place contains traditional scenery of agricultural life in Japan, productive modern agriculture for veggies and processed meat, and neatly manicured urban parks next to orderly aligned detached modern houses. Maioka Forest keeps the memories of post-war Japanese development.

After the full-opening of Maioka Park in 1996, Mr. Asaba moved to Green Policy Division where he coordinated Citizen Forest volunteers in Yokohama. His final job as a city architect was an opening of Niiharu Forest. Next week, I’ll write what I have found in his book for Niiharu.

Statue of Kappa monsters in Urikubo 瓜久保 of Maioka Park

The City Office who’s in charge of execution of Green-up Plan is

Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局
Phone: 045-671-2891
FAX: 045-641-3490

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