Friday, September 30, 2016

Forests and water sources for Kanagawa Prefecture

Last year, in 2015 when I attended the introductory course for Yokohama Forest Volunteers, there were at least 2 secretly enthusiastic water cooler topics among volunteers. One was about the chainsaws. Another was for Forest Instructor Training Course organized by Kanagawa Green Trust かながわみどり財団. Yeah, that’s organization for Koajiro Forest. The training is for volunteers to take care of forests in Kanagawa Prefecture, including in Hakone National Park and TanzawaQuasi-National Park. What’s notable for this program is (a) it’s free, whose opening is once in 2 years, (b) it’s 1.5 years’ course of 24 days, held in weekends, (c) upon completion, the volunteers are certified by the Governor as Kanagawa Forest Instructor and will organize educational nature activities throughout the Prefecture, and (d) there are a screening process for attending the course, and exams to receive the certification. I was taken aback. Screening and exams for volunteer activities? “Oh, yeah.” ”Well, it’s a serious staff, you know.” “Yes, Yes. Will you apply for the next opening?”

Last year’s trainees for Yokohama’s Forests 101.
Oh, by the way, this year’s Forest Volunteer 101 by the City
will be held again in October and November.
For reserving the seat, please check here.

I google-searched the course, and found 2016 is the opening year for the class of 15th session. And screening … a submission of an essay by the deadline to proceed to an interview at the second round … wow.  I applied it, and (to my surprise, honestly) I was called for an interview at Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall 横浜開港記念館. The number of trainees for the class of 2016 would be 35. Each applicant was allocated 10 minutes’ slot for an interview held by 2 examiners. The Kanagawa Green Trust used 3 rooms that held the interviews simultaneously. The first meeting started at 10:00, and the last one ended at 16:00 with 1 hour lunch break from 12:00. i.e. There were at least 90 interviewees for 35 chairs of the training course … hmmmm. When my turn came, two gentlemen of the Trust asked “Well, this course is demanding. It has several practical sessions of forestry using tools in steep mountains of Tanzawa and Hakone. Could you cope with it?” “The contents cover large area, such as CPR methodology for emergency, ecology of our mountains and more. Are you OK for this?” etc. etc. To my second surprise, I received a letter from the Trust saying “Congratulations. Please attend the first session at Kanagawa Natural Environment Conservation Center 神奈川県自然環境保全センター.” So one August weekend morning, I went there on the foot of Tanzawa Mountains.

Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall is
designated as an Important Cultural Property
by the national government.
During the early 20th century,
it was a town hall of Yokohama built
solely by the donation of citizens of the City, not by tax.
Inside we can admire very Japanese stained glasses.
It’s one of them.

Kanagawa Natural Environment Conservation Center is in a town that  is somewhat known for Nanasawa Onsen hot spring 七沢温泉, and a huge prefectural medical center forrehabilitation 神奈川リハビリテーション病院 to the patients of serious ailments, such as circulatory failure and spinal cord injury. Almost sandwiched by 2 large campuses of the medical center, there is the Natural Environment Conservation Center that is in charge of the environmental policy implementation for Kanagawa Prefecture … The relationship between the city of Yokohama and the Kanagawa Prefecture is a bit complicated. Yokohama is designated by the national cabinet order as somewhat independent entity even though we are within the border of Kanagawa Prefecture. According to an insider of the prefectural government, Yokohama is a kind of “… er they’re different, you know” category: FY2014 revenue for the prefecture was JPY 1.98 trillion, whereas Yokohama had independent revenue of JPY 1.48 trillion. I was a bit surprised to know during the interview for this training course that the people of the Green Trust, an important actor for prefectural environment policy, did not know Citizen Forest System of Yokohama. Even though, roughly 3.7 million citizens of Yokohama are a part of 9.1 million people living in Kanagawa Prefecture, and paying prefectural taxes. One component of the prefectural levy for citizens of Yokohama is yearly 300 yen per head Forest Environment Tax. Yokohama’s 900 yen per head Green Tax is to protect remaining greenery in a large city of Yokohama where people live very close to polka-dotted forests within the city. Aside from cultural values of the forests, the prosaic objective of the Yokohama's policy is to reduce disaster risks for residents from landslides, fallen trees, floods, etc., emanating from abandoned forests. Prefectural environment policy with another earmarked tax tots up the additional mission to culture and disaster risk reduction: preservation of water resources. (Oh, by the way, Yokohama’s water system is the oldest in Japan as a modern water system.)

Kanagawa Natural Environment Conservation Center

The first day of the course this year was comprised of 2 lectures. One is about National Trust system of Japan which encompasses Kanagawa Green Trust (more about this in the next post). Another is about prefectural policy about forests and water resource protection. Our tap of water in Yokohama is coming from Lake Sagami 相模湖, Lake Tsukui 津久井湖, and Lake Miyagase 宮ケ瀬湖 all of which are surrounded by the forests within Kanagawa Prefecture (and Yamanashi Prefecture 山梨県 along with Doshi River 道志川 to Lake Sagami: I’ll post about it more later). That’s one of the reasons why the entire Kanagawa Prefecture including Yokohama is not in sync about drought with the other prefectures in Kanto Regions such as Tokyo. (All of them are dependent on Tone River Water System.) It sounds very well and secure, so I thought. Wrong. According to Mr. Kazuyoshi Mashiko of Kanagawa Prefectural Government who gave the lecture, although the volume of greenery in the forests of Kanagawa Prefecture is OK for now, the quality is deteriorating rapidly. The main reason is the same as the problem for Satoyama in Yokohama. The forestry as industry, in terms of gross product and labor force, reached its peak in Kanagawa for 1952 - the early 1960s, and declined steadily to the bottom of 2003. Although it is getting better slightly (“Labor force has recovered from 313 personnel in 2003 to 351 in 2014!”), viability of economic activity in the forests is grim unless we count eco-tourism. As such, not many people take care of the afforested area of middle elevation in Hakone / Tanzawa mountains. Many plantations of coniferous trees have been abandoned for decades now. Trees without thinning and pruning are now collapsing …

Near the Natural Environment Conservation Center,
there is the office of Atsugi Forestry Cooperative
According to Mr. Mashiko, these days the majority of forestry job
in the Prefecture is done by such cooperatives.

Moreover, the higher elevation of Kanagawa’s forests which is the National and Quasi-National Parks has another problem. When Japanese thinking of environmental protection was in infancy, there was a policy not to control the population of cervus nippon in the park areas. It was OK until the 1980s when the forests in Hakone and Tanzawa had large snow fall during winter. Many Japanese deer could not survive in the snow-covered mountains with little food. Then, the planet is warming and the Parks do not have much snow anymore. Surviving deer ate, ate, and ate the vegetation in the protected area to proliferate. They caused massive deforestation of fagus crenata and their forest floors that once covered the top parts of Hakone and Tanzawa mountains. Finally, the lowest part of the Kanagawa’s greenery, i.e. Satoyama, is almost in siege by urbanization. Uncared forests with these backgrounds erode large amount of soil. They could not retain water as before. The volume of water we can use is decreasing now. The washed away soils made the entire mountain fragile against earthquakes and storms that would cause large landslides and massive floods running down the rivers. The dirt reaches to the beach which makes the Sagami Bay murky, with less fishes to catch for fishermen, and of smaller beaches for important tourism industry. In conclusion! The forests in Kanagawa Prefecture need help for maintenance in order to maintain the entire ecosystem of the prefecture. If left untreated, the amount of greenery in the entire prefecture will shrink. Smaller biodiversity in our parks, more polluted air from the window …

Japanese deers in stamps
Shichirigahama Beach in August 2009,
which was still wide … but …
Shirigahama Beach in August 2016.
The beach becomes too narrow so that
the prefecture is applying preventive measure to keep the coast line …
global warming and deterioration of forests … sad.

Who’s gonna take care of these actually then? 351 forestry people alone cannot cover 95 thousand hectares of greenery in Kanagawa. True, there are forest rangers for National Parks, but the absolute shortage of helping hands remains the same. Here comes the thinking of National Trust. I’ll report you next about the Japanese National Trust in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Beyond the houses is the beginning of Tanzawa Mountains.

The contact address for Water Source Environmental Conservation Division of Kanagawa Prefecture is,

Water Source Environmental Conservation Division, Environment Agricultural Administration Bureau
Phone: 045-210-4352

Friday, September 23, 2016

Laboratory of the Forest 2016 横浜の森美術展 2016


The 9th Art Exhibition in the Forest of Yokohama has opened its gate on 19 September in the same forest as the last year, i.e. next to Yokohama Zoorasia. The show will be held till 23 October, which is organized, as always, by GROUP the Creation and Voice of the Woods 創造と森の声. (Phone/FAX: 045-933-1460, Email: Their Facebook is here.) Their activity is recognized with the city’s grant this year as one of the 27 groups in Yokohama for their contribution to connecting artistic creativity and ordinary lives of local community. They also cloud-fund the event at Motion Gallery (link here). In addition, we can either hand them money during the events, or transfer your donation to their postal order account (account # 00200-2-48335, account name: GROUP創造と森の声, … er, yeah, at Japan Post, i.e. no international monetary transfer via this route is possible). Regardless, the show is free of charge for visitors. We can check the detail of artists for 2016 from the Motion Gallery page.

This year’s show has 7 Japanese and 3 overseas artists: ASADA, Oka Noriaki 岡典明, Ishikuro Kazuo 石黒和夫, Kiga Youko 木賀陽子, Chikada Haruna 近田明奈, Horie Kazuma 堀江和真, Yoshikawa Youichiro 吉川陽一郎, Kang Hee Joon from Korea, Ri Eung Woo from Korea, and Thomas May from Germany. Their workshops we can still catch on is :

What to do?
With whom?
Cost (yen)?
Reservation necessary?
9/25/2016 10:00
Costume of the Forest
ASADA and Kiga Yoko
10/23/2016 13:00
Music workshop with Okapi

The main show started on 19 September with a guided tour by the artists. On the closing day of October 23rd, the artists will preside once again the guided tour from 10:00, and from 13:00 Okapi for steelpan drum is going to have a musical workshop and the closing live concert. Every Sunday during the event the GROUP provides tours at 10:30, 13:00, and 15:00, MC-ed by Harada Akira, and/or the artists, and /or the member of the GROUP.

The easiest access to the place is to ride a bus. The most frequent service is either from JR Nakayama 中山 station or Sotetsu Tsurugamine 鶴ヶ峰 Station. There are the routes Asahi 11 and 15 both of which connect two stations. (From Nakayama, the time tables are here and here. From Tsurugamine, the tables are here.)  If you take a bus from Nakayama, get off the bus at Kohdan-Shukaijoh-mae 公団集会場前. If you turn right from the bus stop, beyond the traffic light, you’ll find a building looks like an old school. It is now-defunct Hikarigaoka Elementary School ひかりが丘小学校 (as this Hikarigaoka Housing Complex becomes the town of elderly people with very few kids). If you ride a bus from Tsurugamine for Nishi-Hikarigaoka 西ひかりが丘, it actually takes you in front of this building at the bus stop, called Nishi-Hikarigaoka, the final stop. In any case, first, you walk to the gate of Hikarigaoka Elementary. It is a sort of a deformed crossing. Turn “left” there.  Soon we’ll find a construction site for Yokohama Zoorasia Forest Park on the right, whose gate is still closed. Keep walking the paved road along the Forest Park site, and eventually you enter a small, paved and climbing-up road between the forest on the right and a retirement housing complex, Care Home Yokohama and VillaYokohama, on the left. Pass the top of the hill seeing a downing slope on the left between the Care Home and the Villa. Continue going 5m or so along the forest, and on the right we see the entrance for the exhibition.

Kohdan-Shukaijoh-mae stop
if you take a bus from Nakayama
Nishi-Hikarigaoka stop
if you take a bus from Tsurugamine
Former Hikarigaoka Elementary School
seen from the direction of the Exhibition
Go ahead! To the right is …
The site for Zoorasia Forest Park
still under construction and closed …
The notice board says
they plan to complete the thing by January 31, 2017.
Oh … they built a bridge over the former bog ...
The road from Hikarigaoka Elementary becomes like this.
Never mind.
Just keep on going, then,
You’ll find this banner next to the entrance of the exhibition.

Another bus route we can use for the exhibition is the bus to Zoorasia. Use Asahi 10 to Zoorasia of Sotetsu from Yokohama or from Tsurugamine Station. There also is a City bus service, Route 136, to Zoorasia from JR Nakayama Station (time table, here). Get off the bus to Yokohama Zoorasia at its terminal (i.e. Zoorasia), and proceed further along for about 400m to the direction of North Gage (#2 Parking) of the Zoo. On the right, there will be a small gate with the sign GROUP the Creation and Voice of the Woods. If you visit the place during weekends, many Asahi 10 and Route 136 buses will take us to the North Gate of Zoorasia (the terminal stop) that is the closest to the exhibition entrance. When you leave the terminal stop of Zoorasia North Gate, go back a bit along the bus road, and on the left there is the sign for the GROUP.

The bus route to Zoorasia North Gate.
There are many weekend services
to the North Gate.
The bus passes in front of the planned main gate
for Zoorasia Forest Park.
North Gate Terminal
We walk back a bit …
a bit …
and reach to the gate leading us for the art show on the left.
If you walk from Zoorasia Main Gate,
you’ll find this on your right.
Entering the forest from the gate,
which is actually a popular route for
off-road bikers in early weekend mornings.
You’ll find the flyers for the exhibition pasted
here and there along the road.
Walk straight till you find this bollard ahead.
On the left of the buffer stop,
there is the entrance for the show.

On the opening day, the Group held a guided tour with the artists and a lunch-time party with 3 performance groups. tariTARI for Bali dance, Matej Kolenic for Slovak music, and Harmonica Creams for Irish Reels appeared on the stage. At the party space, they offer 500 yen Indonesian Bento box with a bottle of soft drink (free) or alcohol (well, you have to pay for this; their concession table provided several plates of tapas for 100 yen), and a bowl of Indonesian soup (free). It was actually very tasty lunch with the flavor of coconuts and kaffir lime leaves! I honestly thought 500 yen was a bargain. Although the concert for the 9th Art Exhibition in the Forest is minuscule compared with, say, Live at Pickathon, the venue is really surrounded by the trees and the atmosphere is comfortably warm. If you have a chance next year, please come and join the celebration of the opening day. tariTARI is a group of dancers including kids for Bali dance. For this occasion, they presented us a dance of two firebirds, an offering for the forest gods by kids’ dancers, and a dance depicting a part of the adventure of Bali prince who risked his life in forest to win the love of a princess. I happened to watch their performance from the direction where we can admire the installation by Eung Woo Ri in the background. The mythological tales of the dance looked more supernatural with a huge organic drop of dew … That was wonderful!

The dance of firebirds.
The background over there is the installation by Ri.
The dance of prince and princess

Matej Kolenic is a musician for traditional Slovak instruments, who has lived in Japan for 3 years already. For the exhibition, he brought his fujara flute and (I think … if I am wrong, could you please let me know, Matej?) koncovka flute. I uploaded a part of his fujara performance at YouTube here. Thank you Matej for your permission! It was my first experience with Slovak traditional music. The forest was with rain, and his music danced with the sound of drops very naturally … The sunny (although it was raining), rhythmical, but a bit melancholic echo of wind pipes played with the ambiance of the forest, which made the whole experience curiously meditative. His music was full of soothing character. I loved it. He introduced us the shorter flute (… koncovka?) that does not have a hole. How did he manage it?

Matej with fujara
This flute does not have a hole … how come?

The third performer of the party was the Harmonica Creams that is a trio of Yoshito Kiyono (harmonica), Aiko Obuch (fiddle), and Koji Nagao (guitar) with the guest percussionist Yosuke Watanabe. They are very unique band of Japanese-Celtic music who obtained the 2012 grand-prix award at Festival de Ortigueira in Spain. Sure enough, the energy of their music vibrated the wet air of the forest, no matter what. I uploaded the part of their performance of the day here in YouTube: thank you for the permission, Harmonica Creams! For the encore, Yoshito invited all the audience to dance around the tent with their music.  The place became a joyous celebration where all, from grandpas to kindergartners, artists, visitors, local moms, … hopped together in the forest. … In Japan, we have a kids’ song, “Fairies in the Forest,” that is a very cheerful song about dancing revelry of fairies in forest … merrier than the troops of Titania for the Midsummer Night Dream. I had a kind of flashback of childhood image of “Fairies in the Forest” with the dynamic tempo of Harmonica Creams. They have released their 4th album this April, “Alchemy,” produced with Brian Finnegan. Their next gig will be held in Shibuya WWW on October 7th. This is the band we should watch.

Harmonica Creams in the forest

There are 11 large installations for The 9th Art Exhibition in the Forest of Yokohama, and 3 + α mini presentations. This is the map within the venue.
As it is written in Japanese here, if you come to enjoy the show, you must be ready to walk in the forest. High-heels and dressy attire are no-no-no, unless you are ready to be mauled by dirt, or worse, wearing them. I upload the photos with the note artist themselves left at their installation. I personally thought all the artists become more comfortable this year with the forest itself than the last year when they have moved from the forest next to the current site due to the preparation for the 2017 city festival … Or is it a kind of human karma when city folks spiritually face with nature? Thanks to the training by my seniors in Niiharu, this year I could find several “dangerous” spots that may cause harm for human and otherwise visitors to the forest, especially when installations would be left for months after the exhibition. The people for the Group told me the majority of the installations must be removed immediately after October 23, and the Creative Environment Policy Bureau of the City would inspect the venue if it is restored for its sustainability. So, the window of opportunity is limited for us to witness the transcendent conversation between the nature and the 21st century uber-metropolitan artists. Please come, experience, and find your place in the 21st century urban forest ;) 

Although the forest now has crisscrossing roads inside,
the route of the exhibition is shown
by these bright yellow arrows.
Just follow them.
In any case, as the place is surrounded
by residential towns and the Zoorasia,
it would be difficult to lose your way there.
Installation #1
Thomas May
Pink Flowers
Installation #2
Kazuma Horie
Building Flatland and a Number of Its Failure
I have heard from my friend who works in the forest
that "There is no flatland in the forest."
My simple personality thought
that "Try to make a flatland in the forest."
It's also a Flatland of casually and the fleeting feeling float in the air.
I made several piece of flatland using 200m of
fishing line of nylon wrapped around
between some of trees depending of my senses.
I can't say it is Flatland accurate but
I think in fact that mostly
when the people going to create something
probably it should not they wanted to.
* The Artist invited the audience to stand
in front of the paintings he situated within his installation.
He said watching the forest from the paintings
was how he perceived the space.
Installation #3
Noriaki Oka
The Ladder of the Forest
Imperceptibly been growing ladder, tangled in the other trees.
And dangle, and snuggle.
Era ladder naturally occurring
even without cutting down the trees to processing!
Genetic manipulation and/or radioactivity,
or something, anything ... so on,
maybe even desk or chair will be sprouting and grow someday!
Installation #4
"SHURO-san" (hemp palm) is Smart.
This is somehow a feeling
of strangeness in this forest.
Stem Hair is shaggy,
and beautiful, green, smart leaves grow
in indescribably imposing from the stem
... it's really fashionable!
I try to make personification
of this palm trees in such an image.
I'm sure this person is
"OSHARE (smart)-san"
whose personality is diligent the laundry.
Installation #5
Hee Joon Kang
Gentle Space
This forest has wonderful natural space
with some of the type of trees and variety of tall grass
and you can see several kinds of insects.
I would like to produce "Cocoon"
which is the resting place for the insect.
Installation #6
Haruna Chikada
Dan Dan Dan
What happens when a human's standard is brought
in the forest which has no standard size.
Whether the person is visible,
whether the forest can be seen.
Installation #7
Kazuo Ishikuro
A dinosaur of the Forest "TOUKERATOPS"
This "TOUKERATOPS" was produced by an idea
of workshop for Mr. Oka coupled with my uncertain idea
"I might make some animal this year."
Many spines, which was made by Workshop
was set on the back of dinosaur.
Its artwork became double- or triple- collaborated work.
Installation #8
Thomas May
Mountain-Cherry-Tree Garden
This is a combination between a cherry tree
with 5 trunks and a grass ball.
The grass object is placed between and formed by the trunks,
but they also protect it not falling down to the valley behind.
Both living nature elements together from a little garden protected,
not accessible but touchable.
This garden is a human ideal in the center of a natural forest.
During the seasons both change their forms.
The garden will grow and can get wider.
For the trunks it’s imaginable that
they will wind around the garden or open it like a blossom.
Both elements are living objects,
set together in a new form at the start of a new community.
Thomas situated another tiny installations here.
Could you figure them out?
There are at least 2 more points
he created like this in the forest … ^.^
Installation #9
Yoshikawa Youichiro
A Path of the ownerless garden
I make a small Path in the new forest.
This path is not to go anywhere.
Make a path for the path.
Its path is twist and turn.
Tree of hemp palm is standing
ahead of the curve.
Evergreen oak standing,
dead tree standing.
I want you to come and to that path.
Installation #10
Youko Kiga
In the artificial forest
disconnected from modern life,
the place where the former people
had worked is hiding here and there.
It is my pleasure to find out
the trace of the past of senior,
which is hiding.
In the forest near Installation by Ri,
ASADA situated this QR code
for her visual installation to be observed …
Installation #11
Eung Woo Ri
A Drop of Dew
I've been working in the nature for many years
and usually got an idea from the site
but I planned to build up something
growing to the sky by bamboo
before I come to the forest in Yokohama.
I had to change the idea
soon after I arrived at the forest.
Fortunately I found the palm
instead of bamboo from the site
and it was very light and more flexible.
So that I planned again
to make something hanging between the trees.
The "Dew" comes almost every morning
but we don't see it
in our usual
because it only appears
in the gray of the morning.
It's one of most beauty
and pure in the nature!
At the entrance,
Thomas set the table for his Grassblade project
to be created with the collaboration of the audience.
You can leave your contribution here!

If you find a problem in the site introduced in this post, the best contact address will be GROUP the Creation and Voice of the Woods. The events also receives grants from Culture and Tourism Bureau of the City 横浜市文化観光局. The contact address of the Bureau is

Minatocho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0017
: 045-671-3715 FAX: 045-663-5606

In any case, the city office which is in charge of this forest is

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 …)