Friday, December 29, 2017

Mt. Fuji, falcon, aubergine

In Japan, there is a saying 一富士二鷹三茄子, meaning,

After going to bed on January 1st if you have a dream of Mt. Fuji, and/or falcon, and/or aubergine, you will have a lucky year.

(But, WHY!?)
I hope the above photo might be a help for all of you.

Season’s Greetings from Yokohama

Friday, December 22, 2017

On slicing a cake neatly: walking the “watershed” between Tokyo and Kanagawa 高尾山から小仏峠へ

I’m sure there are lots of travel guide in many languages for going to the peak of Mt. Takao 高尾山. So in my post this week, I just tell you a rough sketch in this part of my adventure in Mt. Takao. First, the nearest train station for the peak is Keio 京王線 Takao-san Guchi Station 高尾山口駅 whose name literally means “the entrance to Mt. Takao.” There are lots of route to visit the peak, and the standard ones go through the precinct of Yakuoh-in Temple 薬王院 where we can have Buddhism vegetarian dishes (RSVP). If you plan to go there in your business shoes or high-heels, you must use chair lift or cable car services by Takao Tozan Railway 高尾登山鉄道 that can bring us to the stations at ASL 460m (chair-lift) or 480m (cable car). From there to the peak, the main roads via Yakuoh-in are either paved, or decked so that approach is not so difficult. Otherwise, it is strongly recommended to wear your hiking shoes for Mt. Takao. As Mt. Takao sounds too familiar, people could go there without preparation and end up in hospital with a help of mountain rescue teams. Besides, if we want to immerse ourselves in the amazing biodiversity of Mt. Takao, we must divert from the paved roads as much as possible. Actually, the mountainous roads are more popular than cable cars, and could be congested in Mt. Takao. Trekking Road #6 becomes one-way up during every April 29 – May 5 and November, in order to ease “traffic jam” of hikers.

Takao-san Guchi Station
Kiyotaki 清滝 cable car station for Takao Tozan Railway
that is the beginning of the cable car service.
Just before the cable car station,
there is a junction between Omotesando
表参道 (meaning “the main approach”) to Yakuoh-in Temple,
 and two other hiking roads to the peak.
This is actually the beginning of Tokai Shizen Hodoh
(Tokai Nature Trail
More to this hiking road below.
When you get off the cable car from the foot of the mountain,
you’ll be welcomed by this small open space where
we begin to enjoy spectacular views.
This is to Sagami Bay
But if you don’t use public transportations from Takao-san Guchi Station,
the roads are standard trekking paths of Japanese mountain.
So, please be prepared.

Yakuoh-in, established in 744, is one of the training grounds for Yamabushi priests 山伏. The grand-masters of Yamabushi priests were often identified with tengu 天狗 with magical powers and the precinct in Mt. Takao has lots of tengu motifs. … After watching The Last Jedi, I felt the training of Yamabushi is like to be a Jedi … yeah, I’m serious. There are two water purification training 水行 spots for Yamabushi priests, or anybody who wants to do it (RSVP), in Mt. Takao … sounds more and more like the Jedi Temple for Rey … One in Mt. Takao is Hebitaki Fall 蛇滝, and another is Biwataki Fall 琵琶滝. Regrettably, just 20m underground of Biwataki Fall, there runs Takao-san Tunnel 高尾山トンネル of Kenoh-doh Express Way 圏央道 excavated by the technology for Eurotunnel. The route was opened in 2014. People said the road construction may have cut off the water vein of the area and could be a culprit for drying up of this sacred waterfall these days. Let us see what would happen in 10 years’ time … Oh, by the way, Biwataki Fall is along the most demanding trekking road of Mt. Takao. You have to wear your hiking shoes to visit there for sure. Training to be a Jedi is not at all easy, as all of us know.

All the roads coming from Takao Town meet
at the above open space in front of the cable car station.
From there, the boulevard to Yakuoh-in Temple runs to …
The main gate where
Mischievous sculptures of Tengu (goblin? fairy?) welcome us.
Yamabushi training spot at Biwataki Fall
From Oku-no-in of Yakuoh-in Temple,
a wooden-deck road leads us …
to the peak of Mt. Takao
where a visitor center
高尾山ビジターセンター is waiting for us.
The place is equipped with a small theatre and
many educational materials for science classes of grade schoolers.
The facility is always visited by kids.
Kstigarbha image at the peak,
calling for trash-free Mt. Takao.

Now, let me start telling you my adventure in honest from here. The view from the top of Mt. Takao, ASL 599.3m, is spectacular. To the east in a fine winter day, we can see Tokyo Skytree, Mt. Tsukuba 筑波山 and beyond. To the south are Bosoh Peninsula 房総半島, Tokyo Bay 東京湾, Miura Peninsula 三浦半島 and Sagami Bay where Enoshima Island 江の島 and Eboshi-iwa Rock 烏帽子岩 are floating. To the west is the entire Tanzawa Mountains 丹沢 where their highest, Mt. Hiruga-take 蛭ヶ岳 (ASL 1672.6m), is clearly commanding her pole position. And Mt. Fuji, of course. We also should observe the extremely rich vegetation around the peak of Mt. Takao. The mountain is located on the border between the warm temperate and the boreal, which made its forest consists of plants for both climates. In Tanzawa, we can meet beeches in the area higher than ASL 800m. Here in Mt. Takao, Fagus crenata is thriving already around the top. No wonder this is the most visited mountain in Japan every year. And that might become the reason of its misfortune ... Often people are amazed by the well-prepared walking path forever in Mt. Takao … but do you think rain can seep slowly in there? Is it really “nature friendly”? I just advice you to hold your lunch for 20-60 minutes more from the peak for a less-congested, but with equally spectacular views …

The view to Mt. Fuji from the top of Mt. Takao.
The highish mountain to the left of Mt. Fuji is
Mt. Omuroyama (ASL 1587.4m)
Further left is Tanzawa Mountains with the highest Mt. Hiruga-take.

2 trekking roads are departing from the top of Mt. Takao to the west, which join again within 5 minutes at a 5 roads junction. They are going into Oku-Takao, or deep Takao, although the roads are still fairly wide and well-constructed. The north-most road is going down a bit, where it is famous for its beauty in spring and autumn leaves. The middle one among the three to the west is running along the ridge, and in fine days, we can constantly observe Mt. Fuji from this road. The routes also have lots of benches. So, at whichever point you can enjoy your lunch. In addition, after the first junction, they will unite once more in about 600m so that you can choose any way to go to the west. Actually, this is the route designated as a part of Tokai Shizen Hodoh (Tokai Nature Trail 東海自然歩道), starting from the beginning of Omotesandoh of Yakuoh-in Temple. It’s a recreational walking trail created in 1973 with an initiation by the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan 厚生省. At that time, Japanese economy grew at a break-neck speed and environmental pollutions were damaging the health of the nation. In 1969 promoting healthy living in nature, an officer for the Ministry, Michio Ohi 大井道夫 who was in the office for National Parks, presented his idea of walking path to connect Tokyo’s Mt. Takao located in the middle of Meiji Forest Takao Quasi-national Park 明治の森高尾国定公園 with Osaka’s Mt. Mino’o 箕面山 (ASL 355m) in Meiji Forest Mino’o Quasi-national Park 明治の森箕面国定公園. Along the 1697km between the two mountains, Mr. Ohi deliberately chose biodiverse spots which were not-so-famous but relatively near to the population centers. The plan gathered enthusiastic supports from all over, and 11 prefectures along the way collaborated to provide safe walking roads for the project. It made many designated parts of the Trail Quasi-national Parks quickly. Unlike with Kanto Friendship Roads 関東ふれあいの道 (首都圏自然歩道), conquering all the way of Tokai Nature Trail does not give us honoring badges or the like. Even though, it is a very popular walking route and one of the reasons for Mt. Takao attracting such a lot of visitors. The itinerary goes not only nature sanctuaries, but also historical monuments dating back millenia. If you plan to live in Tokyo metropolitan area for a while, walking all the way from Mt. Takao to Mt. Mino’o could be a project of your life time. Actually, it’s in my bucket list. 😁 A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or with Mt. Takao.

The junction with the 3 roads ahead from the top of Mt. Takao.
The middle road going up is the ridge way.
There are lots of signposts in the Mt. Takao Quasi-national Park.
Even western style toilets are provided.
The facilities in this Quasi-national Park is
so-called “eco-friendly toilets”
where flushing toilet papers are HUGE NO-NO.
After use, please throw them in a trash bin provided.
Thank you for your cooperation.
And the extremely well-constructed trekking road …

Tokai Nature Trail meets with the next junction for 6 roads. This time, let’s choose either of the 2 northern roads to the west. (The third path to the left descends to O’otarumi Pass 大垂水峠 on National Route 20 which was chosen in 2012 by Toyota Motor Co. as “one of the 86 most exciting Japanese passes for sports cars TOYOTA86峠セレクション.”) They will see each other in about 500m at Ichho-Daira 一丁平 with another toilets and a wide wooden deck for the view to Tanzawa-cum-Mt. Fuji. After Iccho-Daira, follow the signpost saying “To Shiroyama 城山.” In total of about 1 hour walk from the top of Mt. Takao, we reach to the peak of Mt. Shiroyama (aka Kobotoke Shiroyama 小仏城山), ASL 670.4m, where a café and a relay-tower for mobile phones are situated. For today’s itinerary, this is the last spot where we can observe Mt. Fuji and Tokyo Skytree simultaneously. When I’ve been there, watching Tokyo down below a group of hikers became very philosophical … “Hey, all of these are houses and buildings.” “Yeah, and people occupy almost all of them.” “Above all, we don’t know 99.99999% of the inhabitants who they are.” “… Yeah.” Also we won’t meet a toilet after this peak until we go down to Lake Sagami 相模湖. Please use the occasion wisely. The top of Mt. Shiroyama is the border and watershed between Tokyo and Kanagawa. Very roughly speaking, from now on the rain drops on the west slope of the ridge are supposed to end up at taps in Kanagawa via Sagami Lake. Those drops on the east slope should eventually join with Tama River 多摩川 in Fuchu City 府中市 so that they will never have a chance to be a part of waterworks of Tokyo … or will they? Tokai Nature Trail goes down from here, the peak of Mt. Shiroyama, to Lake Sagami. But in order to ponder more the water ways for Tokyo and Kanagawa, let’s continue for 30 more minutes along the ridge way to Kobotoke Pass 小仏峠.

At Iccho-daira just before Mt. Shiroyama,
Mt. Fuji is always there. Hello!
The top of Mt. Shiroyama.
In about 400 years ago, there was a mountain fortress,
hence its name Shiroyama = a mountain for a castle.
Seeing from Mt. Shiroyama, over there is the downtown Tokyo.
The Tokai Nature Trail goes down via the route starting next to the café.
Instead, we take this road next to the tower for continuing the ridge way.

Very interestingly, from Mt. Shiroyama to Kobotoke Pass the road becomes a familiar trekking road as we can find in Tanzawa. It’s indeed a border between Kanagawa and well-manicured Tokyo. After observing a bit Lake Sagami to the west, we arrive a viewing point with benches for Tanzawa / Mt. Fuji that is the last place for us today to admire the couple. About 100m from here, we reach to Kobotoke Pass 小仏峠, ASL 548m. The place now has a crumbling hut and a monument saying “Emperor Meiji visited here in 1880.” The reason why the place had a royal visit was, the road going through this pass from east to west was the original Koshu-kaido Road 旧甲州街道. Koshu-kaido Road was one of the 5 arterial roads 五街道 in Japan till Meiji Restoration 明治維新 of 1868, connecting Edo (Tokyo) and the middle of Honshu Island. For Tokugawa Shogunate Government 徳川幕府, Kobotoke Pass was an important checkpoint 小仏関所, just like Hakone Checkpoint 箱根関所, to defend Edo. Naturally, Kobotoke Pass is on the border between Edo (Tokyo) and Sagami (Kanagawa). Unfortunately, the way was too demanding for western style carriages, and later automobiles, so that in 1888 Meiji Government changed the route of Koshu-kaido Road to the current National Route 20. Inevitably, Kobotoke Pass was forgotten. Having said that, nowadays beneath the Pass, there run Kobotoke Tunnels 小仏トンネル for JR Chuoh Line 中央本線 and always congested Chuoh Expressway 中央自動車道 both of which trace almost the same route of the old Koshu-kaido Road. Hmmmmmm … at least in terms of a linear distance, ancient people really economized the way for connecting the Imperial Palace with the middle Japan.

A familiar mountain road in Kanagawa
Telling you the truth, the route to Kobotoke Pass is
a part of Kanto Friendship Road.
The photo point for badges is at the peak of
Mt. Kagenobu-yama
景信山 (ASL 727.3m)
about 40 minutes’ north from Kobotoke Pass.
Unfortunately, we don’t go there today.
The last encounter with Mt Fuji today.
Down there is Lake Sagami.
Rapidly going down to meet with the signpost
saying “Kobotoke Pass.”
The monument of royal visit, with an abandoned hut

So, today, we turn left here at Kobotoke Pass to take the old Koshu-kaido Road to Lake Sagami. i.e. We bid farewell to Tokyo, and enter the water source forest of Kanagawa. But, by reaching this far from Mt. Takao, honestly I felt a kind of human opportunism dissecting the mountain to argue “the rain drops on this slope is Tokyo, and on the other side is for Kanagawa.” Who knows when we slice the land the waterway would be neatly organized for Tokyo and for Kanagawa. Whatever, when we enter the forests in Kanagawa, we meet the familiar notices saying “This forest is water source forest of Kanagawa Prefecture.” OK, OK, OK. Eventually, we start to hear the exhaust of cars busily running in and out of Kobotoke Tunnel, and then encounter frequent services of JR Chuo Line below. Just before meeting with train tracks, there is a beautiful mountain stream coming down from the north going to Sagami River. It has an impressive name, Bijo-zawa Stream 美女沢, aka the “Valley of a Beautiful Lady.” The area has a folklore as a birthplace of Lady Terute 照手姫, a gorgeous and faithful lover who became a heroine in the Story of Oguri Hangan 小栗判官 for Kabuki 歌舞伎 and Joruri puppet shows 浄瑠璃. As a person who drinks tap water in Yokohama, I felt the name of the origin for my glasses is not bad. … And such an egoistic feeling to call “this water is mine” … The way from Kobotoke Pass to Sagami Lake is almost constant going-down, and finally we meet with National Route 20 at Sokosawa 底沢 Junction. You can either catch a Kanachu Bus Services from Sokosawa Stop 底沢停留所 to Sagamiko JR Station (timetable, here), or walk to Sagamiko Station 相模湖駅 for about half an hour via Route 20. If you choose to walk, about 500m from the bus stop, there is Oharajuku Honjin 小原宿本陣, a museum preserving a hotel for Samurai Lords centuries ago 本陣. It is the only remaining historical structure in Kanagawa Prefecture as one of the most prestigious hotels under Tokugawa Government. In the 21st century, the admission for the museum is free even for us commoners. Thank you. 😏

From Kobotoke Pass, we take this road to Lake Sagami.
Rain dropping over there is supposed to belong to Tokyo.
And this side is for Kanagawa.
We understand why people of the 19th century
decided to have a new route for Koshu-kaido Road
… But, beautiful, isn’t it?
Here it comes: “This forest is for Kanagawa’s water.”
Chuo Freeway is over there.
And JR Chuo Line.
The stream of beautiful lady
Sokosawa Bus Stop
Oharajuku Honjin

The contact address for the office in charge of Meiji Forest Takao Quasi-national Park 明治の森高尾国定公園 is

Bureau of Environment, Tokyo Metropolitan Government 東京都環境局
2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 163-8001
Phone:  03-5388-3539, FAX:  03-5388-1379

The contact address for the office in charge of Sagami Dam is

Enterprise Bureau, Kanagawa Prefectural Government 神奈川県企業局
1045 Nihon-Odori, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-8588
Phone: 210-1111

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Wild Water Chase around Mt. Takao and Lake Sagami 高尾山と相模湖

Kanagawa Prefecture normally does not have draught during summer. Our water supply from Sagami River System 相模川水系 and Sakawa River System 酒匂川水系 has quite adequate reservefor our use. In contrast, Tokyo often has July-August headlines like “Because of water shortage, Tokyo Metropolitan Government has started water intake restriction.” Granted, they have much larger population than Kanagawa. But, unlike Kanagawa where 100% of our water has its source within our prefecture, Tokyo relies heavily on water coming from the other prefectures. They can collect only 20% of water of their use within its border, i.e. from Tama River System 多摩川水系. The remaining 80% comes from Tone River 利根川水系, via long aqueducts coming from the north of Kanto Region 関東地方. For one thing, it would be because the land, Musashino Plateau 武蔵野台地, is flatter in Tokyo than in mountainous Kanagawa so that having large dams near the population center is not plausible. Another, Tokyo’s water problem may be due to a mischief of history which produced the largest Yokohama’s (Citizen) Forest in the late 19th century … I’ll return to it in my later posts. Anyway! I’ve found a chronological table in the museum of Samukawa Water Intake Facility 神奈川県水道記念館 reporting in 1926 Tokyo began to ask Kanagawa and tried several times since to accommodate them with water. So far, none successful. Oh, yeah, we are very prudent, or stingy; take your side, please.

Here. A chronological Table at the museum.

Then, one day, I’ve heard a story from my seniors of the Lovers of Niiharu Citizen Forest 新治市民の森愛護会. Dr. Toshiko Kitagawa 北川淑子 of Yokohama Botanical Association 横浜植物会 lamented a possible decline in the Niiharu’s forest of ferns. “Well, the city cut the trees stood on the ridgeway separating the residential area and the forest, which has made easy for dry winds coming into the forest. It’s not at all good for ferns!” The seniors of Niiharu Lovers had a different theory. “Hey, do you remember Mr. H tried to create a biotope in the lower valley just next to the forest of ferns?” “Yeah, but he could not manage it. He expected water would seep into his pond, but it did not occur.” “Then, we noticed small natural ponds that were there at the end of the fern forest started to dry up.” “Yes, yes. That was a way before the City thinned the trees surrounding the forest of ferns.” “I suspect the 1980s’ housing development of Kirigaoka 霧が丘 in the other side of the ridge caused the fundamental problem.” “Meaning?” “They replaced a forest with the row of houses that made the ability of water retention diminished for the entire mountain.” “Ah-ha.” “So the level of underground water beneath the forest of ferns went down. It made the ponds at the end of the forest dry, and the newly created biotope of Mr. H could not collect water.” “Yeah, thinning by the City would not have much impact for the flow of winds … the houses are acting almost as the thinned trees for that matter, aren’t they?” So, you’d ask “So What? How does this theory connect with the relationship between Tokyo and Kanagawa?” That’s the thing I noticed recently when I’ve visited Mt. Takao 高尾山. This week and the next are about my adventure in the hiking road from Mt. Takao to Lake Sagami 相模湖.

Can this forest of ferns in Niiharu survive in the future?

Both Mt. Takao 高尾山 and Lake Sagami 相模湖 are well-known weekend destinations, within one-hour train ride from JR Tokyo Station 東京駅. Overlooking Lake Sagami, there is an amusement park, Pleasure Forest プレジャー・フォレスト, where we can enjoy German-style forest athletic facilities and winter-illumination for roller coaster, et al. The area has lots of camping sites, boating facilities, and fishing spots. The surrounding mountains, though less than ASL 1000m, are popular as a day-hike destination from Tokyo. One of these mountains is Mt. Takao that is the smallest Quasi-national Park in Japan, called Meiji Forest Takao Quasi-national Park 明治の森高尾国定公園. The place was awarded 3 stars by Michelin Green Guide thanks to a very-Japanese tourist trash controlling system and well-constructed hiking roads. Well, the area now is as such, but before the place was a thriving agricultural community along Koshu Highway 甲州街道 (the current National Route 20) connecting Nihonbashi 日本橋 (the place now Bank of Japan stands) and Lake Suwa 諏訪湖 in Nagano Prefecture 長野県. During the 1930s when Japan took expansionary policy for everything like a frog of Aesop’s Fables, the needs for more water and electricity grew rapidly to sustain heavy industries for armament and labors arriving for the factories in Yokohama-Kawasaki 京浜工業地帯. In 1938, the Prefectural Council of Kanagawa decided to secure large water reservoir along Sagami River 相模川 near the border with Yamanashi Prefecture 山梨県. They started the construction of a multi-purpose dam in 1940. Amazingly, despite of devastating continuation of World War II, people continued their work, and Sagami Dam 相模ダム was completed in 1947. Lake Sagami was the first man-made water reservoir in Japan, awarded a name “Lake.” Those communities along the Sagami River were massively relocated to higher grounds especially along Koshu Highway, which are now the tourism towns surrounding the Lake. After these 70 years, Sagami Dam is still a working multipurpose dam providing electricity to the neighborhood and sending water to all over Kanagawa Prefecture, including Yokohama.

Sagami dam with a working power plant
Lake Sagami
Along the lake shore, there are lots of monuments
commemorating the flooded village structures.
This boulder was once situated on a riverside
and worshipped as a holy spot.
People saved it from the submersion.

Hmmmmm, so, Lake Sagami is collecting water from the surrounding mountains. It could be a contentious issue whether Mt. Takao, whose address is “Takao-cho, Hachioji City, Tokyo, 193-8686,” plays any part as a water source forest for Kanagawa. Between the border with Kanagawa and the peak of Mt. Takao, there are three water-running valleys, which means Mt. Takao is obviously not a watershed for Kanagawa Prefecture. Even though, Mt. Takao has recorded 1300 species of vegetation in 7.7 km2 (FYI, the entire UK has max 1600 kinds of plants), sitting on a famously affluent underground water system. If it’s gone for, say, housing development like the north-slope for Niiharu’s forest of ferns, could we in Yokohama still enjoy abundant water supply from Lake Sagami? For these 10 years, the construction of Takao-san Tunnel 高尾山トンネル for Kenoh-do Highway 圏央道 and Michelin Awards accelerated development of both underground and surface of Mt. Takao. Some civil society organizations, such as Japan Civil Network for the UN Decades on Biodiversity 国連生物多様性の10年市民ネットワーク, sound alarm for possible deterioration of the area as the water source. If Niiharu can be any guide, we may have to wait for at least 30 years before the results of these construction activities appear in Mt. Takao or to Lake Sagami ... One thing was certain for me: when I’ve visited Mt. Takao and came down to Lake Sagami recently, the continuation of nature did not matter if the water stored by the forests would pour, or not, in Lake Sagami. While the torrents we overlooked from the trekking roads in my itinerary were always amazingly transparent, local Tokyonites are noticing some of these water spots are getting thinner, or disappearing altogether … What could happen for the plants in the forests in the future, then? Let me tell you next week my actual adventure in the border line water source forests from Mt. Takao to Lake Sagami.

The stream near Myo-on Bashi Bridge 妙音橋 on the eastern slope of Mt. Takao

The contact address for the office in charge of Meiji Forest Takao Quasi-national Park 明治の森高尾国定公園 is

Bureau of Environment, Tokyo Metropolitan Government 東京都環境局
2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 163-8001
Phone:  03-5388-3539, FAX:  03-5388-1379

The contact address for the office in charge of Sagami Dam is

Enterprise Bureau, Kanagawa Prefectural Government 神奈川県企業局
1045 Nihon-Odori, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-8588
Phone: 210-1111