Friday, July 28, 2017

Peaceful co-habitation (for now): The 21st Century Forest of Kanagawa Prefecture 県立21世紀の森

To see how deer-problem-less forests look like in Kanagawa Prefecture, we can try hiking in Hakone. Granted, the area, a part of Fuji-Hakone-Ize National Park 富士箱根伊豆国立公園, is one of the leading tourism spots in Japan, and hence sometimes we encounter vulgarity typical for such places. But, at least for now, we don’t have to worry that much for land leeches in Hakone. Hakone Mountains are not yet overridden by deer … Though, people are not so relaxed about the matter … more to it, I tell you next week. Any way! This week is for my adventure visiting the 21st Century Forest 県立21世紀の森 that is located in the periphery of Hakone, or more to the point, next to Tanzawa Mountains literally. In spite of the proximity to Tanzawa, Sakawa River 酒匂川 protects the 21st Century Forest from the attack of deer. We can still observe diversified vegetation. My itinerary includes Shasui-no-taki Waterfall 洒水の滝 and Sakura-no-yu Spa さくらの湯. They were a kind of bonus in my weekend adventure this time. So, let’s go there.

<A weekend hike to the 21st Century Forest>

Odakyu Shin-Matsuda Station 新松田駅 è Hakone-tozan Bus Karino Stop 苅野バス停 
è The 21st  Century Forest 県立21世紀の森 
è Shasui Water Fall 洒水の滝 
è Sakura-no-yu Spa さくらの湯 
è JR Gotemba Line Yamakita Station 御殿場線山北駅

<Attire and what to bring>

Standard hiking preparation with lots of water.
Clean and empty water bottle(s)

From Tokyo to the 21st Century Forest, first you go to Odakyu Shin-MatsudaStation 小田急新松田駅. Then, from #1 stop of Shin-Matsuda Station take a commuter bus service of Hakone-tozen Bus 箱根登山バス to Sekimoto 関本 Bus Terminal (next to Daiyuzan Station 大雄山駅 of Izu-Hakone Line 伊豆箱根鉄道; time table for the bus service is here), and change to the service to Uchiyama 内山 / Jizoh-doh 地蔵堂 (time table, here). We get off the bus either at Uchiyama or Karino 苅野 Bus Stop, and walk to the entrance of the 21st century for about 30-40 minutes. The bus schedule to Karino is more frequent so that I show you the photos for the route from Karino to the Forest. For weekend mornings, they have direct service from Shin-Matsuda Station to Jizoh-doh. As of June 2017, the bus fare to Karino from Shin-Matsuda is more than 100 yen cheaper if you can use this direct service. Please try to catch them. ;) The 21st Century Forest has several trekking routes to explore including a ridgeway to a ruin of medieval castle. From the ridge, we descend rapidly to Shasui-no-taki Fall 洒水の滝, and walk to JR Central Gotemba Line Yamakita Station JR東海御殿場線山北駅. Next to the Yamakita Station, there is the Health and Welfare Centre of Yamakita Town 山北町健康福祉センター that has a popular Sakura-no-yu Spa さくらの湯 open until 21:00. For return trip, we take JR  Gotemba Line from Yamakita Station to Matsuda Station JR東海松田駅 (time table, here).  As JR Matsuda Station is in front of Odakyu Shin-Matsuda Station, we can simply walk for about 100m to Odakyu. Oh, by the way, JR Central does not accept PASMO. We have to buy a good-old train ticket and pass a manned ticket gate in their stations.

Hakone-tozen Bus 箱根登山バス #1 stop
of Shin-Matsuda Station
Karino 苅野 Bus Stop
JR Central Yamakita Station JR東海山北駅.
Until 1934, the station was a switch-back point
for steam locomotives of Tokaido Line
An army of top-notch locomotive engineers worked there,
and the town was famous for its “academic” atmosphere
with lots of engineer-families, like Silicon Valley, maybe.
Oh, good’ol ticket booth in Yamakaita Station …
come to think of it,
I could not find automated ticket machine there.
Next to Yamakita Station,
there is a tourism information house
where we can have free green-tea.
It has a naturally sweet taste. 😋 A
lthough Yamakita town is in Kanagawa Prefecture,
the area is in the periphery of green tea producing center
of Shizuoka Prefecture
We cross the pedestrian bridge next to the Tourism Information,
over Gotemba Line, to …
Yamakita Health-Welfare Centre that has
Sakura-no-yu Spa
adult fee for 2 hours, 400 yen,
body soap, shampoo + conditioner provided.
Actually, the place is very popular among marathon runners
who train themselves in the forestry roads of the area.

When you get off the bus at Karino, walk back a bit and cross traffic light, and proceed straight. The scenery around us is hilly but pastoral agricultural community. In May, the smell of orange blossoms (Neroli!) is wafting … We cross a small bridge over a stream that is one of the tributaries of Sakawa River. Within an half an hour or so from Karino Bus Stop, we find another traffic light at the corner of Kita-Ashigara Elementary 北足柄小学校. From there, continue ahead a bit to find a sign post saying (in Japanese) “The 21st Century Forest, this way.” Turn left here to a forestry road going up along a small stream. In May-June, the way, adorned by wild Weigela coraeensis with pretty white and pink flowers, leads us to the Admin office of the 21st Century Forest. 107 ha of the 21st Century Forest is a public park of Kanagawa Prefecture. The area around Admin office has facilities for lecture rooms and wood-craft workshops where weekend events are held. (Their annual schedule can be found here.) The Admin office building has a small museum that explains forest management policy of the Prefecture. They also show basic information of Japanese forestry. If you are interested in such things, the place is worth a visit. They also open a weekend restaurant. The forestry road is well-maintained for family cars. If you prefer more hiking experience, you turn right at the first sign of trekking road within the Forest before reaching to the Admin office. The hiking course will bring us to the Admin office anyway.

From Karino Bus Stop,
go over this zebra crossing, and proceed.
Enter the tunnel, and
the other side is like this.
But soon, we meet with another agricultural community.
Kita-Ashigara Elementary on the right at the traffic light
The 21st Century Forest, this way.
Entering the forestry road to the Admin office
Weigela coraeensis is in full-bloom.
This flower first opens in white,
and gains reddish color as it matures.
The first sign to the trekking road

The Forest has 4 major trekking roads. (Map, here.) The entry way we’ve first encountered from the bus stop is the “Road for the Riparian Forest 水辺の森ルート.” Inside of the 21st Century Forest is demarcated according to a theme for each area. The forest we first entered is to experience the riparian vegetation in Kanagawa Prefecture.  It gains an altitude rapidly for about 20 minutes and joins with “Kintaroh Road 金太郎ルート.” (About Mr. Kintaroh, I tell you next week.) Until we join with Kintaroh Road, around us is an afforested area with cedars. We can see the difference easily in the forest floor between here and that of, say, Mt. Oyama. It has more variety in species. When we enter Kintaroh Road, the forest is consisted of many kinds of natural broad-leaved trees some of which have an educational explanation board. Although we can see the remnants of deer lunch, such as broken twigs and torn-off leaves, the diversity of plants in the forest is obvious. Soon, we arrive at Athletic Open Space, and then the parking space in front of the Admin Offices. I think the toilets (a lot) in this area have the best quality for today’s itinerary. Please do not miss the chance! Cross the parking space, there is a three-forked road. To the left is a way coming from the road we took before we dive in to the Riparian Forest. The center with the gate closed can bring us to the afforestation area for “the Forest of Growing 成長の森.” Unlike the site within Yadoriki Forest, the planting events held here since 2013 can be accessible by vehicle. The road running parallel to the direction we come is to the restaurant. We go to the rightest road today, and earn the altitude steadily. It is a way called Uchiyama Forestry Road 内山林道. Eventually, on the left, there is a signpost inviting us to the trekking route via Natural Forest Road 天然の森コース. At the end of Natural Forest Road is the Central Open Space セントラル広場. We can go there either via Natural Forest Road, or walking the Uchiyama Forestry Road.

The road coming from the signboard
“for the Riparian Forest”
We cross a tiny bridge over a stream
next to a gazebo (closed) to climb up.
Rich in vegetation…
We enter “Kintaroh Road.”
Kintaroh Road is wide, and easy to walk.
We come to the Athletic Open Space.
Could you see an afforested slope over there?
The pale green space covering the hill
has lots of baby cedars for “the Forest of Growing.”
The museum within the Admin office bldg. has
an interactive game to understand the forests
in Kanagawa Prefecture.
The crossing
From the crossing the road in front of us is going
to the Forest of Growing we’ve seen from the Athletic Open Space.
This route actually connects with Yagurasawa community 矢倉沢.
I’ll return to it next week.
The trees for the class of 2013.
Now they become 5-8cm diameter thick and about 2m tall.
This is the list for the class of 2013.
Volunteers are taking care of the field.
You get growing, won’t you?

The Uchiyama Forestry Road goes zig-zag to gain altitude.
The entrance to “Natural Forest Road,” 306 m ASL.

The Natural Forest Road is to see how near-climax forest can be around here. The diversity of plants is really comforting along this road … Within 30 min. or so of climbing we reach to the Central Open Space, 563m ASL, on the ridgeway. Turn right here to Shasui-no-taki Waterfall. But before going there, we visit a ruin of a medieval castle that is up there to the left. The ridge way of the 21st Century Forest is paved till the Central Open Space as Uchiyama Forestry Road, but the left from now on becomes a blacktop road. The route goes up steeply, and we can find lots of Petasites japonicus (Siebold et Zucc.) Maxim. invading into the road surface. It’s a Japanese herb with lots of enthusiasts as spring specialty dishes … I just wonder if deer here do not annihilate them  ... the problem must not be so serious as in Tanzawa. Going up for about 500m from the Central Open Space, we reach to a ruin of medieval castle, Hama-kyojoh ruin 浜居城址, at 690m ASL. This is a point to draw the 16th century frontier between the lands of 2 powerful warlords, Hojoh clan 北条氏 who governed Odawara 小田原 and Takeda clan 武田氏 who ruled Kofu 甲府. The castle was a property of Hojoh clan to spot any ninja trying to sneak in their territory from the north for sabotage. Actually, along the border between Kanagawa and Yamanashi Prefectures 山梨県, there remain many such ruins that are the testimony of medieval geo-politics. When you continue straight from the ruin, not returning to the Central Space, you reach to the 3 forked road to the peak of Mt. Yagura 矢倉岳. We go there next week. 😉

The beginning of Natural Forest Road is neatly mowed
to represent early mantle vegetation
after thinning in the natural forest of Kanagawa.
That’s what Satoyama management was up to.
The road is going up.
In the middle,
there is a place where we can observe Odawara City.
Along this trekking road,
I’ve encountered lots of flowers of suzutake sasa bamboos

(Sasa borealis (Hack.) Makino et Shibata) this year.
They blossom only once in 120 years.
After flowering, they bear fruits, and die out.
Each sasa bamboos above the ground is
just a part of one entity connected by extensive network of roots.
So, when a part dies, it spreads to the whole.
It’s same for the larger bamboos …
There is a superstition
"when bamboos flower catastrophic things can happen" …
However, somewhere in Japan,
they always have flowers, if not in unison.
People say this “oracle” comes from mice.
The fruits of bamboos are edible and nutritious.
Mice eat them and their population explodes.
Meanwhile all the bamboos in the vicinity die out
which makes lots of mice starve.
They come to human settlement searching for food,
destroy crops, and spread infectious diseases …
i.e. a disaster.
Humans also eat bamboo fruits during famine …
Flowers of sasa bamboos are actually very elegant.
They are reddish brown,
whose yellow stamens are like intricate Belgian lace.
The Central Open Space
Turning left to the Hama-kyojoh ruin,
we first meet with a tower for disaster prevention radio
which is surrounded by
abundant Petasites japonicus (Siebold et Zucc.) Maxim.
From the tower, a blacktop road continues for a while, and …
it finally becomes un-paved trekking road.
The forest from the tower is afforested coniferous trees.
As a park of the prefecture, they are well maintained
where the canopy allows sunlight to come in.
Unlike the place of deer problem,
the undergrowth is rich for coniferous forest.
The Hama-kyojoh ruin.
Well, Japanese architecture is made of woods.
Have you expected something like the ruins of stones in Europe?
But there is an extensive documentation about
the workings of this place, including thrilling ninja stories.
Baby Petasites japonicus are sprouting in the middle of the road
… looks appetizing …

We return to the Central Open Space and proceed this time along the paved Uchiyama Forestry Road. On our way, we find a strange looking forest on the left. It is a seedling forest for cypresses which is for breeding by the Kanagawa Natural Environment Conservation Center. After meeting the seedling forest, we find the forestry road goes to 2 directions. Don’t turn left, but keep on going to the east. (Turning to the west is a dead-end.) Although the route is paved for cars, it is normally a very quiet strolling … sometimes we can even smell animals nearby … Beas? Boars? Deer? The noisiest is lots of birds singing in a clean mountain air. Eventually, on the left, there is a bit narrower road with a signpost saying “Shasui-no-taki, this way.” Enter there, and we’ll be greeted by another tower, and seedling forests for cedars and pines. Then, we can figure out over there a parabolic tower for relaying TV signals. Just on the foot of the TV tower, an honest trekking road starts to go down to Shasui-no-taki Fall.

Shasui-no taiki, this direction.
There is a toilet along the way.
The seedling forest for cypresses.
When we cut the plant’s growing point at particular timings,
coniferous trees spread their bough horizontally
and have a form similar to deciduous trees.
By doing this,
scientists can collect flowers and seeds for breeding easily.
Could you see the white bags covering the tips of some boughs?
They are for applying growth hormones, or controlling fertilization.
Near the seedling forest of cypresses,
there is a viewing point for the mountains of Tanzawa.
Before the corner to the TV tower,
the forest around us is of broad-leaved trees with lots of birds chirping.
The signpost for Shasui-no-taki. Follow the red arrow.
This way
The seedling forest for pines.
You see? Kanagawa has a long coast line.
We need them.
Yamakita Town and Tomei Express Way
start to enter in our view …
The TV station
Shasui-no-taki Fall, this way

From the TV tower, the road rapidly goes down in the afforested slope with cedars. The way is mountainous trekking road perching on the steep surface of Hakone. It’s a slope facing north so that in any case the sun shines not so strongly. The forest floor is dark. Even though, the vegetation here is definitely richer than the (south-facing) slope of Ura-sandoh for Mt. Oyama. I’ve found several footsteps of animals … deer for sure, and could be a bear … But I did not have an impression they had ravaged the plants. Yeah, after finding footsteps that suspiciously looked like of bears, I started to sing hymns in rather a high volume … God is great, God is almighty … for about half an hour.  Thank God, I was OK. This side of the 21st Century Forest is facing the stream, Takizawa River 滝沢川, that creates Shasui-no-taki Fall so that the humidity is high year-round. We can see beautiful undergrowth of ferns under the canopy of cedars. A narrow trekking road ends after passing the area restored last year from a landslide. The road first turns into a pebbled one, then a blacktop. It’s one way, and we meet several remains of houses, including elaborate stone walls covered with moss. The area is a part of Yamakita town where aging and decreasing population is the issue … I imagine 70 years ago, there lived families … In the middle there is a viewing point to look Shasui-no-taki Fall. The view is better than the tourism point down there. Within 20 minutes, we are at the entrance to Shasui-no-taki Fall.

To the waterfall
Pointy toe means … deer.
Beautiful …
Because of landslides here,
the route was closed for several years.
After the reconstruction,
the road becomes like this.
There must have been a reason for this elaborated stone wall.
Shasui-no-taki Fall over there.
The end of the trekking road.
Shasui-no-taki Fall is to the right.
A 10m or so from the above photo is
a parking space for Shasui-no-Taki Fall.
Public toilet is available.

Shasui-no-taki 洒水の滝 is one of the best 100 Waterfalls in Japan, designated by groups of academic ecologists with a support from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Agency. The beginning of the fall is normally covered by deep green of the forest, and we cannot see it from far. It is a cascading fall in 3 steps: the top has an elevation gap of 29m, the middle with 16m, and the last one which is observable from the bottom is 69m. In esoteric Buddhism, Shasui 洒水 means magical water that pours purity into a prayer. The place is where monks seek enlightenment in the waterfall lake … er, well, due to fragile soil of Hakone, it has a high probability of falling rocks, and hence the basin is off-limit now. But, the place has many spots where ground water comes out. We can collect water from one of those points. Actually, together with the water from Gomayashiki Spring 護摩屋敷の水 in Yabitsu Pass ヤビツ峠, the water of Shashi-no-taki Fall is one of the best 100 Waters in Japan designated by the Ministry of Environment. Unlike Gomayashiki Spring, the Waterfall is relatively near to an established community so that the place is more crowded. But it’s worthwhile using your clean empty water bottle for your best green tea. J On 4th Sunday of every July, Shasui-no-taki Fall has a festival with taiko drums and torch fires as a purification ritual for Acala who is believed to reside near the waterfall. The power of “pure green tea” could be doubled at that time … maybe? Please boil it before drinking in any case!

From the end of hiking road,
a community road is running to Shasui-no-taki Fall.
Before the waterfall, there is an old temple,
Saisho-ji Temple
where before meditating monks stationed
for their training at the waterfall.
Now it is a temple praying for the parents
who suffered miscarriages.
The front of the main temple is adored
by the statues of Kshitigarbha with colorful windmills to comfort lost babies.
(In old Japanese,
prematurely died babies called Mizuko
or water kids,
and so for this connotation.)
The final approach to the waterfall
is pedestrian only.
We can collect Shasui-no-taki water here.
From the nearest point we can approach to the water fall

From the waterfall, we walk Prefectural Road #726 till it meets with Route 246 where we can see above Tsuburano Tunnel 都夫良野トンネル of Tomei Express Way. From there, Yamakita Station is within 1.2K along JR Gotemba Line. If you have time, please walk Yamakita town along the south of Gotemba line. The community preserves Satoyama atmosphere with pure air and water. The town is encouraging city folks to immigrate: families with babies have subsidies for nappies, milks, childcares, etc. I don’t know if their policy is successful to attract young families … I know some Tokyonites, whose offices locate around JR Yamanote Line, have moved to Yamakita preparing for their retirement life. If you are not keen on clubs in Roppongi, it’s a gorgeous place.

Tsuburano Tunnel over there.
I was amazed to observe Tomei Express
from the ridgeway of the 21st Century Forest till this point:
it’s really congested, always.
Yamakita Town has an extensive network of water flow
that was once for domestic use.
Today, they are home for many fire flies
elegantly illuminating houses
during the last 2 weeks of May.

The contact address for the 21st Century Forest of Kanagawa Prefecture 県立21世紀の森 is

2870-5 Uchiyama, Minami-Ashigara City 250-0131, 250-0131 南足柄市内山2870-5
Phone: 0465-72-0404

The contact address for Kanagawa Natural Environment Conservation Center 神奈川県自然環境保全センター is

657 Nanasawa, Atsugi City, 243-0121 2430121 厚木市七沢657
Phone: 046-248-0323

You can send an enquiry to them by clicking the bottom line of their homepage at

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