Friday, August 25, 2017

A Summer Holiday: Joining a workshop for 10th Art Exhibition in the Forest of Yokohama

As I reported in my June 2nd post, this year 2017 Laboratory of the Forest is made of 6 series of workshops and an exhibition (September 10-24) of the installations created during the workshops. The place of the event is the forest attached to the site for this year’s National Urban Greenery Fair 全国都市緑化フェア that is planned to be a part of Yokohama Zoorasia Botanical Park. The final workshops will be held on September 2nd (“Sleeping in the forest”) and 10th (“Forest Cathedral”). The concept of this year’s exhibition by the GROUP the Creation and Voice of the Woods 創造と森の声 is letting the process of creating installations a part of exhibition for anybody to come and enjoy in the forest. On September 10th, making Forest Cathedral is expected to be completed by installing transparent color panels made of plastic films spread over gaps between twigs. By that date, all the installations for the 10th Exhibition is ready for audience. The twiggy dancers created during the first workshop last May for the Greenery Fair have moved there to join with the other works. One summer Sunday, I visited one of these activities for the Forest Cathedral. That was a fun! I tell you my experience with the people of the GROUP for Art Exhibition in the Forest of Yokohama. What I helped was preparing “Forest Cathedral” to be ready for plastic films.

Dancing twigs are moved from Urban Greenery Fair site.

The GROUP people thinned young Quercus myrsinifolia in the forest and used them to “build” a hexagonal pergola. The leaves of cut trees were removed but many of their twigs were left as such. Then, they erected “pillars” at each corner of roughly 7m diameter hexagon with 2-3 processed Quercus myrsinifolia. The tips of trees are twined at the top so that when the pillars were raised, the hexagonal pergola had beams of boughs at around 3-4m above. During the workshop on September 10, the participants are making color panels with plastic films and Y-shaped smaller twigs for max 30cm wide. The panes they create will fill the gap between the boughs.  When it’s done, the visitors in the pergola can look up the “canopy” where sunshine penetrates through colorful transparent films, which is expected to give a feel of stained glasses in a cathedral. To install color panels in the ceiling, the GROUP is planning to combine panels at the ground and use pulley to rift them up, but the lower gaps are expected to be filled by panes with twines and cable ties. When I joined their activity, the pergola was already built but the lower parts of the “canopy” had too wide gaps for color panels. My task was to create smaller spaces for the participants of 9/10 Workshop to fill the openings with their color panes.

A pile of thinned Quercus myrsinifolia
A sort of roof-top of the pergola
A prototype of color panels

The forest for the Exhibition is the property of the City of Yokohama. It’s a typical abandoned Satoyama forest where too old trees for fire logs, like Quercus acutissima and Quercus myrsinifolia, are freely scattering their seeds without human intervention. The GROUP told me the people of the city office said it was OK to “harvest” the materials for their art work from the forest so long as the activity was not dangerous. They cannot fell, say, a 20m tall Quercus serrata, but using ubiquitous young Quercus myrsinifolia is frankly welcome as a part of forest management. So, when I went there, they had a mountain of cut trees and branches. The first task was removing the leaves from the thinned trees and scattering them below the installation created during the Workshop 03 on July 28. That workshop, orchestrated by ASADA, was to create musical “instruments” in the forest. The art work was for anybody to bong the bamboos and jump on the wooden decks to create sounds in the forest. Inevitably kids used the installation as their playground and tumbling down from the platforms. The GROUP people decided to use the leaves removed for the Cathedral as natural cushions for kids to enjoy safely the art work. The morning I’ve been there were still misty in the forest. Plucking leaves to make a pile of cushions was actually very meditative. I tried the leafy ground in the middle of the process. It certainly returned gentler rebounds for legs. I hope my leaf-pulling can provide a safer space for kids …

Making natural cushions
Anybody can hop and jump
to create sounds there.

The leaf-less trees are then used to make the ceiling and walls of the Cathedral denser. First, I had to identify a gap that is too wide for color panes. Then, I chose a tree / bough / twig whose shape and size could provide an effect suitable for Y-shaped panels to fill the gap. Bringing a chosen material to the pergola and trying the branch to a gap, sometimes we found the size of the tree is too small/big to be twined to the pillar. Or the shape of the bough did not create an anticipated impression. I then had to return to the pile of leaf-less trees and restart selecting a material. When a tree was just right, the next task is attaching it to the post in a right angle securely enough to withstand average storms in Yokohama. “Tying at least 3 points would be a safer option, we guess,” Mr. Ishiyama of the GROUP advised me. Though the process required certain techniques to master during the process, and it surely takes time, I found it really a fun. I imagined what kind of color kids for 9/10 Workshop would choose for that particular space … then proceeded to the next hole. By the afternoon, the mist disappeared and a bit of sunlight came down between the taller canopies of the forest. Japonica saepestriata and Lethe sicelis were flying by when I was struggling with wires to secure the tree. That’s a kind of ideal way of spending a summer holiday.

A pile of material for art work
Mr. Ishiyama is tying a bough
to the beams.
The pergola is still too spacy
… more work is necessary.

The most frequent transportation services to the forest of the GROUP is to ride a bus 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 table is here. From Tsurugamine, the table is 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. 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 a bit to the direction of Hikarigaoka Elementary and turn left at the first corner from the Nishi-Hikarigaoka bus stop. Go straight. Eventually you enter a small, paved and steeply climbing-up road between the forest on the right and a retirement housing complex, Care Home Yokohama and Villa Yokohama, on the left. Pass the top of the hill seeing a downing slope on the left between the Care Home and Villa. At this point on the edge of the forest, there is a big banner saying “創造と森の声.” From there, keep on going 10m or so along the forest, and on the right we see the entrance for the workshop. Another bus route we can use is the bus to Zoorasia. Use Asahi 9 and 10 to Zoorasia of Sotetsu from Yokohama (time table, here) or from Tsurugamine (time tables, here and here) Stations. Sotetsu Bus has another service from Mitsukyo 三ツ境 Station with Asahi 33 and 34 (time table, here). There also is City Bus service Route 136 to Zoorasia from JR Nakayama Station (time table, here). Get off the bus at Yokohama Zoorasia, and proceed further along for about 400 m to the direction of #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, 33, 34 and Route 136 buses will take us to the North Gate of Zoorasia (terminal stop) that is the closest to the workshop 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 gate to the forest for the Exhibition from Zoorasia
The entrance to the place
The banner you’ll find if you come
from Nishi-Hikarigaoka bus stop

The art works created during the Workshops will be in the forest till 24th of September, and dismantled in turn to disappear completely by the end of September. Please come and enjoy the installations in Yokohama’s forest, before they are gone.

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

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