Friday, March 16, 2018

Secret Garden: Ikebe Citizen Forest 池辺市民の森

The City of Yokohama opens one Citizen Forest per year recent days. In 2017, it was a turn of Ikebe Citizen Forest池辺市民の森 in the north of Yokohama. It locates near the Tsukidematsu Park 月出松公園 which is in front of the Yokohama office of Kyocera Co. Or, the Forest is in the north of a shopping Center, Lalaport Yokohama. It would be a kind of surrealistic experience if you go Ikebe Citizen Forest and Lalaport in one day. The shopping center is a completely artificial space for consumerism. Ikebe Forest is a remnant of old agricultural community in Yokohama. The combination is VERY 21st century Japan.

The slope near the entrance to Ikebe Forest.
The landscaping looks very new.

Unless you are ready to navigate through a mini-maze of detached houses around Tsukidematsu Park, the easiest way to go Ikebe Forest is from Prefectural Road #45, aka Nakahara Street 中原街道. It runs in the north of Lalaport Yokohama. (To Lalaport Yokohama, the access map is here.) You exit from Lalaport to the north, cross a narrow residential road, and go further 100m up to a road where commuter bus services run. To left, there is a police box, and in front of you is a kind of mixture of houses and a cemetery. It’s a ground of Kan’nonji Temple 観音寺. Please cross the bus road and take a narrow road on your right to the direction of the cemetery, and turn left at the first corner. From there keep going along the road for about 400m, and you’ll meet Nakahara Street. Over there in front of you, there is a green hill which is Ikebe Forest. On your left there is a 7/11 convenience store and the road starting from the opposite side of Nakahara Street is an entrance to Ikebe Forest. There is no traffic light around the point, so please find a traffic light to the right or left to cross the road safely. Nakahara Street is an industrial road where lots of trailer trucks run busily always. Don’t risk your life trying to take a short cut.

7/11 store is over there.
The photo is taken from the entrance
to the road to Ikebe Forest.
Nakahara Street seen from the road to the Ikebe Forest

Once you enter that road leading us to Ikebe Forest, the atmosphere changes from industrial commercialism to something different. The majority of the houses are probably for the (ex-) farmers of the place who could trace their ancestry for centuries. A rule of thumb in metropolitan Tokyo region is, when we find a large house with an ample front garden, that’s a place where a family of independent farmer has established themselves for at least 300 years. The neighborhood of the road to the Ikebe Forest looks exactly like this. Since nearby Tsukidematsu Park has remains of the New Stone Age, the locals of the place may have a very long history of their family … After approx. 300m rumbling along the road from Nakahara Street, please take the first road on the right , and soon on your right, there are steps going up in the Ikebe Citizen Forest. It is a south entrance of the Forest. Oh, an important notice: there is no place to park your car here.

The entrance of the Forest from Nakahara Street
looked like this in winter.

The map of Ikebe Citizen Forest

4ha of Ikebe Citizen Forest was opened on April 1st, 2017. The place has only one road going up from the entrance near Nakahara Street to the ridge of the hill that is a start of another housing area. Along the route it has 3 open spaces with picnic benches. When I’ve been there, I had a feeling the place was really “nestled-in.” The space defined as a citizen forest is a part of larger forest that surrounds the houses of farmers. I imagine Ikebe Forest was once a backyard of at least one of those families of the place. The Ikebe Citizen Forest has roughly 3 kinds of greenery. One is a bamboo forest. The other is a mixture of coniferous and broad-leaved trees. Bamboos are Phyllostachys edulis whose cultivation was promoted during Tokugawa Shogunate period in this region of Kanagawa as material for daily tools and for bamboo shoots. The cedars of 30-40cm diameter are cleanly standing, which indicates they were planted some 70 or 80 years ago. There are lots of Quercus serrata and occasional Prunus jamasakura (mountain cherry) that often have marks of coppicing also 70 or 80 years ago. Until that time, they must have been used for firewood and materials for daily tools. The third feature of the Forest is a small plot and citrus trees. i.e., the place was for a farming family. The new citizen forest has very neat walking path, picnic benches, and trimmed grasses. I’m sure the suburbanites who recently bought their home in the area love to visit the Forest for their morning walking. It’s a light-hearted urban garden where it preserves the smell of idyllic life of farmers.

From the south entrance,
the road climbs up to Temboh Hiroba.
The slope of this area is of broad-leaved trees,
probably of 70-80 years’ old.
The forest floor is fairly well mowed.
Temboh Hiroba 展望広場(“An open space with a good view”) of 
this view to the downtown Yokohama.
From Temboh Hiroba, the road is slowly descending to …
Sorin Hiroba 疎林広場 (“An open space in sparse trees”)
which locates almost in the middle of the strolling route.
This space has citruses and small plots.
A path from Sorin Hiroba to Rinkan Hinkan Hiroba
Rinkan Hiroba 林間広場 (“An open space between woods”)
that is near the north entrance to the Forest.
Rinkan Hiroba has a notice board for
Association of Lovers of Ikebe Citizen Forest.
“Volunteers Wanted!
Every second Sunday at 9:00,
let’s meet here at Rinkan Hiroba!”
The road to the north entrance. Phew, it’s neat.

And I found a place is an apparition for a resignation of traditional farming life in Yokohama. The place happens to be spared amid relentless advance of housing developments and constructions of industrial arterial roads. For tax reasons or else, the landlords decided to open their property, inherited for centuries from the ancestors, to the public use ... I’ll return to the issue, including 2022 problem, in my later post.

If you find a problem in the Ikebe Citizen Forest, please make a contact with

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 …)

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