Friday, June 15, 2018

River’s Edge, a sort of: Higashi-Takane Forest Park of Kanagawa Prefecture 県立東高根森林公園

The City of Kawasaki, the other side of Tama River when you look from Tokyo, does not in general have a connotation of greenery. Just checking in Google Earth, we easily recognize, aside from 100m or so wide river side of Tama River, the place is almost covered by buildings and industrial roads. No one says definite Nah about the location with a rotten dead body in “River’s Edge” (not by Tim Hunter, but by Kyoko Okazaki) as somewhere in Kawasaki. Though, miraculously, the city has several secluded forests, one of which is Higashi-Takane Forest Park of Kanagawa Prefecture 県立東高根森林公園. Let’s go there this week. As this is a well-managed park, finding an abandoned body would be extremely difficult, I bet. 😌

The nearest commuter train station for the Park is Kuji Station 久地駅 of JR Nambu Line 南武線 which runs along “the Japanese Silicon Valley”, aka Kawasaki-side of Tama River. From Kuji Station, we first enter the largest cemetery of Kawasaki City, Midorigaoka Cemetery 緑が丘霊園, stroll clean and quiet paved roads for about 10 minutes, and reach 85 / 86 blocks for graves where the steep steps go down to the wetland of Higashi-Takane Park. The nearest bus stop for the Park is Shinrin-koen Mae Stop 森林公園前, aka Forest Park Stop, of services of Mizo-10, 11, 15-19 (溝10111516171819系統) from JR Musashi-Mizonokuchi Station 武蔵溝ノ口駅 (of JR Nambu Line) or Mizonokuchi Station 溝の口駅 (of Tokyu Den’entoshi Line 東急田園都市線). These 2 stations are actually located in the same spot and only the names are different depending on the service operators. So, just go to either of the stations and find the bus terminal of Mizonokuchi Station to the Higashi-Takane Park. From the Park’s bus stop, walk about 200m or so to the same direction of the bus route, and on the right there is a large parking which is another entrance to the Park. Actually, the Higashi-Takane Park is in the middle of densely populated housing and commercial areas so that you don’t have to worry for public transportation any time. Perhaps, such approachability is one of the reasons for the popularity of the place. Yeah, people need a nearby forest to have a happy living in a concreted city ...

JR Kuji Station
A road in Midorigaoka Cemetery
Going down these steps to …
Higashi-Takane Forest Park

Roughly speaking, the park is prepared over 11ha of a traditional farming community existed until about 60 years ago. During the 1950s and 60s, such villages around the downtown Tokyo were massively converted into residential areas for the labor force of Megalopolis. The places of current Midorigaoka Cemetery and Higashi-Takane Park were also planned for houses and condos. When in the 1960s developers started to bulldoze the rice paddies, vegetable fields and firewood forests, they happened to discover there massive underground remains of human settlements dated back about 2500-1500 years ago. Moreover, scholars found the forest next to the cultural heritages was made of 150-200 years old large Quercus myrsinifolia (white oaks), which was already rare scenery in such a close proximity to the downtown Tokyo. Kanagawa Prefecture decided to preserve the place as a natural park, not for housing, and in 1978 Higashi-Takane Forest Park was opened. Topographically, the Park is made of a valley and a ridge (; its interactive map is here.) The valley was once rice paddies, and the largest open space along the ridge is the backfilled remains of more than 60 buildings of some 2000 years ago. During weekends, both places are filled with excited voices of families enjoying picnic. It’s a relaxing neighborhood forest in a suburb of Tokyo.

The valley that was once rice paddies is now populated by wild hygrophyte and moisture loving plants, such as Impatiens textori, Chloranthus japonicas, Mercurialis leiocarpa, Swida macrophylla, and Hydrangea macrophylla. The route has well-maintained wood decks for visitors to enjoy natural wetland. From spring to fall, there also are lots of excited kids (and their parents) equipped with a stick with a string and a bite. Illegal fishing? Er, no. The park is asking kids to catch Louisiana crawfishes and bring them to the park office. A crawfish devours water creatures, both animal and vegetable, to drive local fishes et al to extinction, and hence the National Institute for Environmental Studies designates them as one of the worst 100 invasive species in Japan. (Do you remember Gabicho last week?) It’s Higashi-Takane’s way to deal with the problem letting the kids open fully their basic instincts of fishing. During May-July of 2017, the kids reported 1948 crawfishes as their catch to the office. And in June 2018, there are crowds of kids yielding their hand-made fishing poles … It should be a very very long way to control the crawfish population here, I guess.

The former rice paddies are now this much abundant wetland.
A rich greenery of moist loving Mercurialis leiocarpa

From the valley to the ridge, there are 5 routes quickly ascending in steep slopes. The slopes and the ridge area have once-typical vegetation of Tama Hills 多摩丘陵. Coppiced Quercus acutissima and serrata are now large trees of about 50cm diameter. And, of course, there is the forest of 150-200 years’ old Quercus myrsinifolia. Typical for urban forests in Yokohama, and in Kawasaki this week, beyond the outer-ring road of the ridge is a row of houses. From Hanaki Open Space 花木広場 in the southwest of the Park, we can see busy Kawasaki IC of Tomei Express Way. A part of the ridge is a well-tended garden populated by herbaceous plants described in classic Japanese literature. If you are a student of Japanese classics, please come here in early spring or October-November to see how those flowers in poetry are actually bloom. Some of these plants are now on the verge of listing for “endangered species” so that knowing them alive, free-of-charge, would be a valuable opportunity. Soon, we reach to 1.3ha of large lawn area spreading over the pre-historic remains, surrounded by old Quercus myrsinifolia. The site is an ideal picnic ground for families some of whom pitch a tent for their mom and dad to enjoy their weekend naps. Everybody looks very relaxed under the warm watch of large old oaks … I simply imagined 2000 years ago, people lived precisely here and had similar naps for an occasional holiday. Their kids were laughing and running in exactly the same place as kids of the 21st century … It’s good to have such a peaceful place whenever we live. Ancient or now. Another River’s Edge.

Over there, Kawasaki IC.
The Park maintained a bamboo forest,
 typical for a yester-year farming community of the area.
Ancient remains cum picnic field

The contact address for Higashi-Takane Forest Park is

2-10-1, Kamiki-honcho, Miyamae-ku, Kawasaki, 216-0031
216-0031 神奈川県川崎市宮前区神木本町2-10-1
Phone: 044-865-08018:30-17:00


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