Friday, July 3, 2015

Ancient Sanurais’ Dreams: Kozukue-johshi Citizen Forest 小机城址市民の森

Natsu-kusa ya / tsuwamono-domo ga / yume no ato

The summer grass-
It is all that's left
of ancient warriors dreams

Matsuo Bajoh 松尾芭蕉

JR Yokohama Line Kozukue Station 小机駅 is the nearest station for NissanYokohama Stadium, the home for Yokohama Marinos FC, and the place where the championship match was held for 2002 FIFA World Cup. Not far from the Stadium, there is another old battle ground, Kozukue-johshi 小机城址 that is now a Yokohama Citizen Forest.

When we leave the station, we find a large notice board for Nissan Stadium. Opposite to this board, take a small road to the west along the railway. After observing a railroad crossing on the left, go ahead a way to a half-residential / half-agricultural area.  Soon, you will find a familiar map board for the Citizen Forest system, for Kozukue Forest, in a residential area, not in the forest. It means the place is loved by the locals. Actually, every April, they have a festival to celebrate the history of the Forest. (The photos of Festival Parade 2015 are here.) After finding the Map, keep going to the flyover of Daisan-keihin Toll Road 第三京浜 that in1965 divided the original Kozukue Forest in half. Turn right before the under-flyover. Eventually, we are welcomed by the Forest. (Map here and here.) Right after entering into the forest, there is a toilet and a potable water faucet for Kozukue Forest.

Near the railroad crossing
When I’ve been there,
on the right from the station was a field for green onions.

The map of the Forest,
already shown in the residential area,
and a sign post for the Forest.
The Forest over there

Once upon a time, Japan was divided by numerous warlords. Sometime in early 15th century, a chieftain (we do not know exactly who) found the area near current Nissan Stadium strategically important, and built a fortress that later became a castle called Kozukue. Then in 1478, there was a battle for the domination of the area among warlords one of whom was the first unifying conqueror of Edo (i.e. Tokyo) area, Ohta Dohkan 太田道灌. His soldiers massacred the samurais who were besieged in Kozukue Caslte, and made the nearby rice paddy a blood bath. (The place is now called Akata Yato 赤田谷戸, i.e. Red Rice Paddy.) Later in the middle of the 16th century, another warlord rebuilt the castle to strengthen the line of defense for their master (Gohohjoh clan 後北条 ) in Odawara Castle 小田原城. When in 1590 Odawara Castle was taken by Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豊臣秀吉, and Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 made Edo and surrounding area (Yokohama inclusive) his home, Kozukue Castle was demolished for good. (The history of the area, in Japanese, is explained in this Wiki.) So this Citizen Forest is the remains of a medieval castle for war.

More flashy sort of Japanese castles preserved now (e.g., Odawara Castle) are the architecture constructed after the 17th century. Ieyasu was the champion of warlords so that he and his descendants never allowed the other families to build anything suitable for a battle of medieval kind. The castles permitted to exist after 1600 still keeps mort and other functions for war, but they are more appropriate for offices where samurais commuted daily to govern their territory. Kozukue Castle was different. The entire Forest is one of the best kept remains for the structure of medieval war castle in Japan.

Dry mort

When you walk inside Kozukue Forest, you know why the Castle was ordered to be demolished by the ultimate warlord. In a rather limited area (4.6 ha), the ground was like a maze. According to the educational board in Honmaru Hiroba (The Inner Citadel Open Space本丸広場), the 15th century warlords first situated defense structures according to war-games they mentally played based on the geography of surrounding area; the north of the castle is Tsurumi River 鶴見川, and the south is small but steep hills. They then dug deep / piled-up high the ground to construct the system of dry mort (which is more difficult to cross than the watery kind) and lookouts. The road (about 1 km in total) within the Forest is to connect each facility in an efficient manner, but not to allow outsiders to navigate easily. There are 4 entrances, 3 of which face to the hilly, i.e. allied (the direction to Odawara Castle), side.

To the Inner Citadel
The remains of lookout.
The base is stone with holes for wooden pillars.
The Inner Citadel entrance.
All the roads within the Forest repeat steep up and down.
The way connecting the Inner Citadel
and Ninomaru (the Outer Citadel

I don’t know if the vegetation of the Forest was strategically chosen for war. The outer layer of the forest is broad leaf trees, and inside especially along the road linking the facilities is beautiful bamboos. The bamboo part is tended by Japan Bamboo Fun Club ( 日本竹ファンクラブ for volunteering information with them, click here) who, I think, do a wonderful job to keep the atmosphere of ancient war castle. The mort is mainly with broad leaf trees. Both Inner and Outer Citadel Open spaces have picnic benches.

Honmaru Hiroba
Ninomaru Hiroba

To go to the divided part of the remains, we first have to return to the residential area, cross the Daisan Keihin under the flyover, then turn right immediately. Ahead is another side of the Forest. This part has only one road along the Daisan Keihin (; a road in the map to the other way was impassable as of June 2015). This is the road which permits us to go to the river (i.e. enemy) side of the Forest. It would have been like this for 500 years … 

The another sign for the Forest
The steps
leading to the remaining part of the Forest
Beyond the fence is the Freeway.

If you like, from the river side exit, we can go to the pedestrian bank of Tsurumi River where cherry blossoms are heavenly in early spring. The nearest bridge to cross Tsurumi River from here is the bridge leading us to IKEA. Before IKEA, there is a dim-sum factory of Kiyoken 崎陽軒 on the right. They are making pork dumplings for Train Station Lunches (“Ekiben” 駅弁 ) of Yokohama Station. Their daily output of lunches is more than 20,000 units which makes them the most popular Station Lunch in Japan.  The plant tour of this factory is always fully-booked for 3 months (for reservation, click here for phone number). This factory has a small kiosk where we can enjoy freshly made pork dumplings between 10:00-16:00.

Kiyoken Factory
Petit Pork buns (100 yen)

If you find a problem in the Park, 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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