Tucked away in a small valley in a corner of Yamato city in Kanagawa prefecture is an oasis of calm under the landing pattern of a nearby military base, Izumi-no-Mori Park.
Known only to the residents of Yamato, this rather large park is busy in every season and actually has an abundance of things to see and do. However, the casual tourist more than likely does not know it exists and will probably never get a chance to experience it. The usual tourist will probably opt for more tourist-friendly options that are mentioned in their copy of Lonely Planet like Yamashita Park in Yokohama or Ueno Park in Tokyo. And, while there are many things to do in those parks, this comparatively small park does offer its own break from the hassles of everyday life.
This park is actually dissected by the Yamato By-Pass and is part of a system of a couple of parks in a small valley area just off the tracks of the Sotestsu Train Line. As you enter the park, the visitor is first greeted with a set of flower beds that display tulips in the Spring and various annuals in the summer months. There is a small river in this area that is popular for Cherry Blossom viewing and picnics in the Spring as well.
Passing over the highway, the real park begins and immediately you will see a large pond surrounded by walking paths wandering in and around the vast amount of trees (giving the park its name; Mori means Forest in Japanese). Follow the path to the right past different types of cherry trees and the edge of the pond and you will eventually end up next to a visitor centre located at the end of a pedestrian bridge over the water. This centre is a nice place to rest and even learn a little about the wildlife in the park as well as get a map (sorry, only Japanese). Located nearby is a working watermill that looks strangely out of place as it is not connected to anything.
From this point, you have a choice of direction to go. Some paths lead further into the forests of the park to small creeks and ponds with wildlife around (one time I discovered a white Ibis all alone in a corner of the park by a small pond). Another path takes you in a different direction and amazingly ends up in a recreated Japanese Edo-style farm, complete with live animals and working fireplaces. A unique find when wandering around.
While you can forget the outside world exists in this park, you are occasionally reminded that you are in civilization when a jet or plane flies directly overhead to break your concentration or meditation.
Back in the main part of the park, a side path on your way back reveals a small shrine that might have otherwise gone unnoticed but is nonetheless well maintained and usually devoid of people.
Even though getting to the park requires some local knowledge and a 15-minute walk from Yamato Station (Sotestsu and Odakyu Lines), once you get there you will feel a different atmosphere and depending on the season, you could even join a party by the water.
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