Sayama (Totoro no Mori)

Recently some friends of mine participated in the Totoro Forest Project fundraiser in the US, so I was curious to actually check out that area. It's really called Sayama Hills, and according to the project website it's in danger of development. I took the Seibu Shinjuku-sen all the way out to Seibuen station and had a look. There's certainly plenty of development out there, Seibu has an amusement park, racetrack, and baseball stadium. There were a number of park areas as well, though!

I didn't find all the specific "Totoro no Mori" places that the foundation has contributed to, the maps on the Japanese websites leave a little to be desired, but I spent most of a day walking around the area, and circled Tama-ko (aka Lake Tama) on foot, so I got to see a number of the parks in that area.

The originals of all of these photos are available here.
The first place I went was Hachikuniryokuchi, which is the of one of the parks around Sayama. It means, roughly, "8 country mountain tract of land."
Trails were spacious, but in fact the woods were very dense and intense.
It's not actually called a park, though. That last word, ryokuchi, really does translate as "tract of land".
Most everything around Sayama is owned by Seibu Corporation, one of the developer+railroad+department store chains we have here in Japan. Because these parks aren't really parks, it made me wonder if the parks are just private land owned by Seibu? It's also suspicious in that regard that the website for the park system is (note, .com)
The other awesome thing about this whole area is the number of birds in the tree canopy. It was loud everywhere, just thousands of birds chirping away. It really made it feel like the wilderness even though (because the park is narrow) you're rarely more than a half a kilometer from civilization.
All day I kept seeing amazing mushrooms just growing wild in the forest. That's right, this is a mushroom, not a flower.
Hachikuniyamaryokuchi High
This is a high school located next door to the park. What an awesome location for a school! Of course, the students probably think it's boring and wish they were in central Tokyo.
Hachikuniyamaryokuchi Path
A lot of the trail had these nice paving stones on them.
Hachijkuniyamaryokuchi Path in Sun
Stones in the sunlight.
Mushroom 2
Another mushroom.
Mushroom Bunches 3
There were a whole bunch of these mushroom groups sunning themselves.
Mushroom Bunches 5
Macro focus on the digital camera can be handy!
Mushroom Bunches 4
Mushroom Bunches 2
Mushroom Bunches 1
Mushroom Bunch Branch
The branch all those mushrooms were on.
Hachijkuniyamaryokuchi 6
Most, though not all, of the trails had these little fenceposts alongside. So orderly, so Japanese!
Hachikuniyamaryokuchi Fancy Path
At the far end of Hachikuniyamaryokuchi, the park gets very narrow and is surrounded on both sides by newly built, expensive houses. I wondered if the park used to be bigger and these houses will built on former park land, sigh. Anyway, in that part of the park the path got very, very nicely paved.
Mushroom 3
Yet another.
To the Umbrella Spirits
After leaving Hachikuniyamaryokuchi, I saw this umbrella hanging on a limb in a small separated piece of forest. An offering to the forest spirits?
Near the Shimoyamaguchi citizen's forest, I came upon this Shinto shrine. If I remember the first Kanji right, it was Ikimono Jinja.
Ikimono Jinja 2
They had a nice, largely empty building at the base.
Ikimono Jinja 3
But the key part of this shrine was a very steep, very small hill in the middle. It was maybe 25 meters high, but only 35 meters around at the base. You took these stone stairs up...
Ikimono Jinja 4
They switch back and forth up the hill.
Ikimono Jinja 5
And switch back and forth some more...
Ikimono Jinja Memorial Stone
There's an engraved marker stone of some kind on the way up.
Ikimono Jinja 6
And when you come out on the top, you can see way back down to the Torii (as well as Tokyo in the distance). As always with "how high it was" pictures, it's hard to realize how much the camera was pointing down when I took this picture.
Ikimono Jinja View
And of course off the other side of the shrine's hill, you can see... Seibu Dome (where the Seibu Lions baseball team plays).
Ikimono Jinja View 2
...And the Seibu amusement park.
Sayama Dam Park 1
Another trail up into the wilderness, this one at the park near Sayama Dam, the dam that creates lake Sayama.
Sayama Dam Park 2
A more overgrown trail.
Sayama Dam Park 3
At the top of that trail is a hill where you can see Lake Sayama (sayama-ko).
Sayama Dam Park 4
You can also see this mysterious black monolith. There's no writing or explanation on it.
Sayama Dam Park 5
There's also this impressive but superfluous arbor-like structure. Future generations will dig this up and futilely ponder what meaning it could have had.
Sayama Dam Park 6
In fact, current generations might futilely ponder the same thing.
Sayama Dam Park 7
Sayama Dam Park 8
Another place near this spot had these very, very overgrown steps leading down. This is definitely where Mei saw Totoro!
Sayama Dam Park 8
Out near the lake, a couple people were stirring up the short grass and trying to catch something with nets (butterflies? I couldn't tell).
I just have an irrational love of decrepit buildings. You can't see in the picture, but this building was totally abandoned inside -- you could see straight through. I always think of buying it and turning it into the office for a software company or something.
Decreptitude 2
The other side of the same building. It's hard to tell they're really the same structure, huh?
teicintei 1
While walking past this restaurant...
teicintei Rabbit 1
I saw a rabbit sitting in a parking lot!
teicintei Rabbit 2
It's a real rabbit, not a statue or something, I saw it moving a little bit. It was pretty acclimated to people; it was nervous about me but didn't move. I wonder if the restaurant keeps it as a pet? You would think dogs would chase it though.
Tamako Dam
Here's the dam on Tamako, the other lake near Sayama.
And some of the lake. There are actually two dams.
Tamako Dam 2
This is the view down from the upper dam -- you can see the lower dam a ways downstream. Not a lot of water in the lower lake!
Mushroom 4
Yet another fascinating fungus.
Tamako Trail View
A view south from the trail along the south shore of Tama-ko.
Decreptitude 3
A very shed-like building along the trail.
Tamako Trail Causeway 1
A substantial part of the trail along the south side of Tama-ko had this extensive elevated construction. The ground was a little bit soft, but it didn't seem soft enough to justify all this work.
Tamako Trail Causeway 2
The wood had rotted through and been patched in many places.
Tamako Trail Flora
A nice sample of flora along the trail.