A “UTokyo Villa” near Mt. Fuji and Lake Yamanakako The Fuji Iyashinomori Woodland Study Center
Campus Walk @ Fuji Iyashinomori Woodland Study Center
|By Haruo Saito
Assistant Professor, Fuji Iyashinomori Woodland Study Center
The University of Tokyo Forests, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences
The Fuji Iyashinomori Woodland Study Center (FIWSC), part of the University of Tokyo Forests at the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, is nestled in the luscious green Yamanakako Village in Yamanashi Prefecture near Mt. Fuji and Lake Yamanakako. In midsummer, a cool breeze blows through the shady trees, while in midwinter, it gets extremely cold, but you are rewarded with some superb unexpected views.
So why were University of Tokyo facilities built in this particular place? FIWSC’s predecessor, the University Forest at Yamanakako, was established in 1925. At the time, Yamanakako Village was a poor village, but it was starting to witness the direction of new development through the promotion of country villas. At the time, Tokyo Imperial University (currently the University of Tokyo) was supposedly looking for educational facilities outside the Tokyo capital after having suffered huge damage on campus during the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. The village felt it could entrust its development to the University, and the University was able to secure additional educational facilities, so both sides benefited from the project which involved creating a research forest and a dormitory for students and teachers (currently the Yamanaka Hall). Given that a number of professors, including the University president, owned country villas in Yamanakako Village before the war, many feel the facilities were probably regarded as a kind of “villa” for the University of Tokyo.
Yamanakako Village subsequently enjoyed considerable development as a resort and tourist destination. Against that background, the University Forest decided to focus primarily on research and education in forest preservation and rejuvenation, and consequently changed its name to Fuji Iyashinomori Woodland Study Center in 2011. Please look at FIWSC’s website to learn more about its underlying philosophy and current initiatives.
FIWSC’s office is located in a larch tree grove near the Yamanakako Village Hall. With only four full-time staff, the office is so small and snug that it can leave people wondering if it really is a university office. The entire office is heated by a wood stove, with firewood sourced from trees that pose a danger or cause obstruction in our forest. Since introducing the stove, the office has not had to purchase a single drop of kerosene. The comfortable warmth of the wood stove is also very therapeutic for the staff. Students love FIWSC’s wood-chopping program, and get completely absorbed in the exhilaration they feel when the wood splits perfectly. If you would like to have a visit and try chopping wood yourself, please contact the office.
In addition to the office, FIWSC also features the Fuji Iyashinomori lecture room and a kitchen-equipped lodge. These were originally one single building constructed in 1929. The Fuji Iyashinomori lecture room was refurbished in 2016 and boasts a fully operational internet environment that can support the live streaming of remote lectures to the campuses in Tokyo. The lecture room is also well suited to fieldwork because its earthen floor makes it easy to go in and out to the forest. The kitchen-equipped lodge has been refurbished and maintained to provide a pleasant living space while maintaining its retro feel, so please feel free to use it as a base for small-group field surveys and other activities.
Now, all of you will probably be especially interested in the Yamanaka Hall as a base. The original Yamanaka Hall closed its doors in 2008 to be replaced by the new Yamanaka Hall in 2010. Since 2017, the dormitory has been run by Abreuvoir, a company that operates restaurants and other outlets on the Yayoi Campus and works hard to constantly upgrade the dormitory to be an increasingly comfortable space. The building houses a seminar room and several other rooms suitable for seminars and lessons, so it is perfect for laboratory training camps, staff training and off-campus lessons.
The forest surrounding the Yamanaka Hall is managed by FIWSC, enabling everyone to enjoy the surrounding nature as safely and comfortably as possible. The forest, which runs from a national highway down to Lake Yamanakako, also belongs to FIWSC, so please take the time to visit it. There is an extensive lakeside lawn area on the way to the Yamanakako Village Hall. The small arbor on this lakeside lawn is somewhat unique. The walls are made purely from piles of logs, which are actually raw timber for firewood – a genuine firewood shelf. There is a small plain on the way back to the dormitory from the intersection in front of the village office. This plain is called Kozaigahara after Yoshinao Kozai, who was the 10th president of Tokyo Imperial University, and in office at the time when the University Forest at Yamanakako was established. FIWSC mows the lawn once a year to help maintain the original grassland vegetation. You should also be able to see the seven autumnal flowers, including the fringed pink, which is rare today.
The Yamanaka Hall is open to University of Tokyo students, faculty, staff and graduates. You might find new ideas come more easily to you when you go for a walk in the forest to refresh your tired mind during research camp breaks. Why not come and visit the “University of Tokyo Villa”?
* This article was originally printed in Tansei 37 (Japanese language only). All information in this article is as of September 2018.