Saitama’s first certified Forest therapy base and therapy road at Kitamoto Nature Observation Park, also home to the Saitama Nature Study Center.
When my kids were small we spent quite a lot of time at this park in Kitamoto. Or to be more precise; combining a visit here with the neighboring and very excellent Kitamoto Children’s Park. If you are a long time reader of my blog, you may remember that the blog used to be called “Saitama with kids” and before that “Days of Our Lives Japan” (which makes me cringe now)! Back then, I actually had a post about this park and Saitama Nature Study Center on the blog.
When I went self hosting with Bluehost in 2015 I lost a lot of the articles from the old free blog, as well as a lot of subscribers with the transfer. I did not have a good experience with Bluehost. So I moved to Siteground in 2016 and have been with them ever since. For what its worth, I am very happy with Siteground and I find their service excellent. Over the years I have added back many of the posts I lost with the transfer from free blog to a self hosted website. (When I say free blog, I mean free to me – the blog has always been free for users.) But I never got around to adding Kitamoto Nature Observation Park until today!
The reason it took me so long to re-add Kitamoto Nature Observation Park is because the original post, from back in 2012, needed a lot of work. For one, the original was very basic. Two, the photos were awful! Except for the Wikimedia Commons photo of the edohigan, which is included below. But while I had a photo of edohigan in the original post, I didn’t have the information about it included. Moreover, the post did not include anything about forest bathing. But in fairness, the park was not an official Forest Therapy Base yet – that only happened in recent years. I’ve added all that information and more, ten years later, in the 2022 version!
Saitama’s First and Only Forest Therapy Base / Road
We found ourselves once again spending a lot of time in Kitamoto Nature Observation Park during the pandemic. It was an ideal spot – 33 hectares of unspoiled nature with few visitors. The only time you see a surge in visitors is in spring for the nearby short, but stunning, Jougaya avenue of cherry blossoms, which backs onto the park. During the pandemic we got to see the park with fresh eyes. And it was during one of those visits that I learned that the park had become the very first place in Saitama Prefecture to be designated an official forest therapy base by the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine. It was only officially certified in 2019, as both a Forest Therapy Base and home to a Forest Therapy Road!
The healing effects of Kitamoto City’s forests (satoyama and coppices) have been scientifically recognized and therefore have been certified as a “forest therapy base.” It is a step forward from forest bathing, which scientifically verifies the effects of forests and utilizes them for mental and physical health. Enjoy the forest using all five senses – the feeling of stepping on fallen leaves, the sounds you hear when you put your ear to a tree, and the scent of the forest.Official Japan Forest Therapy website
The park is free, but if you would like to do one of the official Forest Therapy tours it costs 3000 yen per person, if there are two or more people. For an individual on their own it costs 4000 yen. They do the tours on the first Tuesday and third Sunday of each month, from 9.30 am to noon. It includes a cup of tea! Tour information and application form.
Kitamoto Nature Observation Park
The park was initally created in 1992 as both an Urban Ecology Park and a nature study park. It serves to protect wildlife, especially endangered species, and conserve the natural ecology of the area. Approximately 1700 species of insects and about 160 species of birds live in the woodlands, wetlands and grasslands of Kitamoto Nature Observation Park. The Saitama Nature Study Center is located in the center of the park, which now serves as an official Forest Therapy base also. Since 2019, there are two approved Forest Therapy Roads in the park. There is an additional Forest Therapy Base at nearby Sun Amenity Kitamoto Camp Field.
There is a section in the park called “Kitamoto Minami Preschool”. Its not an actual preschool, but as one of the signs says (not the one picture above) ‘where the little people live’, or fairies as we like to think! There’s one small climbing frame for children in this area as well as picnic tables you can use freely. But as it is a nature reserve this is the only piece of playground equipment in the park. However, the park links up with the Kitamoto Children’s Park which has playground equipment galore and is one of the better parks for small children in Saitama Prefecture.
The park was always famous locally for its Edohigan cherry blossom. Furthermore, it was the main tree used as the harbinger of spring in Kitamoto City. It is a city designated natural monument. However,the Edohiganzakura randomly collapsed on October 22nd 2019. Possibly a delayed reaction from typhoon Hagibis earlier that month. It collapsed from the base, but miraculously the next spring, it still bloomed from one branch. They have left the stump there as they hope to grow new buds from the remaining root and revive the edohigan zakura.
There are also some plum blossoms in the park. One section of them is by the ‘preschool’ area. The others are by the Jougaya embankment. As of February 22nd 2023, they have started to bloom:
There are several other varieties of tree blossoms in the park, but there isn’t a great number of them. The somei yoshino cherry blossoms are the most voluminous. There is a line of them from the east car park to the nature study center. Moreover, as aforementioned, there is a stunning avenue of sakura (also somei yoshino) on Jougaya embankment which is on the west of the park. In addition, the Kitamoto Children’s Park has beautiful mature cherry blossoms. Not to mention that one of Japan’s FIVE GREAT cherry blossoms is also near the park. See the bottom of the post for more nearby locations.
Saitama Nature Study Center
The Saitama Nature Study Center is the principal nature educational center in the prefecture. It is not particularly big, but it has quite a lot of resources including nature books aimed at children. Moreover, they organize a lot of hands on events for children. For example, nature exploration within the vast park to view beetles or fireflies in the wild. The staff at the center are very helpful and knowledgeable about what you flora, fauna and wildlife you can find in the park. There are also exhibits in the center showcasing many aspects of ecology, including difficulties and dangers in the environment.
Disclaimer: we haven’t been in the Saitama Nature Study Center in recent years and they’ve made changes since we were last there. Not only have we been avoiding been indoors with strangers since the pandemic began, the Saitama Nature Study Center was closed for much of 2020 and sporadically during (and due to) the pandemic. My kids quite liked popping in when they were smaller to partake in one of the several events they have on any given day. Just small little events like coloring pictures or making something.
Kitamoto Nature Observation Park is a nature oasis in central Saitama. Suited to family, group or solo walks alike. If you are looking for somewhere convenient to experience forest therapy near Tokyo, Kitamoto Nature Observation Park is a suitable candidate. It is convenient for a day trip with a bus going to the park from the station. Furthermore, the Sun Amenity Camp Field which is also a Forest Therapy Base, has one coin camping if you would like to extend your visit. In addition, they have clean and affordable cabins for rent. Moreover, there is some really stunning cherry blossoms at the campsite, which are open to the general public too:
Forest Therapy in Saitama Prefecture
Season: all year round, but particularly scenic in spring.
Hours: Kitamoto Nature Observation Park is in theory open 24 hours. But the car park, facilities and Saitama Nature Learning Center are closed on Mondays and only open from 9 am to 5 pm the rest of the week. But they have extended hours on weekends sometimes until 7.30 pm. Also, during summer holidays they generally open on Mondays too.
Cost: free to walk, 3000 yen for a guided tour
Venue: Kitamoto Nature Observation Park, 5-200 Arai, Kitamoto, Saitama 〒364-0026 Japan. View on Google Maps.
Kitamoto Nature Observation Park and the Saitama Nature Study center are approximately 3.5 kilometers from Kitamoto Station on the JR Takasaki Line. You can get a Kawagoe Kanko bus from the west exit of the station to the park. It takes about 15 minutes by bus or about 45 minutes on foot. There are two parking lots, both are free. The main parking lot is on the east side of the park beside the Kitasato University Medical Center. For directions to the other Forest Therapy Road by Sun Amenity please see that blog post.
Official Kitamoto ForestTherapy Website | Kitamoto Nature Observation Park official website.
Other points of interest on / near the Forest Therapy Roads
Along / near the Forest Therapy Roads / Base
- Kitamoto Children’s Park
- Jougaya cherry blossom embankment
- Takao Sakura Park
- Takao Hikawa Shrine
- Kamakura Kaido
- Only one in the world: Saitama’s famous cherry blossom – one of the FIVE GREAT SAKURA OF JAPAN
- Saitama Trust forests (hopefully I will get this post out of drafts soon!)
Japan does… well I was going to say this sort of thing so well, but in all fairness I think they do almost everything really well!
I think the English concept of Forest Therapy is based on the Japanese “shinrin yoku” or forest bathing. The West just found a way to cash in on it!! And now Japan is too. You can visit this park for free, but I think 3000 yen for the ‘tour’ is a bit steep. I’d like to try it just to see if there is a reason its so expensive – like maybe they impart some otherwise unknown secrets of the forest or something!!