There is a small but pretty kaede (maple) garden in the Takanokura Fureai Nature Park. The Takanokura Fureai nature park is located in Hatoyama Town in the Hiki District of Saitama, where nature is abundant. They have recently made improvements to the park, but to be quite frank I don’t think its worth going out of your way to visit. However, if you are in the area during the autumn leaf period (or cherry blossom season) it is worth popping by. Also, in winter, you can see a type of camellia.
Kaede at Takanokura Fureai Nature park
I visited for the kaede (maple trees) on December 2nd 2021. To be honest, I was quite disappointed by how small the park is. I had anticipated a decent hike to get to the kaede at the back of the park. However, it only took me five minutes to walk deep into the forest to where the maple trees are. It was one of those places where I thought that I had missed a whole section. I did try to walk further into the forest, but it was quite clear that you couldn’t walk further. Also, in 2021 December was already a bit too late for the maple as more than 50% of the leaves were already on the ground when I visited!
However, there are a couple of other points of interest in the small park. For example, east of the kaede there is trail that goes further back. In this area, there are two large fir trees which are designated scenic spots of Hatoyama town. There is also a giant and ancient yew beside an old style shrine. In addition, there are and some intriguing statues on a mound in the park. The park also has some necessities such as places to sit – there are benches dotted here and there – and there are toilets near the parking lot. Supposedly you can see cherry blossoms and azalea and spring, and hydrangea in summer.
Hachiman Shrine and ancient yew
At the entrance to the park, beside the parking lot, you can see a stunning, massive Japanese Yew tree beside the stairs that lead to Hachiman Shrine. The tree is a designated natural monument of Hatoyama town. Reportedly it is more than 600 years old. The Hachiman Shrine is a beautiful simple shrine perched on top of a hill surrounded by nature. It is an old style shrine with no office attached, so you can’t buy any sort of amulets, but please do deposit a yen or five into the offerings box!
88 Stone Statues of Deities
The highlight of my visit ended up being the surprise find of 88 stone plaques on the side of a mound in the park. They rotate up the mound to the summit. I couldn’t access the summit the day I visited because there were contractors working on it. It looked like they were repairing one of the plaques. The plaques are so old and weather-beaten you can barely make out the etchings of figures, presumably deities, on the these headstone like statues.
Presumably they are something to do with the ‘sacred 88’, a common number in Buddhism, just like at Iwamuro kannon in nearby Yoshimi town. But I don’t want to speculate too much. There is also 100 ‘jizo’ statues and a 100 kannon. I would love to know the who, what and why, but unfortunately there is absolutely nothing on the official Hatoyama Town nor the prefectural website about these intriguing artefacts.
Takanokura Fureai Nature Park 高野倉ふれあい自然公園
Address: 454-3 Takanokura, Hatoyama, Hiki District, Saitama 350-0304. View on Google Maps.
Hours: 24 hours in theory
Cost: free and free parking.
This is definitely a much lesser visited area of the Hiki District and Google Maps does not understand the location at all yet! Or at least it didn’t in 2021! Basically, if you can get onto Hyakujizo Street you’ll be fine! There is parking for about 15 cars.
By public transport it is quite tricky. The JR Hachiko Line runs relatively near, the only problem is there is no station in Hatoyama! The nearest station is about a 40 minute walk away: the very scenic Myokaku station, one of my personal favourite train stations in all of Japan!
Official web page on Hatoyama Town website (unfortunately it is a skeleton page with little actual information)