Shinjuku Gyoen - Mother and Child Forest, Part 3

This is Part 3 of a lovely mid-November walk at Shinjuku Gyoen - Mother And Child Forest
Prologue: The Kilometre Zero Marker of Japan
Part 1: The leaves glowed orange, gold, and green
Part 2: A short virtual walk through Mother and Child Forest

I translated some of the signs so you can share them with your family

Visiting the Mother and Child Forest reminds me so much of my childhood, camping and girl scouting and visiting arboretums with my family! In case you're planning a visit there, I recorded some of the signs, so if you don't read Japanese, you can still talk to your kids about what the signs mean.

I'm just over a year into my Japanese language learning, and I started translating these signs for more practice. It takes so much longer than I expected! I start with Google Translate, then correct the misread characters and try to make sense of the garbled pseudo-English results. After Google "translated" this first sign, I had to fix the A.I.'s wacky sentence structure, change the punctuation, learn some new kanji, make guesses about implied pronouns and plurals, and then research the natural habitats of four different tree species so that I could make sure my translations make sense. 

Here are six of the signs, and I have more to work on, but I'll have to visit the park again for the ones I missed. Oh woe is me, another beautiful day at the park?

Parentheses contain some of my own explanations and additions. I welcome any corrections or suggestions!

Guide Map and Rules of Use

 Mother and Child Forest Map Sign and Rules

Mother and Child Forest Map Sign and Rules



About Mother and Children's Forest

It is a place where you can connect with living things. There are a pond, a stream, and a forest with various characteristics, and you can enjoy the changes of nature by walking around the 430 meter observation path.

母と子の森 利用上のお願い

  • 昆虫、魚、草花など動植物の採取および持ち込みは禁止しています。
  • 池に入らないようお願いし齦す。
  • 木道より降りることはご遠慮下さい。
  • 至新宿門、
  • 生きもののすみかを荒らさないで下さい。
  • 「いきものの森」は、生きもののくらしを学ぶ大切な場所です。生きもののくらしをこわさないようお願いします。

Rules for use of Mother and Child Forest

  • Collecting and/or bringing in living things, such as insects, fish and flowers, is prohibited.
  • Please do not enter the pond.
  • Please do not walk outside of the path or boardwalk.
  • Please do not abuse the habitats of the living creatures.
  • "Forest of Creatures“ is an important place to learn about living creatures. Please do not harm the living creatures.

Seeds that came across the sea

 Tree identification activity at Mother and Child Forest, Shinjuku Gyoen

Tree identification activity at Mother and Child Forest, Shinjuku Gyoen




- 名前:ラクウショウ
- ある場所:ラクウショウの森
- 地面から気根とよばれる根をだします

- 名前:ヒマラヤシーダー
- ある場所:くさはら広場
- 木が大きな三角の形をしています 

- 名前:ペカン
- ある場所:里山の森
- 「母と子の森づくり」という看板のそばにあります。


Seeds that came across the sea

This seed...
is from Platanus × acerifolia (London planetree), the big tree in front of your eyes. Around the Meiji period, the seeds of the Platanus × acerifolia in this forest were brought in from a foreign country. They were planted more than 100 years ago. Now the big one is 30 meters high. It has grown to over 3 meters around the trunk.

Let's find!
There are other foreign trees that grew into large trees in the mother and child forest. The pictures below show the trees’ seeds. Can you find the big trees that match these seeds?

- Name: Rakuushou (Taxodium distichum, bald cypress)
- Location: Rakuushou forest
- It makes roots from the ground, called air roots (cypress knees)

- Name: Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodara)
- Location: Grasslands
- The tree is in the shape of a big triangle.

- Name: Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
- Location: Satoyama forest (satoyama refers to undeveloped woodland near a populated area; often in a river valley)
- It is near a sign that says 母と子の森づくり (“made in Mother and Child Forest”)

During the Meiji era, plants from foreign countries were studied. This was a test site where cultivation was carried out. These big trees were planted around that time. And various foreign plants studied at Shinjuku Gyoen National University spread all over the country.

We go under a stone to hibernate

 Yoshinobori, or goby, bottom-dwelling fish at Shinjuku Gyoen, Mother and Child Forest

Yoshinobori, or goby, bottom-dwelling fish at Shinjuku Gyoen, Mother and Child Forest



Yoshinobori (Rhinogobius brunneus, Amur goby)

These are members of the ha-ze (goby) family, who move along the river bottom using their belly fins as suckers. They eat insects (and other small invertebrates) in the water. In the winter, they will go under a stone to hibernate. Yoshinobori can be divided, by color difference, etc, into about 10 types throughout Japan. Their way of life depends on their type. Some spend their lives in the river, some go back and forth between the river and the ocean, and some go between rivers and lakes by substituting lakes for the sea. In Kansai, Yoshinobori is called Gori.

We engage in a "toad battle"

Hikigaeru Japanese common toad Bufo Japonicus

Hikigaeru (Bufo japonicus, Japanese common toad)

Hikigaeru is a large toad with a body length of 10 cm or more. At Shinjuku Gyoen, they gather in February at the pond of "Mother and Child's Forest" and lay eggs. Because there are a much larger number of males than females, a large number of males flock to one female and engage in a “toad battle” for the female’s attention. The eggs are long strings. Hikigaeru are not in the water much, except during the spawning season. They dwell in a damp forest and survive by being active at night, eating small animals.



We sound like tempura fried in oil

Aburazemi Graptopsaltria nigrofuscata Large brown cicada Japan.pngAburazemi Graptopsaltria nigrofuscata Large brown cicada Japan



Aburazemi (Graptopsaltria nigrofuscata, the large brown cicada)

From July to September, aburazemi sing loudly, “Jeeeeee Jee Ree Jee Ree Jee Reeeeee”. It is said that they are called aburazemi because their song resembles the sound of foods like tempura being deep-fried in oil. (“Abura” means oil, “semi” means cicada. Joined, they become “aburazemi.) The body is about 4 cm in length and dark with brown wings. They often sing on trees and utility poles near human homes during the morning, or from around 3 pm until evening. The aburazemi’s behavior is dull (slow moving), so they are easy to catch. This is one of the most familiar cicadas, commonly seen even in downtown areas.

Salted dragonfly

 Shiokaratonbo, White-tailed skimmer dragonfly at Mother and Child Forest, Shinjuku Gyoen

Shiokaratonbo, White-tailed skimmer dragonfly at Mother and Child Forest, Shinjuku Gyoen



Shiokaratonbo (Orthetrum albistylum, white-tailed skimmer dragonfly)

Shiokara tonbo (salted dragonfly) is a familiar dragonfly, whose body length is about 5 cm. It is common in ponds and swamps. As the male grows, its body color becomes dark and the back of the abdomen appears to be covered with salty white powder. The females, commonly referred to as mugiwara tonbo (wheat straw dragonfly), are yellow green in color. Shiokaratonbo are commonly seen in the garden from April to October.