Explore the beauty that surrounds Camp Zama
Stripes Japan | .
published: December 01, 2018
Blessed with balmy, moderate temperature, pure spring water, great landscape, beautiful forests and endless sunflowers fields, Zama is a great city to take a stroll.
The city, home to Camp Zama, is actually known as “town of sunflower,” because of its extensive sunflower fields. With annual Sunflower Festivals held in various districts within the city, you can enjoy 550,000 sunflowers, along with various stage performances, games and food from the end of July to mid-August.
It was end of August last year when my wife and I visited Zama to view the large yellow flowers. Although the festivals were over and most of flowers were gone, we found a few farms along the Sagami River that still had still a lot of flowers in bloom. To our pleasant surprise, they let us go into the farm with pair of scissors and pick the flowers for 200 yen each. We enjoyed picking the large and beautiful flowers while taking photos against hundreds of vivid yellow flowers that were much larger than my face.
Back in the day, the city developed into an important inn town along the Hachioji Boulevard that connected two important cities - Yokohama and Hachioji. In 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army Academy was created, but with the end of World War II, the facility was turned over to the U. S. Army and became Camp Zama.
Nowadays, the nature surrounding the military installation is a joy to explore.
“I often see wild owls flying over to the forests,” says Machiko Wakabayashi, owner of Wakabayashi Saketen (liquor shop) near Camp Zama. “Surrounded by beautiful forest and full of nature, Zama is very nice place to live.”
Strolling around power spot of legends behind Camp Zama
Located in Sobudai-shita district, Zama Shrine and Banjinsui Park are considered as a power spot filled with rich of legends.
Located behind the military base, Zama Shrine is a majestic Shinto Shrine. With the traditional main building, well-arranged shrine garden with 300-year-old shii tree (Japanese chinquapin), old stone stairway approach and grey large torii gates, the shrine is filled with power and spirit.
The shii tree has been considered a tree of God, and the locals believe that a touch of tree helps you recover from disease and give you a long life. Visit there and touch the tree with your hands to feel the power.
I always make a point to stop by the shrine when I visit Camp Zama. I always feel purified after offering a traditional bow - bowing twice, clapping my hands twice and again one deep bow in front of the main shrine.
Behind Zama Shrine there is a tiny shrine for pets, called “Inuneko (dog and cat) shrine.” I visited the shrine, and saw hundreds of ema (votive wooden tablets) hung around it. I couldn’t help but be moved when reading the tablets - one saying “May my cat soon recover from disease,” and another saying “May my deceased dog be accepted in heaven.”
The origin of Zama Shrine dates back to 539-571 when an epidemic prevailed around the region. An old man in white attire told the locals to use spring water in the forest where the shrine is currently located. No sooner did the locals start using the water for their life than the epidemic completely stopped. To commemorate this amazing event, the locals built the shrine, according to the legend.
The legendary spring water is still available near the shrine’s stairway and you can bring some of it back home. I always do. The water is very clear and sweet, and perfect for making coffee or tea with it.
Actually, Zama is blessed with plenty of water. There are 15 springs located within the city, and 85 percent of the city water supply comes from the local springs, according to Zama City.
Aside from the famed Zama Shrine Spring, Banjinsui Spring near Camp Zama is another well-known spring behind Camp Zama. Although the water is being used only for fire hydrants today, it was used for drinking and brewing quality sake until the 1950s. The water forms a clean stream, and along with a small shrine, it makes up Banjinsui Park.
A large statue of a Buddhis monk, Nichiren, is located on a hill behind the park. Legend has it that the water rushed from the ground when the monk poked it with his stick.
Population: 129,352 (as of Oct 2017)
Location: 1-1-1 Midorigaoka, Zama City, Pref. (Zama City Hall)
Area: 17.57 km2
Attractions: Sunflower fields, Zama Shrine, Banjinsui Park, Sobudai-mae Shopping District
TEL: 046-255-1111 (Zama City Hall)