Forest of Astray – click any image for full size
The Forest of Astray is a Full region that offers a curio of a setting to explore, parts of which might be currently be under renovation.
Designed by 絵理子 (Eriko), this is a setting that, though a clever use of horizontal space and design, has the feeling of being far bigger than 256 metres on a side, and within which it is quite easy to become disoriented whilst exploring – just as you might in an actual forest.
Within the forest, the region is divided by streams and hills into a number of different settings, which are brought together by the paths and trails the meander under bough and leaf and over bridge and water, neatly sewing everything into a cohesive whole. Included within these settings are a farm, two houses, a beach and cabin, a fishing wharf with boats, gardens, old ruins of towers and houses, and walled Japanese house, glades where flowers grow and deer play, a reed-sided estuary fed by two streams, ponds and waterfalls, greenhouses-as-pavilions and more.
It is at the farm where visitors begin their journey, up in the north-east corner of the region. From here, a track hops over a bridge and winds outward and over a narrow channel of water to where a second bridge (which can also be reached by a grassy path running along the water’s edge) leads the way into the forest proper.
Here the path winds between the trunks of giant oaks, the air alive with birdsong, the ground gradually becoming obscured by mist that becomes even thicker once another bridge has been crossed, and the sounds of piano might be heard. Follow the music and you’ll find an aged piano, its wood mildewed and mossy, sitting within the ruins of a building set on the far side of a path cutting across the one your on, presenting two routes of further exploration.
Take one, and you’ll be led by twist and turn lit by wolves carrying lanterns in their jaws, to the ruins of an old stone tower overlooking the junction of several streams. Take the other route from the piano and it will lift you up out of the mists before bringing you to a wall marking the boundary of a large property, the ground dropping sharply away on the other side into a fog bound bowl, reached via a pair of gates.
Here, under its own windlight and with rain falling steady, is a setting well suited to Halloween. Crows circle just above head height, strange figures loom out of the mists while the house stands as a shadow, old and decrepit, a strange (and decidedly sexual) tableau framed within its rotting walls, the upper floor given over to BDSM equipment.
If such a scene is not to your taste, simply pass the gates by and continue along the path outside of the wall and turn left at the point where it ends in a stone circle. A short distance across the grass you’ll find a track lit by a scattering of luminescent confetti running down a short slope. The confetti points the way to where another grassy path runs by a glade of tall grass lapping around the feet of a pavilion; a place where a dance can be enjoyed. Stay on the path, and it will take you past – or to – the tower ruins, where it becomes the riverside route leading back to the wooden bridge crossed earlier.
A cobbled path runs along another side of the glade with its pavilion, directing people through gabled gates to yet anther bridge, and thus to the southern aspects of the region. This offers even more to explore along winding paths: glades where angels might lie sleeping; gardens with hot tubs and dancing; hidden pools of clear water; the white frames and columns of the previously mentioned greenhouse and its companion pavilion – and more.
Choose the right paths here, and the rest of the setting will open to you, be it the bridge reaching back to where the Japanese house and onsen lie snug between wooded rocks and the sea, or the board walk reaching around a headland to the beach. A further path can be found, passing over stepping-stones and through a narrow gorge to where stone steps lead up to the south-east corner of the region, in which sits the largest house on the island, raised above the fishing wharf.
It is here – and on the beach – where indications that parts of the region might be under some remodelling were visible during our visit; furniture was floating over the beach cabin, while things around the house were in slight disarray (I’m actually not entirely sure whether the large house is supposed to be open the public; a request to Eriko for clarification passed unanswered; so take care with invading privacy while exploring, just in case).
Even with these little glitches, Forest of Astray makes for an engaging visit, with plenty of opportunities for photography and romance for those wishing to enjoy a dance. The adult undertones aren’t restricted to the house in the north-west corner, some of which might not be wise for a Moderate region – but these also aren’t particularly overt enough to question a visit. Overall, this is a unique location and well worth a visit, one that is well worth setting aside to explore simply because there is to much to find and see.
- Forest of Astray (Aya, rated: Moderate)