ITINERARIES Scenic World Heritage in Tohoku A therapeutic nature retreat through the Shirakami mountain range and Juniko Twelve Lakes
Natural treasures off the beaten track
- Take in fantastic views on board the local Gono Line train service that passes through the base of the Shirakami Sanchi mountain range
- Explore the picturesque Juniko Twelve Lakes region
- Feel the breeze and relax to the sounds of waves of the Sea of Japan at the outdoor Furofushi Onsen hot spring bath
How To Get There
Take the JR Akita Shinkansen Komachi from JR Tokyo Station to Akita Station (3 hours 50 minutes). Change to JR Ou Line Limited Express Tsugaru to Higashi-Noshiro Station (45 minutes). From Higashi-Noshiro, enjoy the ride on the JR Gono Line Resort Shirakami scenic train to Juniko Station (1 hour 15 minutes).
Ride on the Gono Line train service and take in the stunning seascape of the Sea of Japan on one side and beautiful mountain views of the Shirakami Mountains on the other, in what is regarded as one of the most scenic lines in all of Japan.
Resort Shirakami is a sight-seeing train that runs along the Gono Line. Do not expect an ordinary train ride as events and music performances are regularly held on board. Be enthralled by the distinctive timbre of the Shamisen, a three-stringed traditional Japanese music instrument.
Go for a trek at the Juniko, a group of pristine, azure-blue lakes and ponds that are surrounded by the beechwood forests on the western part of the Shirakami mountain range.
These lakes are said to have been created by a landslide caused by a major earthquake during the Edo period (1603—1867). There are in fact 33 lakes, but the region is referred to as Juniko, or 12 lakes, because only 12 lakes could be seen from the collapsed mountain. You can even taste the freshness of the pure water from the Juniko at some points.
Take in the stunning vistas of the Nihon Canyon, which has often been compared to the more famous Grand Canyon of the United States. Here, you will be wowed by the dynamic U-shaped valleys and cliffs, as well as dramatic rock surfaces with the white tuff exposed due to erosion and deterioration.
Rent a boat and go boating on the waters of the Hakkei-no-ike Lake, which is the first of the lakes that comprise the Juniko.
Small can be beautiful, as you will realize at the enchanting Nakamichi-no-ike Pond which reflects the deep green of the trees along the mountain path.
The next stop along your trek is the Wakitsubo-no-ike Lake, which is famous for having one of the bluest and purest waters of the Juniko lakes.
Continue towards the Ochikuchi-no-ike Lake, a well-known photo spot, which is especially scenic in autumn as the surrounding beechwood trees turn into glorious hues of orange.
Stop by the Aoike Lake, whose waters are a dazzling shade of clear blue. Its name in Japanese, quite literally, translates to Blue Pond.
Rest your feet after your trek and spend the night at the Furofushi Onsen, an onsen hotel that is famous for its outdoor bath that protrudes into the Sea of Japan. Feel the breeze and listen to the waves as you bathe with magnificent views of the horizon.
The natural hot spring water comes from 200 meters underground, and its name Furofushi comes from a saying: "If I take care of myself here, I would never age or grow weaker."
Feel the European vibes at WeSpa Tsubakiyama, a relaxing resort facility with charming Western-style roofed cottages, flanked by the World Heritage Shirakami Mountains on one side and the Sea of Japan on the other.
Sign up for activities such as glass workshops, or even learn more about creepy crawlies at the on-site Bug Museum, which has exhibits of Japanese beetles and stag beetles.
Continue your journey on the Gono Line through the mountainous town of Fukaura to Senjojiki Station. As you do, pay attention to the many unusual rock formations that have been formed by natural phenomena over millions of years. Get off the train at Senjojiki to walk along the coast and view some of the formations up close, or climb to the lookout inland from the station.The rock landscapes around the Senjojiki section of the coast were formed after the ground rose up during a major earthquake more than 200 years ago. Behold the unique sights of rocks in unusual colors such as green, black and dull red. Have fun trying to spot rocks in interesting shapes too.
If traveling back in the direction of Tokyo, spare some time to visit Kakunodate. Discover authentic Edo-period architecture and wander a well-preserved samurai district in this 17th century town, famed for its cherry blossoms and close to the border between Akita and Iwate prefectures. For additional side trips, consider exploring Iwate Prefecture and the World Heritage town of Hiraizumi .