Shirakami Sanchi (Aomori) 白神山地（青森）
Wilderness primeval, calling to intrepid trekkers and outdoor lovers everywhere
The Shirakami Sanchi mountain range borders two northern prefectures, Akita and Aomori , and encompasses Japan's largest virgin beech forest, one of Japan's first two UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites. This hiker's paradise covers more than 130,000 hectares with an equally impressive array of peaks, lakes, trails, gorges and valleys.
Prime destinations for many travelers to the area include the Juniko lakes, Anmon Falls and Dairakyo Gorge. Any of these will thrill outdoor lovers, as will Aoike, a pond whose palette of blues changes with the weather and the season.
- The Mother Tree course—an easy trek to a 400-year-old beech tree
- The Mt. Shirakami Trail and Juniko lake course—for hardcore hikers
How to Get There
You can get close to the Shirakami Sanchi area via train and bus, but renting a car after that is the best option.
From Hirosaki Station in Aomori Prefecture, the Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center is an hour away by the Konan bus bound for Tsugaru-Toge.
You can get to a few other specific destinations such as the Juniko lakes and Anmon Falls using public transportation. However, you may have to walk for a while from the nearest station.
Japan's outback, on the grandest scale imaginable
The Shirakami area extends as far as you can see, and all of it is pristine forest filled with beautiful lakes, clean trails, raised walkways and ponds. What you'll hear are birds, wild animals and the sound of water and wind.
A sea of beeches
Beech trees are typically considered to have a lifespan of around 300 years, but in Shirakami Sanchi there are some believed to be more than 400 years old. Compared to ancient trees in other parts of the world, that may seem young. However, the size of these trees, with their thick green trunks and knotty limbs, is majestic.
Be sure to see at least one
Some of the locations you should focus on in Shirakami Sanchi are the Juniko ("Twelve Lakes") and the three falls that comprise Anmon Falls . Juniko is the name given to a group of 33 lakes and marshes.
There's also a site called Nihon Canyon. The washed-out rock formations are captivating, and you can see them up close. You should also try to take one of the small networks of walking trails to scenic Dairakyo Gorge, especially if you're there in the fall.
Other than a few mountain climber's paths, the parts of Shirakami Sanchi designated a World Natural Heritage Site are still mostly unexplored. The areas outside of this core are somewhat more accessible. But it is still mostly hiking trails. Put on your hiking shoes and explore.
For some background on what you'll see
You can learn about the Shirakami Sanchi area at the Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center and also the Shirakami World Heritage Center. While videos and most information is in Japanese, you'll also find materials in English.
* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.