Shirakami Sanchi Mountain Range (UNESCO) A vast natural playground full of rare flora and fauna
Shirakami Sanchi is a vast primeval beech forest home to a precious population of animals and plants
Stretching over two of Japan's northern prefectures, Aomori and Akita , a visit to Shirakami Sanchi allows you to explore Japan's largest virgin beech forest. Lace up your walking boots and trek one of the many walking and hiking trails while spotting uncommon flora and fauna along the way.
- Hiking up to the spectacular Anmon Falls
- Spotting rare flora and fauna
- A visit to the Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center to learn about the history of the area
Sanctuary for the rare and unique
The area is peppered with valleys and waterfalls and is an ideal place for trekking. Explore the Mase Valley, Anmon Falls and Daira-kyo Gorge—a playground for many anglers. Spot some of the most unique plants in the world here, as well as rare animals including a protected species of dormouse, the black woodpecker, Japanese serow and golden eagle. Visit the area in the summer when there is plenty of water in the rivers or the fall when the mountains turn red with tinted leaves.
Calling all walkers and hikers
The course that takes in the three-step Anmon Falls takes around one hour and ten minutes up a well-tended path. If you are looking for a more serious hike, take one of the paths leading up to the mountain summits of Shirakami-dake and Tengu-dake.
The Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center operates as a tourist information office, so drop by before you go out exploring. Learn about the wildlife and ecosystem of Shirakami Sanchi presented in 3D models, and a Shirakami Sanchi showcase short film can be viewed on a huge screen—shown five times a day in the visual experience hall.
There is an entry procedure that must be followed before you are allowed into the core part of the Shirakami Sanchi World Heritage area on the Aomori Prefecture side. Inquire at the Aomori branch of the Tohoku Regional Forest Office (Tel: 017-781-2117). Unfortunately, this site is only available in Japanese, so if you are unfamiliar with the language, get some help from your place of accommodation or an acquaintance. If you want to hike up to the Anmon Falls , there is no need to apply beforehand. The Aomori Sightseeing Guide offers more comprehensive detail on hiking in the area.
Beech forest survivor
Many beech forests around the world lost much of their ecological diversity due to the formation of continental glaciers some two million years ago; however, the beech forests and primeval plant population survived in Japan because this did not occur here. Beech trees are extremely resistant to the weight of heavy snow, allowing these trees to survive the huge snowfalls on the Japan Sea side of the islands.
Forest conservation and etiquette
There used to be many beech forests in Japan, but because this wood is not particularly useful as lumber, the trees were cut down after World War II and many beech forests were lost. However, as this situation threatens the wellbeing of Asiatic black bears and black woodpeckers, there is now an active conservation movement to preserve primeval beech forests. When visiting Shirakami Sanchi, please follow the rules of good hiking etiquette in order to protect this precious wilderness. Take all garbage home, visit the toilet before going to the mountains, and don't feed the animals.
How to Get There
The Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center is a five-minute walk from Nishimeya Murayakuba-mae bus stop. Take the 50-minute bus ride by Konan bus (heading for Tashiro) from the Hirosaki Bus Terminal near JR Hirosaki station.
From Tokyo to Hirosaki, it is 3 hours and 20 minutes from Tokyo Station to Shin-Aomori Station by JR Tohoku shinkansen. It is a further 40 minutes from Shin-Aomori to Hirosaki Station by JR Ou Main Line.