- Admire the Twelve Lakes of Juniko
- Find peace at Anmon-no-Taki Waterfall
- Summit Mt. Kodake
- See the Sea of Japan from Senjojiki Coast
- Happo-Shirakami Geopark
- Dakedaibuna Natural Forest
Shirakami-Sanchi is a magnificent mountain range in northern Japan that is a prime example of the country's incredible natural beauty and grandeur.
Shirakami-Sanchi is so beautiful and culturally significant that it was designated as Japan's first UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 1993. This designation highlighted the area's importance and helped preserve Japan's rich cultural history and ecological diversity. Now, travelers worldwide flock to Shirakami-Sanchi to witness its serene beauty and appreciate a piece of Japanese culture and history.
If you're wondering why Shirakami-Sanchi is important, it's because of its ancient beech forest. The virgin beech forest has been untouched by humans, making it similar to the flora that would have been found in the Arctic Circle around 50 million years ago. Shirakami-Sanchi has long been revered for its natural beauty, with locals believing that spiritual beings dwell among the trees and mountains.
The ecosystem has also positively affected human livelihoods and is another reason why Shirakami-Sanchi is so important. The forest provides the local community with firewood and charcoal for cooking, craft materials to create tools, wild vegetables, and hunting opportunities for food. Additionally, the natural rainwater is filtered by the trees and soil. It then flows into streams and rivers, which sustains both the fish and the community's crops.
Shirakami-Sanchi is also home to the endangered golden eagle and black woodpecker. If you visit this natural wonderland, it's important to watch your step. You can do this by minimizing your footprint. Stick to the designated paths and trails, and avoid stepping on plants, insects, or animals as much as possible. The dense woods provide numerous trails for curious hikers to explore. Along these trails, you have the opportunity to witness the wildlife Shirakami-Sanchi has kept safe for centuries, including animals such as antelope. These paths also offer stunning views allowing visitors to take in the sheer grandeur of this mountain range from every angle.
If you want to truly enjoy Shirakami-Sanchi, take a guided tour through the forest. Your guide will take you on a leisurely walk through the mountains while telling you the stories of the forest, such as that of the "Matagi," who were traditional hunters that lived in harmony with the forest and its creatures. Hearing about how they lived gives vital clues about how humanity can co-exist with nature.
However, there are plenty of other nature-bound activities to enjoy in the primal wilderness of Shirakami-Sanchi:
Perhaps one of the most famous attractions at Shirakami-Sanchi is Lake Juniko, also known as Lake Juniko (Twelve Lakes). The Juniko Lakes is the name given to the 33 lakes and ponds. It is referred to as Twelve Lakes because you can only see 12 of the ponds from the top of Mt. Okuzure. The most popular of the lakes is Aoike Pond. The name means "blue pond", and it is this bright color that lures visitors as the shade of blue changes throughout the day.
Anmon-no-Taki Waterfall is made up of three tiers of impressive waterfalls. They are found on the tributary of the Iwaki River, which is known as the “mother river” of Shirakami-Sanchi. The area around the waterfall has steep and slippery rock walls, so take your time and carefully navigate the trail. However, the dense forest ensures that it is an absolutely beautiful hike. Plus, the three impressive waterfalls are definitely worth the effort.
This is a popular beauty spot, although entry is restricted due to the dangerous surrounding rock walls. Be considerate, go with a guide and protect the area’s conservation values.
Mt. Kodake rises to 1,043 meters above sea level. It takes about 2 hours to hike to the top for more experienced hikers. However, the trail back down takes only around 90 minutes to complete. As a result, this is the perfect half-day hike for anyone looking for a short adventure.
The area near the summit of Mt. Kodake forms part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage buffer zone, making this a wonderful way to explore the protected part of Shirakami-Sanchi. Plus, the sweeping views out over the mountains and forest provide a great reward. You can reach the trailhead via a winding, partly unpaved road. However, since it is quite remote, you may want to hire a guide for this particular trek.
While visiting Shirakami-Sanchi, you can't miss a trip to the Senjojiki Coast. Here you will find the most beautiful sunsets over the Sea of Japan. The bedrock beach and vast ledge on the Senjojiki Coast were formed by an earthquake in 1792. It lifted the rock face to create a unique beach landscape. As a result, there are interesting rock formations, each with its own name, dotted along the coastline.
Spending time on the Senjojiki Coast is like visiting another landscape. Although it's a lovely place to explore at any time of the day, it's particularly spectacular at sunset when the silhouettes of the rock formations create a mesmerizing effect on the rock ledge.
The Happo-Shirakami Geopark is an area that surrounds Happo town. Here is where you will discover more about the geological shifts that have occurred in the area over the past 20-40 million years—both to the landscape and seascape around the Shirakami-Sanchimountain range. Plus, the fascinating history and cultural traditions of the locals who lived here through the ages.
There are various geological sites throughout the park, many of which are located within the breathtaking natural landscape. This geopark is home to an array of geological formations and rare minerals, making it the ideal activity for those who want to explore the area's stunning natural wonders.
In the Dakedaibuna Natural Forest, you'll find a 1.8km walking path. This trail provides you with an accessible way to enjoy the virgin beech forest of Shirakami-Sanchi. The World Natural Heritage Site is protected, and some areas have restricted access to preserve the environment. However, heading out on the Dakedaibuna Natural Forest trail is the best way to immerse yourself in the beauty of Shirakami-Sanchi.
You can experience similar natural surroundings and wildlife in the middle of the protected area while walking along this trail. This part of the forest is aimed at educating the public about the ancient forest, and the trails are well-maintained, making it accessible to everyone.
Reaching Shirakami-Sanchi is easiest by car due to the remote forest location. You can fly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to an airport in the Tohoku region (e.g. Akita Airport, Odate-Noshiro Airport or Aomori Airport), then pick up a hire car and continue the drive. There are also train and bus connections from Aomori Airport to the World Natural Heritage site.
Now that you know why Shirakami-Sanchi is so important and how to get to Shirakami-Sanchi, it's time to book your trip. You can easily explore this beautiful area with the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. Get yours today!
Aomori cuisine is one of its many hidden treasures. No matter where you go in Aomori, you'll have a great food experience.
Known for its history, cuisine, and unrivaled nature views, Aomori is the northernmost prefecture in Japan’s Tohoku region.
Aomori is a destination to explore World Heritage Site Mt. Shirakami as well as many other beautiful natural areas like Juniko Lakes and Juniko Forest.