The Ultimate Guide to Shirakami Sanchi in Tohoku

Tohoku
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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education in Japan and got her Master’s degree in March 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.

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With long coastlines and a mountainous interior, Japan is an amazing country to explore for nature lovers. The beauty of Japan’s nature changes with the seasons and captivates visitors with everything from frosty snow landscapes to lush summer greenery. Japan’s mountains are crowded with trekkers during the hiking season, and one very popular hiking destination is Shirakami Sanchi which is located in the Tohoku region. Here, the air is crisp and the ambience almost feels sacred, as if a mountain god resided here. Let’s take a closer look at the pristine Shirakami Sanchi and its mysterious allure!

What is Shirakami Sanchi?

Shirakami Sanchi mountain range
The Shirakami Sanchi mountain range is an impressive sight

Shirakami Sanchi is a mountain range in the Tohoku region which covers a vast area of approximately 130,000 hectares, spanning the northwestern part of Akita Prefecture and the southwestern part of Aomori Prefecture. It’s home to one of the world’s largest primeval beech forests which is virtually untouched by humans. In 1993, the site was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in recognition of its unique natural environment. Shirakami Sanchi is home to 35 species of mammals, 94 species of birds and a great number of plants, and the area is not only a mesmerizing treat for the eyes and soul, but also a protected area important for conserving valuable flora and fauna.

Hiking in Shirakami Sanchi

Shirakami Sanchi trees
Strolling through the forest feels healing to the eyes and soul

Blessed with mountains and rivers, Shirakami Sanchi is a great walking and hiking destination. There are several walking routes, including the Beech Walking Route, the Anmon Falls Route and a course which lets you enjoy the view of the Shirakami Sanchi mountains. All of these routes take about one to two hours to complete, so they can be enjoyed as a casual stroll without having to muster too much strength or stamina. Some great mountain climbing courses are also available for those who want to take on an extra challenge. Many courses – varying from 5 to 8 hours in length – climb the Shirakamidake mountain where you can admire many different plants growing in different seasons.

Recommended places to visit in Shirakami Sanchi

Shirakami Sanchi is a mountainous area with pristine nature, and there are many scenic places to discover. Here, we will introduce eight different spots for you to explore!

1. Beech Forest Trail

Shirakami Sanchi beech forest trail
The trail leading through the beech forest is easy to walk

The Beech Forest Trail is a very popular trail in Shirakami Sanchi. One of the characteristics of the Shirakami beech trees is that they grow very straight and tall. Many animals inhabit the beech forest, and the well-paved trails make it easy for you to take in the peaceful environment.

2. Anmon Falls

Shirakami Sanchi Anmon Falls
The Anmon Falls is an impressive three-tiered waterfall

Anmon Falls is a famous spot in Shirakami Sanchi which looks very different in summer, when it’s surrounded by fresh greenery, and in autumn when the leaves change color and turn fiery red and yellow. The three-tiered waterfall has large drops and is very majestic and powerful. Some parts of the waterfall can be experienced up close where a dense mist of fine droplets fill the air.

3. Juniko

Shirakami Sanchi Aoike 2
Each of Juniko’s 33 lakes is said to have its own unique water qualities

Juniko is an area with 33 lakes located in the western part of Shirakami Sanchi. Although this area is technically outside the area designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s famous for its incredible nature and stunningly beautiful bodies of water. Each lake is said to have its own unique water quality and splendor.

4. Aoike Pond

Of Juniko’s 33 lakes, Aoike Pond is the most famous. Its beautiful color is an almost unreal nuance of blue, as if fairies were living in it, and captivates everyone who looks at it. The surface of the water sparkles in the sun and the clarity of the water is superb, said to be the result of the pure spring water coming from the beech forest. The water is so transparent that you can clearly see the outlines of fallen trees at the bottom of the pond. This is a mystical spot that cannot be missed on a visit to Shirakami Sanchi.

5. Nihon Canyon

Nihon Canyon
The cliffs here have an unusual white color

Most cliffs are gray or brown in color, but those of Shirakami Sanchi have a very unusual white hue. The white rock surface is made of tuff, and this canyon was dubbed “Nihon Canyon”, referring to its resemblance to the Grand Canyon in the United States. The impressive view of the pure white rocks can be seen from an observatory which can be accessed by a 15-minute walk along a boardwalk.

6. Mount Shirakamidake

らんで, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mount Shirakamidake is 1,235 meters tall and is considered the most important mountain in the Shirakami mountain range. The mountain is covered with primeval beech forest and is very popular with climbers every season. The total time required to climb Mount Shirakamidake, including the ascent to the summit and the descent to the trailhead, is around 8 hours. It’s an amazing mountain climbing experience where you can enjoy the spectacular scenery of the lush forest.

7. Juniko Visitor Center

Shirakami Sanchi Juniko
Juniko Visitor Center is located in the lake area and is a great place to rest during your visit to Shirakami Sanchi

Juniko Visitor Center is located near Koshikuchi Pond, one of the Juniko lakes. Inside the building is a model of the entire Juniko area as well as displays about the animals and plants living there. Japanese huchen, a fish which is also known as a “phantom fish” in Japan, is farmed here, and this is a great chance to see this fish with your own eyes. If you feel tired after climbing or walking, the visitor center is a good place to stop and take a rest.

8. Takakura Woods

Forest Shirakami Sanchi
Deep in the Takakura Woods you will find the Mother Tree

Starting from Tsugaru Pass you can take a scenic walk along the Takakura Woods Nature Trail that will eventually lead you to Mount Shirakami. On your way through the woods you will be surrounded by beautiful beech trees – and there’s especially one tree that stands out among the others. Make sure to walk past to admire the so-called Mother Tree which is more than 400 years old! The walk from Tsugaru Pass to the Mother Tree only takes about 20 minutes.

In this article we have featured Shirakami Sanchi, an area of pristine nature and great hiking trails which is a perfect destination for mountain climbing enthusiasts and lovers of the outdoors. If you’re heading to the Tohoku region on your next trip to Japan, we highly recommend a visit to Shirakami Sanchi!

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