Your dream hike awaits!
Located on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures is the absolutely stunning Shirakami Sanchi nature reserve.
This rich nature is home to beautiful waterfalls, mountains, lakes and hiking paths. In fact, it’s also home to the last remaining virgin beech trees in East Asia. These trees can only be found in Shirakami Sanchi, so UNESCO declared this forest one of Japan’s first Natural World Heritage sites, alongside another location, in 1993.
Hikers should know that the World Heritage portion of the nature reserve is actually a highly protected area. Due to Japanese law, a permit is required to enter the World Heritage Site where the beech trees are. Despite that, there is still a lot to discover even without the permit, given the area is 130,000 hectares (501 square miles). Instead, most travelers dig into other spots that still encompass some of Aomori Prefecture’s most awe-inspiring nature.
Hiking in Shirakami Sanchi
The most popular hiking trails head to Anmon Falls and the Juniko Lakes, located on the eastern and western sides respectively. These are optimal day hikes. Each takes no more than four hours round trip — easy for experienced hikers, adequate for beginners, yet thrilling for everyone.
Anmon Falls is a series of three waterfalls that get taller as you delve further into the forest. The tallest waterfall reaches nearly 50 meters. Aoike Pond a park of the greater Juniko Lakes (meaning 12 lakes in Japanese) is a mysterious sapphire blue pond tucked away in the mountains. Scientists still don’t know why the pond is such a vibrant color.
Mountain climbers should ascend Mount Shirakamidake (1,232 meters or 4,042 feet), the tallest mountain in the Shirakami Mountains range. It’s a physically demanding full day of hiking but provides a spectacular view of the endless sea of emerald green on one side and the dark blue of the Sea of Japan on the other. The best time to hike this mountain is in the early fall when all the leaves are different shades of red, yellow, orange and green.
Know before you go
The shortest trailhead, Shirakamidake Tozanguchi Chushajo (白神岳 登山口駐車場) is accessible by public transit. It is a 30-minute walk from Shirakamidake Tozanguchi station, accessible by the JR Gono Line. Staff at the train station will helpfully point you in the right direction.
Train travel is an alternative way to experience this area. The JR Gono Line connecting Aomori’s Kawabe to Akita’s Higashi-Noshira, hugs the Sea of Japan passing by Senjojiki Beach and all of Shirakami Sanchi. It requires about 5-6 hours of travel, but this line offers the most jaw-dropping views in all of Aomori.