Shirakami-Sanchi means white god mountain area and is located in northern Honshu in Japan. It straddles the Akita and Aomori Prefectures and was one of the first places in Japan to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This mountain range and area is well-known for its Siebold’s beech tree forest.
Access and Preservation
The central area of the Shirakami-Sanchi is a protected area and generally not accessible to the public. You need to apply for a permit to enter these parts. The outskirts of the mountain and forest are mostly where you will find the hiking trails and climbing paths.
The area is very well protected and strict laws and regulations apply to it. The intent of several preservation organizations is to keep the area untouched by human interference and allow the natural eco-system to flourish.
Anmon Falls (Shadow Gate Falls)
This is a triple waterfall area that is a popular spot for many tourists. It is also part of a hiking trail that is approximately 90 minutes away from the trailhead. The falls are a few minutes’ hike apart and a beautiful site. The trail offers flat and paved hiking at the beginning but becomes more steep and challenging as you go.
As a preserved area, it is no surprise that you can find all kinds of animals and plant species along the hiking trails. You can expect to see some of the following animals on your hike: black woodpecker, golden eagle, dormouse, Asiatic black bear, Japanese macaque, and the Japanese serow which is a type of goat.
Juniko is a destination among the hiking trails where you will find a series of twelve lakes. The lakes and ponds are small and connected by the different hiking trails. You can take part in several different activities at Juniko including hiking, fishing, and camping. The Junik Eco-museum CenterKokyokan can also be found here. This center offers a lot of interesting information on the beech forests and the preserved area.
The Nihon Canyon can be found near the entrance of Juniko. This is a miniature version of the Grand Canyon and has walls of grey and brown. The lakes and ponds of Juniko are connected with trails which are connected to the canyon. It is one big and beautiful intricate network of water, trails, and nature. During the winter months, both Juniko and the canyon are closed as the trails and destinations are inaccessible due to the weather.
Shirakami-dake is the highest peak in Shirakami-Sanchi and offers a majestic and breath-taking view of the forests, lakes, and surrounding country. The peak is not part of the heritage site and can be accessed without permission.
Other Hiking Trails
Other hiking trails that are mainly accessible by car and are more strenuous than those of the Juniko include a trail to Mount Futatsumori and to Mount Shirakami-dake. As mentioned before, Shirakami-dake is the highest peak of the mountain range. You will also find a few hiking trails in the Dairakyo Gorge that leads to the peak of Mount Komagatake and takes you past the Tanashiro Swamp.
Because of its heritage site status and a large number of tourists, the Shirakami-Sanchi hosts several visitor centers. The World Heritage Conservation Center in Fujisato in Akita offers the most information and it even has its own museum about forests. The largest center is the Shirakami-Sanchi Visitor Center that you will find between Hirosaki and the triple falls. It also has a museum and offers information in English. You can even take in a 30-minute IMAX movie if you want.
Shirakami-Sanchi is one of the most beautiful and naturally preserved places you will ever get to see in your life. If you go to Japan or Akita, this hotspot should definitely be a priority.