Akita, Japan Feb. 28 Wed 12:50PM
Japan's Last Virgin Beech Forests
Shirakami Sanchi is a mountain range made up of the last virgin beech forests in Japan, and the region was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The mountains straddle the border between Akita and Aomori Prefecture.
Most people visit Shirakami Sanchi for the hiking, and the trails are rewarding as they lead through forests, waterfalls, lakes, and mountain peaks. Most popularly are the Anmon-no-taki, literally Shadow Gate Falls, which are a group of three waterfalls. The trail to the falls is flat and paved some of the way, but it becomes steep as it goes further into the valley. Many people stop to refresh at each waterfall during the hike.
One of the three Anmon-no-taki
Also popular are the Ju-ni-ko, literally, Twelve Lakes, which are small lakes that are connected by trails on the Japan Sea Coast. Along with hiking, the area is also popular for fishing, boating, and camping. Aoike, or Blue Pond, is the most popular site in the region for its deep blue waters.
The Nihon Canyon is also accessible in this region, and a trail connects the canyon to the lakes and ponds.
There are other regions in Shirakami Sanchi popular for hiking, but many of the trails are only accesible by car. Mount Futatsumori is one of the easier trails in the region, and because it is more inaccessible, hikers are rewarded with amazing views.
Also popular is Mount Shirakamidake, the tallest mountain in Shirakami Sanchi. This route is accessible by public transport, but takes about eight hours to the peak and back.
The World Heritage zone in Shirakami Sanchi, however, is not as accessible as the rest of the range. The beech forests are protetcted and require a permit to enter, which is only attainable by mail, or in person up to the day of the departure, of the last business day before, if the departure is on a weekend.
Many visitors to the region also choose to stay in mountain huts between days of hiking.