Shirakami-Sanchi is a generic name for the mountain range covering from the southwest of Aomori prefecture to the northwest of Akita. It has the largest virgin beech forest left in East Asia, and was registered as the first Natural World Natural Heritage site of Japan along with Yakushima in 1993. Let’s enjoy Mother Nature in Shirakami-Sanchi such as greenery of the virgin beech forest, the waterfalls that flow down from the rocks, and a panoramic view of the mountains from the pass.
There are some hiking courses to enjoy Shirakami-Sanchi, and you will be able to choose some of them depending on your preference. Let me introduce some attractive places I have ever visited.
The Trail in Beech Forest, Anmon Falls
There is a very popular hiking course prepared in the World Heritage area, which enables you to enjoy the virgin beech forest in Shirakami Mountains easily. When I visited in summer, I was surrounded by greenery soon after entering the forest and enjoyed wonderful hiking.
After passing through the forest, you might keep walking up to the three waterfalls along the river. They are called Anmon Falls. Although the trail to the falls used to be prepared before so that tourists could enjoy sightseeing, it has not been maintained since 2016. It does not mean that you cannot visit Anmon Falls, but that you should try the difficult hiking trail with a professional guide.
If you are interested in the trail in beech forest or Anmon Falls, you should visit “Aqua Green Village ANMON” first which has tourist information center, accommodations and so on.
“Mother Tree” and Tsugaru Mountain Pass
“Mother Tree” is the huge beech tree which is estimated about 400 years old. It is about 3 minutes’ walk in the forest from Tsugaru mountain pass along Route 28 (the so-called “Shirakami Line”). If you have a car, it is easily accessible. In addition you can also enjoy a panoramic view of the mountains registered as a World Heritage site from the pass.
Aoike Pond (Lake Juniko)
There is a group of lakes and ponds on the western side of Shirakami-Sanchi along the coast of the Sea of Japan, which is called “Lake Juniko (Twelve Lakes)”. You can enjoy hiking along the lakes and ponds surrounded by the beech forest. It is said that they were created by a landslide caused by an earthquake, and that 12 lakes could be seen from the collapsed mountain although there are actually 33 ones. Aoike Pond is the most popular and mysterious lake among them due to its blue color as if it were artificially created.
Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen
There is a hot-spring hotel along Tsugaru west coast facing the Sea of Japan, which is famous for the open-air bath on the beech. It accepts not only lodging guests but also day trip visitors during the limited business hours. They say that you can enjoy the wonderful sunset on the Sea of Japan during the bathing if you stay here. Even if you don’t have enough time to stay, it must be also a great experience for you to drive along the coast or take the local train “Gono Line” to enjoy a great view of the coast and the sea in this area.
You should take a flight to Aomori Airport, or a bullet train for Shin-Aomori Station. If you reach Hirosaki Station, you will be able to find a bus to “Aqua Green Village ANMON” and Tsugaru mountain pass, but I think you should rent a car at Aomori Airport or Shin-Aomori Station to visit the tourist attractions in the large area by yourself.
If you plan to drive from Tsugaru mountain pass to Lake Juniko, I don’t recommend Route 28 (the so-called “Shirakami Line”) because the road was a very bad condition. I think you will find an alternative route easily, and that you should choose it. It must be also a great experience for you to take the local train “Gono Line” connecting Aomori, Shin-Aomori, Hirosaki and Lake Juniko area along the coast, which will provide you with a relaxed time and a wonderful view of the Sea of Japan.
Although I drove from Tokyo to Shirakami-Sanchi in 2010, I think many tourists take a bullet train (Tohoku Shinkansen) to get there. You can rent a car at Shin-Aomori station, and find many accommodations in Hirosaki. Below I have summarized an example of the travel route based on my experiences.
If you have enough time, you should also visit other tourist attractions in Aomori such as Oirase Stream, Lake Towada, Mount Osore and so on.
|1||Tokyo -> Shin-Aomori (JR Shinkansen)
Shine-Aomori -> Hirosaki (car)
|2||around Shirakami-Sanchi (car)||The Trail in Beech Forest
Tsugaru Mountain Pass
|3||around Tsugaru West Coast (car)||Aoike Pond (Lake Juniko)
Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen
|4||Hirosaki -> Shin-Aomori (car)
Shin-Aomori -> Tokyo (JR Shinkansen)