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Shirakami-Sanchi|Stepping into a World Heritage Mountain Range with Virgin Beech Forests

A beech tree Aomori

Shirakami Sanchi “白神山地” is a 1,000-meter mountainous region located on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures.

One of the largest virgin beech forests in the world remains untouched in the Shirakami Sanchi. The natural beech forests are so precious that Shirakami Sanchi is now registered as a World Heritage Site.

This article introduces the characteristics and highlights of Shirakami Sanchi.


Shirakami Sanchi, surrounded by virgin beech forests

The characteristics of the Shirakami Sanchi, an unspoiled World Heritage Site

In the past, beech trees grew everywhere in Japan.

However, since beech trees are easily bent and difficult to use for materials, they were mostly replaced by cedar and cypress trees.

There was a similar plan to plant cedars and cypresses in Shirakami Sanchi, but the local people opposed it, and in 1989, the Forestry Agency designated it as a protected area.

Later, in 1993, Shirakami Sanchi was registered as a World Natural Heritage site.


Rare animals living in the Shirakami mountain range

Japanese serow


The Shirakami Sanchi region is home to valuable creatures such as Japanese serows, black bears, Japanese macaques, black woodpeckers, golden eagles, and white-bellied stag beetles, all of which live in areas with natural beech trees.

The Japanese serow is not a deer, but a member of the bovine family. It is true that it looks more like a cow and a goat than a deer.


Highlights of Shirakami Sanchi

Shirakami Sanchi, accessible only by limited tourist routes

Shirakami Sanchi is about 1,300 square kilometers in size.

Three quarters of this area is in Aomori Prefecture and one quarter is in Akita Prefecture.

Currently, visitors to Shirakami Sanchi are prohibited from entering the mountain or are required to notify the government of their intention to do so, except along the pre-designated trails.


Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center

Shirakami sanchi visitor center


If you’re planning to visit the Shirakami Sanchi, why not stop by the Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center first?

Located near Mt. Iwaki in Aomori Prefecture, the Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center provides tourist information on the Shirakami Sanchi region, including detailed information on the beech habitat areas that tourists can visit.


Exhibition hall where you can learn about old-growth beech forests

Annual rings of a beech tree


Inside the Shirakami Visitor Center, there is a beech exhibition corner. It is rich in materials and you can learn more about the beech tree and its ecology.

Beech is a slow growing tree with a long life span. The peak growth is over 100 years old and some beech trees are over 200 or 300 years old.

You can enter this exhibition room for free, so please take a look.


Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center Access, Parking, and Hours of Operation

Access A 40-minute drive from JR Hirosaki Station.
Opening hours 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (From November to March, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
URL Official website
Parking Available (free of charge)


Walking along the World Heritage Trail “Beech Forest Trail



The closest Shirakami Sanchi walking route from the Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center is the “World Heritage Trail through Beech Forest” around the Anmon Falls.

At present, access to the Anmon waterfall is restricted, and visitors are advised to take a guided tour, but the beech forest trail in front of the waterfall can be easily explored without a guide.

The beech forest trail is a 2-kilometer high and low course with two routes to choose from: a 15-minute small course and a 45-minute large course. The path is well maintained, so you can enjoy walking slowly while being surrounded by many beech trees.


Access and Parking at Aqua Green Village ANMON

If you are planning to take a guided tour to Anmon Waterfall or walk along the beech forest trail, it is convenient to park your car at the Aqua Green Village parking lot.


Access 22 minutes by car from Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center
Opening hours 9:00~16:00
Parking Available (free of charge)


Lake Aoike “青池”

From the Sea of Japan coast, you can also take a sightseeing train called “Resort Shirakami” to visit Lake Juni (十二湖, Aoike), located at the western edge of the Shirakami Mountains.

Aoike is a popular tourist pond with a mysterious blue water depth of 9 meters.


Shirakami-Sanchi World Heritage Site Summary

Learning about nature in a natural beech forest

It is said that there are almost no forests in Japan that have not been touched by humans. The Shirakami Sanchi, however, was not originally a place where people could easily enter, so it was able to avoid large-scale tree cutting and planting.

When you come to Shirakami Sanchi, why don’t you try walking through a natural beech forest? It’s a great opportunity to learn about nature.


Other World Natural Heritage Sites

In addition to the Shirakami-Sanchi, Shiretoko and Yakushima are the only other World Natural Heritage sites in Japan that have been largely untouched by humans.


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