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Shirakami Sanchi

Beech Forests and Black Bears

Discover the unique flora and fauna of one of Japan’s earliest UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Shirakami Sanchi.

Discover Shirakami Sanchi

Shirakami Sanchi is a spectacular region nestled in the Tohoku region of northern Honshu Island. The area spans both the Akita and Aomori prefectures and is one of the earliest Japanese UNESCO World Heritage sites, gaining the title in 1993 due to the immense array of flora and fauna.  

Explore the many natural wonders of Shirakami Sanchi, as it is home to East Asia’s largest virgin beech tree forest, which thrived in the cool climate of northern Japan for thousands of years. The forests around Shirakami Sanchi are home to an incredibly diverse population of wildlife, which includes the Japanese black bear, the Japanese serow (a wild goat-antelope), the Japanese snow monkey, and eighty-seven species of birds.  

Shirakami Sanchi boasts some of the most spectacular hiking trails in Japan, with treks leading up to cascading waterfalls and by crystal-clear lakes. One such waterfall is the Anmon Falls, a three-tiered waterfall found along a three-hour round-trip trek in the forest. The trek can be steep, and is inaccessible in winter, but the reward of exploring the falls is worth the challenge for many adventurers. To discover Juniko, a series of twelve lakes and ponds, set out along the hiking trails which connect the twelve spots. Stop at Aoike, one of the most marvelous lakes in Juniko, famous for its otherworldly blue appearance. Go fishing and boating on any of the lakes or try camping in the surrounding areas when the weather is pleasant. Stop into the Juniko Eco-Museum Center Kokyokan to learn more about the history and culture of Juniko. For adventurers, try rafting along the Iwaki River which feeds into Shirakami Sanchi. Explore the Meya Ravine by raft, stopping to rest and relax with some of the region’s famous apple juice.  

Learn more about the history of local people in Shirakami Sanchi during a trip along Nishimeya Village`s Takanosu Nature Trail. Discover the traditional huts of the Matagi people, who lived long ago in the area and survived on bear hunting and selling charcoal. The domestic huts and charcoal huts have been reconstructed to allow visitors insight into the Matagi traditions. For one of the most unique Onsen experiences in Japan, visit Cape Kogenezaki Furofushi Onsen, an incredibly rare natural hot spring set into the edge of the sea. Watch the sunset over the horizon from the warmth of this remarkable onsen, found at the base of the Shirakami Sanchi Natural World Heritage site.  

To experience Shirakami Sanchi’s special culinary offerings, try some damako-nabe, or rice dumpling hot pot. As this region produces some of the best rice in Japan, they roll up balls of mashed rice, which are stewed in delicious broth simmered with chicken, Japanese mushrooms and local herbs. Undoubtedly a ubiquitous part of any meal, umeboshi (pickled plums) can be found all over Japan. While in Shirakami Sanchi, make sure to try the local variation ‘umezuke’, which involves pickling the plums in salt as usual, before wrapping the ume in shiso leaves and ageing the plums for up to three years, giving umezuke a stronger taste and rich red color compared to a typical umeboshi.  

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