North-West of Tohoku, between Aomori and Akita prefecture, Shirakami-Sanchi is an extensive mountain range whose core is made up of the last virgin beech forests in Japan. The area is a World Heritage Site since 1993 and one of the Heisei 100 landscapes. And is also home of long hikes allowing to discover the country’s strong wildlife. Not far from the area, Juniko, its starry-night-blue pond and the Nihon Canyon are not to be missed.
Visiting Shirakami-Sanchi and its 130000 ha of virgin forest and mountain range are a good explanation to Aomori prefecture name. In Japanese, aomori stands for “green forest”. But the impressive Tohoku pristine forest is not the first one we explored in Japan, having already been to Iriomote.
All the trails but one are only accessible with a permit, as the whole area is protected. We have been along the only easily accessible one, the Anmon falls trail. A 2 hours (at least) hike with beautiful sceneries, narrow paths, river crossing and horseflies.
The Anmon Falls trail is open from late April to late November.
North-West of Shirakami-Sanchi (and not included in the World Heritage area) is Juniko, where 33 small ponds are to be found. The most famous is Aoike (“blue pond”) and its starry-night-blue waters.
Juniko area can not be reach during Winter.
Not far from the ponds is Nihon Canyon, “Japan Canyon”. A beautiful deep white valley, again home of many horseflies.
How to get there?
The Shirakami-Sanchi mountain range is not really easy to reach. The most convenient being definitely to rent a car in Aomori or Hirosaki. By train, the JR Gono Line stops at Juniko station (from where the ponds are a 15 minutes bus ride, 360 yen). And buses are reaching the trails departure points from Hirosaki (3 departures per day, only in summer, 1650 yen one way or 2470 for a round-trip).