World Natural Heritage in Japan



One of the largest pristine beech forests in East Asia

Shirakami-Sanchi sprawls from southwestern Aomori Prefecture to northwestern Akita Prefecture. Beech forest has existed in this area for about 8,000 years, and even today, pristine beech woods, virtually untouched by human hands, stretch across the region. Inside what are some of the largest tracts of virgin beech forest in the world, a diverse ecosystem has been preserved, and in addition to beech trees there live a variety of plants and animals. The geography of Shirakami-Sanchi is made up of sharp rises in the land that deliver dynamic natural scenery, including deep valleys and waterfalls as well as rock ledges and columnar jointing nearby. The movements of the land and the workings of plants and animals have had a synergistic effect on each other, cultivating a rich natural environment.

Through a Day

Morning in the beech forest is a magical affair, enwrapped in birdsong and shrouded in mists. The Juniko Lakes, bathed in sunlight, sparkle with a dazzling azure. Finally leaving the forest and reaching the coast, a crimson sun sinks into the sea beyond vast stretches of rocky ledges. Across Shirakami-Sanchi and the surrounding area, I found stunning scenery morning, noon, and evening.


Dakedaibuna Natural Forest

As the mist-shrouded forest slowly brightens, flowers, dripping with morning dew, glisten in the light. The beech forest is silent in the morning, reminiscent of someplace sacred. Proceeding between huge beech trees with thick roots entwined around moss-covered boulders, I found a small spring. The coffee with its soft waters had a mild, mellow flavor. The perfect cup for a gentle wake-up.


Mt. Shirakami

After walking a trail along the coast for a while, I turned back a moment to see the mountains of Shirakami veiled in morning mist. Their quiet yet commanding presence made me stop in my tracks. Steep mountains sprawl across Shirakami-Sanchi, but Mt. Shirakami, the tallest peak, towers with a particular majesty, exuding a solemn air as if watching over all the creatures that live there.


Juniko Lakes

Around 9 o’clock in the morning, sunlight, filtering its way between thickly growing trees and leaves, gradually begins to grow stronger. Lakes, bathed in this light, are dyed a startlingly beautiful azure. Hidden by beech trees, the Juniko Lakes are fed by the springs welling up from beneath Shirakami-Sanchi, resulting in waters that are extremely clear. This is why they sparkle and turn diverse shades of blue when hit by sunlight.


Resort Shirakami・JR Gono Line / Cape Yukiai

Impressive reddish brown rock formations poke out of the blue Sea of Japan along the shore of Cape Yukiai. Standing stunned by this magnificent scenery, I heard a distinctive clank-clank in the distance, then suddenly the JR Gono Line dashed gallantly by in front of me. Amazed by this perfect moment, I imagined what it must be like to be one of the passengers watching such a spectacular landscape pass by, and a smile cracked my lips. I understand several Resort Shirakami trains also pass down these tracks each day.


Anmon-no-Taki Waterfall

Seeking to fully experience the dynamic natural beauty of Shirakami-Sanchi, I went on a trek to Anmon-no-Taki Waterfall. Actually consisting of three waterfalls, Anmon-no-Taki Waterfall comes into sight beyond a swift-running river after walking between steep, bare rock walls and long-lived beeches and pines. Its flow crashing down to create great sprays of water was truly a compelling sight, and seemed to me to be a testament to the power of the workings of the Earth.


Furofushi Onsen

Whether I get up and get going right from the morning or enjoy a leisurely and relaxing day, when I’m on vacation I like to end the day with a nice hot spring bath. At Furofushi Onsen, located at the foot of Shirakami-Sanchi, the open-air rotenburo bath along the coast is the main attraction. Looking out across the surrounding area, there’s nothing to block a view of the Sea of Japan sprawling into the distance. Soaking in its waters, a little on the hot side, while gazing absentmindedly into the distance soothes both body and soul.


Moriyama Coast

The surface of the sea underfoot gleamed when struck by the bright early afternoon sun, rocks of various sizes poking their heads out from below. The great crag in front of me was a tight assemblage of rock strips known as columnar jointing. The opposite shore was filled with stunning rock formations, including the aptly named “Elephant Rock” and a pair of triangular boulders known as the “Twins.” The clear blue sea and rugged rocks create a miraculous contrast.

世界遺産の径 ブナ林散策道

World Heritage beech forest trail

Beech trees allow plenty of light to filter through, and in summer this means the forest remains brightly lit and the voices of insects and birds can be heard until evening. Stepping on the plush mulch formed from countless years of fallen leaves gathering on top of each other, I took in the sight of seasonal flowers and ran my hand through the waters of springs as clear as glass. Walking amid the beach forest of Shirakami, you can experience the many blessings of the trees with all five senses.

千畳敷海岸 夕日

Sunset at the Senjojiki Coast

The terrain among the rocky ledges of the Senjojiki Coast is wholly marvelous. Flat for a time, suddenly there are great boulders. As I continued among the rocks, there would be unexpected great holes among them. It’s a place where one can experience the dynamic interweaving of the land. Absorbed in my walk, the sky had become tinged with a beautiful orange color before I noticed. The sunsets to be seen here are filled with passionate, fiery emotion, and it made me wish I could gaze at one for an eternity.

深浦町 星空

Star-filled sky in Fukaura Town

I was surprised when I happened to glance upward and see that the sky was glittering with stars like gems scattered across black velvet. Fukaura Town has been selected as one of the "best places in Japan for stargazing" by the Environment Agency (now the Ministry of the Environment) .

Photo=Eriko Nemoto

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