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Shirakami-Sanchi

Travel Guide Asia Japan Honshu Shirakami-Sanchi

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Introduction

Shirakami-Sanchi (白神山地?, literally white god mountain area) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Honshu, Japan. This mountainous, unspoiled expanse of virgin forest straddles both Akita and Aomori Prefectures. Of the entire 1,300 km², a tract covering 169.7 km² was included in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1993. Siebold's beech trees make up a large portion of the forest. The World Heritage Site area has never been opened to human activity or trails other than mountain climbers' paths, and is planned to be protected in this state. Permission is needed from Forest Management to enter the heart of the Shirakami-Sanchi. Fishing requires permission from both the Fishing Cooperative and Forest Management.

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Sights and Activities

Primeval Beech Forest

The beech tree is usually unsuitable for cultivation of the Shiitake mushroom. Therefore, beech forests have never been disturbed by Shiitake farmers and remain in a state of preservation much greater than that of surrounding forests. Apart from beech trees, Katsura, Kalopanax, Japanese Hop-hornbeam and other species of tall deciduous trees are found in the forest.

Anmon no taki (Shadow Gate Falls)

These triple falls in the World Heritage Site are easily accessible on foot and are a popular sightseeing destination. The trail to the falls is paved and flat in the beginning and becomes elevated and narrow further into the valley. Shortly before reaching the first waterfall (26 metres high) after about 45 minutes, the trail steepens considerably. Ten minutes beyond the first waterfall lies the second one (37 metres) where many people stop to rest. Continuing on up the hill to the right of the second waterfall for another 15 minutes brings you to the final and tallest of the falls (42 metres).

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Opening Hours

The visitor center is open from:

  • 9:00am to 4:30pm (November to March)
  • 8:30am to 5:00pm (April to October)

Closed the second Monday of each month from April to December, every Monday and Thursday from January to March, December 29 to January 3.

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Cost

Access to protected buffer zone, around the World Heritage site, requires a permit from the Aomori office of the Tohoku Regional Forest Office (tel. 017-781-2117), and the bureaucracy pretty much requires that you can handle Japanese or get someone to do it for you. However, the park's most popular attractions, including the Anmon-no-Taki Falls, do not require permits. And there is also a good trail along the border to the restricted zone.

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Getting There and Around

Shirakami Sanchi is best accessed from the north from Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture, from the south from Noshiro in Akita Prefecture, about a one hour train ride north of Akita City, or through Odate-Noshiro Airport, which has daily flights from Tokyo's Haneda and Osaka's Itami Airports.

The JR Gono Line travels along the coast around the western and northern sides of Shirakami Sanchi between Noshiro and Hirosaki and is famous for its spectacular coastal scenery. The "Resort Shirakami" rapid trains run between Akita and Hirosaki via the Gono Line, stopping at Juniko along the way. Local trains also serve Juniko from Higashi-Noshiro Station.

The only bus line that provides access to Shirakami Sanchi runs between Hirosaki and the trailhead to the Anmon Falls (and further to Tsugaru-toge Pass). The buses are operated by Konan Bus and run three times per day from mid June to early November. The one way trip from Hirosaki to the Anmon Falls trailhead takes about 90 minutes and costs 1650 yen. A roundtrip ticket is available for 2470 yen.

A rental car is the recommended means of getting around Shirakami Sanchi, because public transportation is very limited and only serves a few attractions along the perimeter of the forests. The closest car rental outlets are found in Hirosaki, Akita, Noshiro, Odate and at Odate-Noshiro Airport.

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Eat/Drink

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This is version 1. Last edited at 10:35 on Jan 19, 16 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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