Welcome to Japan’s first UNESCO world heritage site!
The Shirakami Sanchi is thought to be the forests of gods. The mountainous area stretches over 130,000 hectares (501 square miles) across Aomori and Akita prefectures in the northern Tohoku Region of Japan. In December 1993, it became the first Japanese World Heritage Site along Yakushima in Kagoshima prefecture. There are only four natural heritage sites in Japan: Shirakami Sanchi of Aomori and Akita; Yakushima of Kagoshima; Shiretoko of Hokkaido; and Ogasawara Islands of Tokyo.
The largest remaining virgin beech forest in East Asia; Shirakami Sanchi is made up of the last virgin beech forests in Japan, for which the region was declared one of the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993. It is a remnant of the cool-temperate beech forests that have covered the hills and mountain slopes of northern Japan since eight to twelve thousand years ago.
Sunlight shines through the dense forest which is the home to beech, Mongolian oak, and Japanese wing nut trees to name a few of the many varieties of plants and trees found in the forest. Here, a wide diversity of plants and animals thrive, including the Japanese black bear, the Japanese serow (a type of goat antelope), Japanese macaque (monkeys), and 87 species of birds (including Black woodpecker, Mountain hawk-eagle, and the Golden eagle) can be found in this forest. The forest ecosystem created here is abundant, a paradise for many living creatures.
The ground of this forest features a deep humus layer created from the fallen leaves. This layer functions as a natural dam for the forest as it acts like a sponge to keep rain water in the soil. The beech forest has been known as a place where one does not need to take a water bottle because of the clean fresh spring water flowing out of the ground.
Shirakami-Sanchi contains a large pristine, non-fragmented beech forest. Planted forests of timber trees, such as Japanese cedar, have replaced many of the beech forests in northern Japan while within the boundaries of the property the unmodified beech forests are densely and continuously distributed.
The area is largely a wilderness with no access trails or man-made facilities. The property includes all elements necessary to maintain the ecosystem function of beech forests and the area of the property, 16,971 ha in total, is of an adequate size to ensure the long-term existence of the beech forest ecosystem.
Further to the strict legal protections, almost no logging of beech trees has been carried out in the property due to lack of access to the central part and precipitous topography of the property. Also, tourism activities are limited mainly to the areas near the boundary or the surrounding areas of the property. Consequently, the property preserves this extensive area of pristine forest with little human intervention.
The main attractions of Shirakami Sanchi are the various hiking trails that lead through the forests to stunning waterfalls and pristine beautiful lakes that are easily accessible on foot.
The below is an excerpt from a webinar covering our latest Tohoku Trails Small Group Tour. To see this entire webinar click here https://www.uniquejapantours.com/tohoku-trails-online-travel-talk/ and learn more about this tour such as dates ad prices, check out https://www.uniquejapantours.com/product/featured/tohoku-trails/