Shirakami-Sanchi (白神山地) is a World Heritage Site in the northern Tohoku region of Japan, straddling the prefectures of Akita and Aomori.
Shirakami-Sanchi is one of Japan's, and Asia's, few remaining beech (ブナ buna) forests.
Tucked away in a remote, mountainous corner of the cold north, Shirakami-Sanchi is snowed in and all but inaccessible between November and May.
Konan Bus (弘南バス)  runs 3-4 buses per day from spring to early autumn from Hirosaki railway station to Aqua Green Village (アクアグリーンビレッジ) near the rather impressive Anmon-no-taki waterfall in the unrestricted zone. The bus information desk, to the left of the bus stops in front of the railway station, has a pamphlet in English with bus schedules, rudimentary maps, etc. There may be a discount on return tickets available, but only if you buy ticket's beforehand, at the bus information desk. One-way is ¥1600, return tickets are ¥2400 (summer 2011).
Fees and permitsEdit
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
For a day trip there are mainly two options:
- One is staying on the earliest bus to the Aqua Green Village and continuing onwards to the Tsugaru mountain pass stop, from where there is a 2-5 hour lovely trek over a mountain ridge and back to the Aqua Green Village, but be forewarned, this hike has some very steep and challenging parts, where you, very untypically of Japan, are almost hanging onto dear life on a rope suspended along a steep part of the mountain ridge for a good 45 minutes of the hike. If you plan doing this, remember to bring enough liquids, sundries, good shoes and preferably a phone, as it's only a few hikers doing this trek every day.
- Or you can do a light trek on the trail to the Anmon-no-taki waterfalls from the Aqua Green Village, it's a good 45-60 minute walk if you are in decent shape, and this is where the hordes of tourist and tour bus are descending.
- Anmon-no-Taki Waterfall (暗門の滝). Three-tiered waterfall cascading 26, 37 and 42 meters. About 1 hr 30 min on foot from the visitor center.
- Visitor Centre. Entry is free, but the IMAX movie on the park (shown 5 times a day) costs ¥200. Open around the year.
- 1 Furofushi hot spring (不老不死温泉). 08:00-15:30. At the base of the mountains, but outside the protected zone, this hot spring has muddy baths just beside the sea. One mixed bath and one female-only bath. Indoor baths also available. ¥600.