A vast 130,000-hectare forest unfolds across a majestic expanse of mountains throughout Akita and Aomori prefectures. Known as the Shirakami Mountains, the area was named as one of Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1993.
This ancient landscape contains the world’s largest beech forest, as well as many unique plants and animals essential to the local ecosystem. The lush beech forest of the Shirakami Mountains took root near the end of the last Ice Age 8,000 years ago and have remained untouched by the creep of human development. In winter, moisture from the Sea of Japan blankets the nearby mountainsides with some of the heaviest snowfalls in the world.
Travelers exploring the Shirakami Mountains may enlist the services of one of the region’s many seasoned guides. These knowledgeable mountain guides not only help visitors navigate the wild mountain paths, but recount the rich history of the region.
The journey through the Shirakami Mountains brings peace to the soul. Sunlight filters through the trees, bathing the forest in light. The soft forest floor underfoot gives way to an abundance of clear springs and streams. The Japanese have revered nature since time immemorial, their psyche deeply rooted in this prehistoric ethos—an ancient memory that still echoes throughout the Shirakami Mountains.