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2009
10.22

shirakami-sanchi

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untouched since the ice age, shirakami-sanchi (白神山地) is a forest located in northern japan. its name literally meaning white god mountain area, the park is recognized for its high purity, diversity of plants and animals, and primarily because of its new beech forest which is virtually untouched and is representative of the forests that appeared in east asia after the ice age.

most of the park is off limits, as it is intended to be kept this way for preservation purposes. however, there are a few hiking trails that lead to mountain peaks within the park, including the highest, shirakami-dake (白神岳). the most popular trail winds up a river and leads you to three waterfalls, collectively referred to as anmon no taki (暗門の滝). overall, the park leaves a great impression, as it is mostly unreachable and untouched. you actually get a since of its well preserved beauty. you can also admire at is diversified flora (including plants that were first discovered here), fauna, and birds. which is unlike some other national parks in other countries that can be flooded by millions of tourists every year. another nice plus is that all of the hiking trails can be done as one day trips.

the easiest way to get around is to rent a car, this way you will have access to all the trails in the park. you will even be able to drive from the east edge, across the northern edge of the park, all the way to the west edge, which is on the sea of japan. it is route 28, and from the parking lot at the trail head for anmon-no-taki to the sea of japan it is about 60 km (37 miles). with the exception of the trail for shirakami-dake, all of the hiking trails extend south from this road, and into the park (the road is not actually in the park). i did this route, and it was very rewarding because of its scenery and relative isolation.

view from the road.

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if you plan on driving across the park, i suggest starting early at anmon-no-taki and then working your way west. you will have plenty of time to make a few stops at overlooks for photo opportunities or even hiking one of the trails. however, i recommend that you make it all the way west out of the park by sunset. it’s not a long distance, but you are driving through a winding gravel mountain road that limits your speed.

the mountain road.

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after hiking the trail for anmon-no-taki, i drove slowly across the park, made several stops, did one 45 minute hike, and still had plenty of time to visit the 12 lakes, ju-ni-ko (十二湖), by the the sea of japan.

the sea of japan.

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however, if you have the time, a few buses run routes to the main sites such as anmon-no-taki and shirakami-dake (a train runs here as well). for information on the bus schedule ask at the information desk at each of the two local airports or at the main train stations.

arriving at the park can be accomplished by plane or train. the two closest airports are aomori airport (青森空港) and otachi-noshiro airport (大館能代空港 ). by train you can go to hirosaki station (弘前駅), which is east of the park. or you can go to any of the stations around shirakami-dake tozan-guchi station (白神岳登山口駅), theses stations are west of the park and right next to the sea of japan. this station is next to the road that leads to the trail head for shirakami-dake, the highest peak in the park.

a view from the top of shirakami-dake. unfortunately there was some fog and clouds present that day.

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my recommended places to visit within the park are anmon-no-taki, futatsu-mori (二ツ森) and/or shirakami-dake. getting to anmon-no-taki is a relatively easy 45 minute hike through the woods and along the river. be aware however, that the trail is closed if it has rained recently as the water in the river can rise making the trail impassable. the trail is mostly flat, though you will have to climb up some stairs to get past the first and second waterfalls. there is a campsite conveniently located across the road from the trail head leading to the waterfalls. there are some cabins available as well. it is convenient to stay here as you can get an early start before the guided tours make their way into the trail.

the first waterfall at anmon-no-taki.

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if you are not the climbing type or are incapable of doing so, instead of climbing the mountain trails, you can take a long hike past the third waterfall to get a good view of the local flora.

the easiest climb to a mountain peak within the park is futatsu-mori. you can drive a car close to the peak, and then hike for about 1 hour to reach the peak. you will have great views from the top of the mountain and amazing ones during the drive as well.

from the peak at futatsu-mori.

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the peak with the best view is probably shirakami-dake, as it is the highest peak in the park. however, i have not climbed all of them. to the west of the peak you will have a good view of the sea of japan. in all other directions there are amazing views of the mountains. this hike does take about 7 hours round trip, so make sure to set aside a whole day for it.

standing at the top of shirakami-dake.

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after climbing shirakami-dake, i strongly suggest that you make your way to what is likely a top ten onsen in japan. koganezaki furofushi onsen hotel (黄金崎不老不死温泉). it has an outdoor onsen located at the edge of the beach. you can watch the beautiful sky, ocean, and waves crash in the rocks just in front of the onsen. if you are not staying at the hotel, you can only use the outdoor onsen until 4 pm. they could charge an arm and a leg, but fortunately it is only 600 yen!

it was awesome.

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video! yeah!

there are so many photos to show you guys, that i decided to split them up into a few sections.

aside from the ones above, my favorites from the trip :)

at the airport and traveling to anmon-no-taki:

anmon-no-taki:

the drive across the park:

12 lakes:

sunset on the second night, overlooking the sea of japan:

on the way to shirakami-dake, and photos from the top:

drive up to futatsu-mori and photos from the peak:

further information:

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