Precious heritages of the Shirakami Sanchi
A number of beech forests around the wor1d have 10st much of their eco1ogica1 diversity due to theformation of continenta1 glaciers some two million years ago; however，the beech forests and primeva1 p1ant popu1ation survive in Japan because continenta1glaciation did not occur here. Moreover，the Japanese didn’t cut down beech trees for centuries because the served littlepurpose to them.
After Wor1d War 11 however，Japan’s beech forests were 10gged gradually. This situation threatened wi1dlife habitats，so an active conservation movement to preserve the forestswas begun. This movement garnered so much attention from the world that in 1993，U NESCO recognised the va1ue of beech forests anddeclared the 16，971 ha area of Shirakami Sanchi as a Wor1dN atura1 Heritage Site. Today，the precious beech forests of Shirakami Sanchi remainalmost entire1y undisturbed.
This is an area of wi1demess with no access trai1s or man-made faci1ities，and more than half of the heritage site comprises of deepvalleys with steep slopes. Numerous kinds of p1ants grow in this precious beech forest，whi1evarious species of anima1s call this p1ace home, despite the high a1titude.Having escaped glaciation，these 8,000 year-01d forests are home to 500 p1antspecies that have been identified as those generally seen in a1pine andsuba1pine zones，of which 108 have specially protected status.
Therearethreatened and semi-endemic speciespresent，such as Ranzania japonica，Hy1ote1ephium tsugaruense, and Tipu1aria japonica.
The beech forests have p1ayed a vita1 ro1e in the ecosystem for thousandsof years. All mamma1s found in the Tohoku region exist in Shirakami Sanchi, in c1uding the black bear and Japanese serow. There are87 bird species currently identified in the area，including the Golden eagle and Hodgson’s hawk eagle.There is also a particularly rich insect population，with 2,212 recorded species.
The outstanding beauty of Lake Juniko
Lake Juniko，whose name literally means “twelve lakes,” consists of 33 lakes and ponds scattered across a 780 ha area of beechforests in Shirakami Sanchi. These were created by a big earthquake of about
300 years ago. It issaid the name Juniko comes from the fact that the twelve lakes can be seen from the top of a mountain.
Aoike Pond, part of Lake Juniko, is known for its inky-blue beauty and clarity. The fallenbeech trees lurking beneath the surface appear as ever-changing illusions. Oike, the largest of all ponds, is madeup of two (eastern and western) ponds and Wakitsubo Pond is designated as oneof the best water sources in Aomori Prefecture. Other drawing points hereinclude 0′kuzure and the Nihon Canyon, a breathtaking gorge with steep，rugged rocks the huge and dynamic.
Please note that if you prefer touring all 33 ponds，it will take a full day and you would need a car. However, visiting the major ponds and forest area along the hikingtrail will take just about an hour.
If you travel to Tohoku，ridinga train on the Go no Line is recommended. The line, stretching 147.2 km, was first opened in 1908 between Noshiro (now Higashi Noshiro)and Noshiro City (now Noshiro) as a branch of Japan National Railways’ Ou mainline. In 1936，the railway line fully opened when thefinal section between Mutsu Iwasaki and Fukaura was completed. Today, therailway line is known for providing one of the most scenic views in Japan.
Debuting in 1997 at the same time as the Akita Shinkansen，the Resort Shirakami is a train that operates in three configurations, named the Aoike, the Buna and the Kumagera. These limited expresstrains run from Akita along the Gono Line to Hirosaki, and then turn around before continuing northward along theOu Line to Aomori. The train trip offers alluring vistas of the Japan Sea andthe Shirakami Sanchihighlands，as well as expansive panoramas of theTsugaru Plain. Specialty bentos (lunch boxes) are popular among passengers andif you are lucky, there will be local events taking place. You can also stopover to enjoy a soak in an onsen.
As the train trip is popular，seats may easily be sold out during some periods of theseason，thus making a reservation in advance is recommended.
More information for Resort Shirakami or Gono Line:
More attractions around Shirakami Sanchi
There are a lot more attractions to draw tourists along the Gono Line.
Ajigasawa, situated on the west coast of Aomori Prefecture，connects the Sea of Japan in the north and ShirakamiSanchi. There are rich beech forests along the headwaters of Akaishi andNakamura rivers to provide a freshening breeze. The town has highly-reputedonsen facilities and fried squid is a popular local food there.
Noshiro in Akita Prefecture has a unique background，known as the“the town of basketball,” thanks to the success of the Noshiro KogyoHigh School team. You will see a hoop at Noshiro Station. The town is also famous for its pine forest, which is one of the largest in the country. For sake lovers, there is a Kikusui Brewerythat uses an old railroad tunnel.