Translated by Allie
Snow Hiking Around The Juniko Lakes - Shirakami Mountains, Aomori
Shirakami-sanchi is a mountain range located in Aomori prefecture. For its picturesque views, it has been registered on the World Heritage Site list. This article introduces the snow hiking tours held in this area by Awone Shirakami Jyuniko association.
Written by Keisuke Yamada
Shirakami-Sanchi is a mountain range stretching between Aomori prefecture and Akita prefecture. In December 1993 it was one of the first places in Japan to be registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Yakushima Island in Kagoshima. The reason why Shirakami-Sanchi was selected for the UNESCO World Heritage site list was it contains the largest remaining natural beech forest, which hasn't been influenced by human activity.
In summer, the mountain is covered with deep green. In fall, stunningly beautiful fall foliage can be seen, while in winter, snow covers up the mountain, allowing for activities that can be experienced only in the winter. This time, we would love to introduce one of them - snow hiking in the area of the Juniko Lakes.
The Charms of the Juniko Lakes
Juniko is the general term for several lakes which exist in the Shirakami-sanchi area. It is said that Juniko was formed by the landslides that followed a large eartquake that struck during the Edo period. Because of the earthquake, 33 lakes of various sizes were formed. Out of those 33 lakes, 12 lakes were visible from the top of the largest mountain in the area, Mount Kuzure. Those 12 lakes started to be known as the Juniko Lakes. Aoike (Blue Pond) whose color resembles blue ink poured in water is the most famous of the 12 lakes.
Image courtesy of Fukuoka Town Tourism Department
The picture above is what Blue Pond looks like in summer. The Blue Pond has a high transparency. When the sunshine lights up the surface of the lake, it glitters while keeping its dark blue color. It's so amazing that you will be at a loss for words. The reason why its water looks blue has not been clarified yet. This mystery adds to the charm of this area, doesn't it?
When there is no wind and no waves on the lake surface, you can observe how you can make waves by throwing a small snowball. Seeing how the waves hit the edge of the lake and come back to the center of the lake is something that you can enjoy only when it's not windy.
Let's Go Snow Hiking!
We were guided by Awone Shirakami Jyuniko this time. During the winter season (from December 1st to March 30th), it is not allowed to enter the area without a guide. In addition, please keep in mind that usually the roads leading to the Juniko Lakes are closed.
Before setting off, the guide explains what kind of trail you are going to take. If you go for a three-hour tour, you can visit many fun spots which will allow you to experience the charms of the Juniko Lakes to the fullest.
The snow gets deeper and deeper as you go. It's time to put on kanjiki (snow-shoes) which you rent for free before the tour starts. Kanjiki are used in order to prevent your shoes from getting into the snow too deeply. They are attached to one's shoes. Although lately you can find kanjiki made of aluminum or rubber, during the Awone Shirakami Jyuniko tours you will be able to use homemade kanjiki made of branches or vines, which were the materials used for making of traditional kanjiki in the past.
You might not be used to walking with kanjiki at first. But as you go, you get a sense about how you should step with them. So please don't give up. Once getting further into the forest, you cannot go forward without kanjiki because of the deep snow. Step by step! Hang in there.
In the summer, many visitors come to Juniko for hiking. However, snow hiking in winter is an activity known only by a limited number of people. When there is nobody around and no sounds can be heard, the forest becomes enshrouded in a fantastic atmosphere.
When you touch the beech trees grown here, you will feel that the trees are warm and that they breathe even if they are in a cold place.
This quiet beech forest is a paradise for animals, serows, Japanese hares, squirrels, and wild birds. Thanks to the guide, you will be able to trace animal footprints and observe wild birds while going deeper in the forest.
There are slopes once in a while, allowing you to slide down with a sled. Playing with snow on the mountain is one of the things you can experience only when doing snow hiking.
At the end of the tour we arrived at our last destination - Wakitsubo Pond ("The Boiling Pot" Pond.) Among the twelve lakes, Wakitsubo Pond has the same level of transparency like the Blue Pond. The surroundings are really quiet and stunningly beautiful. It is really worth hiking down here to see it.
What do you think? Snow hiking is held only in winter in the Shirakami-Sanchi mountain range. It will surely become a great, once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can join the tour as long as there are at least two participants. So how about coming with your friends or family?
Awone Shirakami Jyuniko
Address: Aomori, Nishitsugaru, Fukauracho, Matsukami, Shimohamamatsu 14
Tour Hours: Starts at 9:00 and ends at 12:00 / starts at 13:00 and ends at 16:00 (From December 1 to March 30)
Closed: Open everyday (Reservation required)
Credit Cards: -
Other Languages: -
Menus / Pamphlets in Other Languages: -
Nearest Station: Juniko Station, JR Gono Line
Access: Tours are offered to customers who reserved in advance
Price range: From 3000 yen
Phone Number: +81-173-77-3311
Website: Awone Shirakami Jyuniko