The Shirakami Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Shirakami Mountains make up a mountain range with an elevation ranging from 100m up to 1200m, encompassing roughly 130000ha (1300k2) of land between Aomori and Akita prefectures. The Shirakami mountains boasts one of the world’s largest virgin forests of Japanese beech trees, encompassing 16971ha (169.71k2) of the mountain range, which earned it the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site in December of 1993. This forest is home to a variety of protected species of plants and animals, such as the black woodpecker, and the golden eagle. Roughly 27% of this land stretches though the town of Ajigasawa, and makes up just a portion of the Shirakami Mountains, along with the Akaishi River, which flows through the town, and the Shirakami Forest hiking trails.
Kurokuma Falls, One of Japan’s top 100 waterfalls
Flowing from the Takinosawa tributary of the Akaishi River, at a height of 85m, and a width of 15m, Kurokuma Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in Aomori prefecture. Because the shape of the falls resembles Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, pressing her hands together in prayer, Kurokuma Falls has been considered a place of faith. The waterfall is only a 15 minute walk from the Kurokuma Falls parking lot. Along the path you pass under a tunnel created by the branches of Japanese beech and Judas trees, and Mongolian Oak trees, where you may encounter some of the wild birds inhabiting the Shirakami Mountains. There are 12 waterfalls of various sizes along the Takinosawa tributary, of which you can view three, via established trails.
- ■Admittance period: From late may through late November
Due to a landslide in February 2015, viewing access is restricted.
Breathtaking Mountain Streams
The clear waters of the Akaishi River, flowing from the Shirakami Mountains, is a treasure-trove of fish, such as ayu, yamame, and iwana. Every year, beginning from the first of July, anglers come from far and wide to fish for a particular type of ayu, called kinayu. From areas such as the Aoiwa outlook, there are picturesque scenic views along the Akaishi River in every season; from the emergence of the new green leaves of spring, through the autumnal red and yellow foliage, one can enjoy the beauty along the streams of the Shirakami Mountains.
The Gono Line and the Sea of Japan
The Gono Line is a popular line of the Japan Railways, which connects Akita prefecture and Aomori prefecture, running from Higashi-noshiro station in Akita prefecture to Kawabe station in Aomori prefecture. The inland portion of the Gono line traverses the rural landscape teeming with apple orchids, and the coastal portion offers a spectacular view of the Sea of Japan and the Shirakami Mountains. There is also an observation train, called Resort Shirakami, which runs along the Gono Line.
Kitamaebune: Cargo ships from the Edo period
Ajigasawa has prospered as the official port of the Tsugaru province, the western region of Aomori prefecture. As a port of call along the sea route of western Japan, during the Edo period the town used to bustle with ships coming from Osaka and the Hokuriku region of Japan, bringing prosperity to Ajigasawa’s economy and culture. A painting of the port from its glory days has been gifted to the Shirohachi-mangu shrine.
Deliciously fresh blessings from Shirakami
Ajigasawa, nestled among mountains, rivers, and sea, is blessed with the fruits of the land and sea throughout every season. From spring plants such as bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and other mountain vegetables begin to sprout, and fish such as ayu, itou, hirame, and madai can be found in the waters around town. In the summer, you can enjoy the flavor of the pacific flying squid. Autumn is the season of salmon, and in the winter it gives way to the spear squid. The seasonal curtains of squid hung out to dry are considered the symbol of Ajigasawa’s delicious cuisine.
Ajigasawa’s signature dish! “Hirame-no-zuke-don”
Nearly year round, hirame, the gem of the Sea of Japan, and native to Ajigasawa, is in season. Hirame of the finest quality, marinated in an extravagant sauce, is served generously laid atop a bowl of rice as Ajigasawa’s famous Hirame-no-zuke-don. Every shop is dedicated to the creation of their own characteristic sauce to marinate their hirame for their own specialty version of the dish. As such, flavor, price, serving method, etc. varies by shop.
All along highway 101 through Ajigasawa, you can see half-dried squid, hung up like curtains. The fragrant scent of squid being grilled over a charcoal fire tempts many travelers to stop at the many shops along the road.
Experience nature to its fullest!
Ajigasawa is known for locations such as the UNESCO world heritage site, the Shirakami Mountains, where you can experience nature in all of its facets: mountains, rivers, and oceans. Experience the outdoors with activities such as ayu fishing in the Akaishi River, trekking the Shirakami mountain range, and reveling in the great outdoors at the foot of Mount Iwaki. Come, experience nature whole heartedly, and have fun making a delicious meal on our local farms.
Receive guidance from a master angler, or just come see authentic live decoy fishing in the Akaishi River!
Ajigasawa SUP experience
Try out SUP on any of our abundant lakes, rivers, or even down to the ocean.
Make and eat your own sausages and meatloaf at a local farm.
Make pizza and bread in an authentic stone oven,
try tree-ing (climbing a tree with a rope harness), and so much more!
Shirakami Forest Hiking Trails: Experience the charm of the Shirakami Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
From the time of the feudal government, the local people have been carefully protecting the Shirakami Forest as an important source of water for their fields. For this reason, much like the Shirakami Mountains, the forest has remained plentiful in untouched nature, even though it is not registered as part of the UNESCO world heritage site. Seasonal foliage, and the clusters of broad-leaf beech trees make the forest scenery of the Shirakami Mountains an area where you can truly feel the charm of the mountains.
Kuromori traveler information center:
Kuromori traveler information center is equipped with an exhibition room, and acts as a rest area as well as the information center for the trails of the Shirakami forest.
- ■Hiking reception desk:4/20-10/31
- ■Hiking fees:
Adults and high school students: 500 Yen
Junior high and elementary students: 400 Yen
Children 5 Years old and younger are free. Free rental of walking sticks and rubber boots.
- ■Guided tour:Enjoy a tour of the trails, guided by an Ajigasawa local.
- ■For more information contact:Kuromori traveler information center at 0173-79-2009
Shuttle bus to the Shirakami forest trails:
Departure from Ajigasawa station(12:00PM)→Arrival at Shirakami forest trails (12:30)→Exploring time(12:45-2:45)→Departs from Shirakami trails(2:55)→Brief stop at Ajigasawa station(3:25), then departs for Umi-no-eki Wando→Departs from Umi-no-eki Wando(3:50)→Arrives back at Ajigasawa station(4:00).
※Times may vary depending on traffic and weather. Operation period:4/20-10/31
- ■Fees:As part of the guided tour package: Adults:2,840 yen/ Children:1,520 yen
As part of the self-guided hike package:Adults:1,840 yen/ Children:1,020 yen
- ■For more information contact:Konan Bus Company, Ajigasawa Office at 0173-72-3131
Fresh produce and seafood, and souvenirs all in the same place! Umi-no-eki Wando
Umi-no-eki Wando is where you can buy sea food, produce, and souvenirs all at one time. There’s a small food-court where you can eat, or just relax for a little bit, and a tourist information center which offers info about events, lodgings, and tours of the area. Umi-no-eki Wando also sells goods featuring Wasao, the famous ugly but cute Akita dog. On the second floor of the building is a sumo wrestling museum, offering exhibits on both traditional sumo, and the activity of a famous sumo wrestler born in Ajigasawa.
- ■Business hours
April through December:9:00AM-6:00PM
(December 31 business hours end at 3:00PM)
January through March:9:00AM-5:00PM
(January 3 business hours begin at 10:00AM)
- ■Holidays:closed January 1 and 2. Other instances of temporary closure may also occur.
- ■Contact: 0173-72-6661
Ajigasawa Sumo Museum: Mainoumi-Furusato-Sajiki
Ajigasawa’s sumo museum offers exhibits for former komusubi ran ked wrestler Mainoumi, known as “the department store of tactics.” The exhibits introduce the Ajigasawa born wrestlers activities, as well as traditional culture. Items such as Mainoumi’s topknot, clothing, and his keshou mawashi are on display in the museum.
- ■Business hours
April through December:9:00AM-6:00PM
January through March:9:00AM-5:00PM
- ■Entrance fee:no fee
Traces of History: Tanesato Castle and Mitsunobuno-yakata
Tanesato castle was built under the command of Mitsunobu Oura, a daimyo lord coming to Tanesato from Kuji located below the Nanbu region. Five generations later, Tsugaru Tamenobu inherited the rule and saw out Mitsunobu’s dying wish to unite the Tsugaru region, becoming known as the founder of the region. A bronze statue of Mitsunobu stands as a monument for the daimyo, and about 800 tree peonies, which can be seen in the Tsugaru family crest, bloom from May through June.
Shiro-hachimangu Grand Festival
A more than 300 year old tradition, this festival is held once every four years (The most recently held was in August of 2013). Portable shrines are paraded down the street, called Shinkousai in Japanese, representing the temporary absence of the deity from the shrine, one of the many abstract customs of Japan. This festival has a similar atmosphere to the Gion festival held in Kyoto, thanks to the Kitamaebune of the Edo period bringing the fragrant culture of the Kansai region to northern Japan.
Places of Interest/photo opportunities
Sunset over the Sea of Japan
If you look to the north across the Shichiri-nagahama coastline you will see Gogensaki on the Tsugaru peninsula. To the west, the coastal terrace stretches gently on. Spring through autumn, every day seems like a new wonder to behold, as you watch the sun set from the breakwater or Nagisa Bridge, the horizon dyed a deep red.
Nagisa Bridge is a footbridge connecting Hamanasu Park and Shinsetsu-Kaihin Park. The town’s most recently constructed bridge, erected in 2004, it has a length of 112.3m, and is the world’s first hybrid cable-stayed PC bridge, combining the strengths of both cable-stayed bridges and suspension bridges. Nagisa Bridge is a local favorite for relaxing and enjoying the view of the ocean.
Mt. Iwaki Rape Blossoms
The vibrant yellow rape blossoms bring the feeling of spring, spreading like a carpet at the base of Mt. Iwaki. Each year the exact location of the blossoms varies, to prevent complications due to the repeated cultivation of land.
- ■Blossom viewing period: From mid to late May
Hello Shirakami, Nature observation center
If visiting the Shirakami mountain range, stop by this nature observation center and learn about the Matagi culture of the Tohoku region via taxidermy, and photo panels depicting the forest in all four seasons.
- ■Months of operation: 5/1-10/31
- ■Business hours: 9:00AM-5:00PM
- ■Entrance fee: no fee
- ■Phone number: 0173-79-2727
In Nakamura Township is a road of 4m tall scarecrows made by the neighborhood association and elementary school associations. Each scarecrow is made from scrap material and vibrant with the personality of its creators.
- ■Exhibition period: Early August- Mid-September
Shirakami camping grounds
Located just north of the Shirakami Mountains, Shirakami camping grounds offer a great location for outdoor camping or roaming the wilderness, and is a local favorite for mountain stream fishing!
- ■Months of operation: 6/1 ? 10/31
- ■For more information contact Kuma-no-yu Onsen at 0173-79-2518
Aomori Spring Golf Club
Once used for the men’s regular tour, this course offers near professional level conditions. Come have a good time on this high level strategy course!
- ●Course:7,104Y,par 72
- ●Hitting range:300Y,24 balls Clubhouse and 5person cart
- ■Open mid-April～mid-Nov.
Aomori Spring Ski Resort
Located on Mt. Iwaki, this ski resort offers quality snow conditions and a great view out over the Tsugaru plains and the Sea of Japan. Ride the 2967m long gondola up 921m to the summit of the mountain and shred those slopes!
- ●Course: Overall length 3.4Km,14 courses
- ●5 different lifts/gondolas
- ■Phone: 0173-72-1011
- ■Open mid-Dec.
Hamanasu Park (Ajigasawa beach)
Come summertime, the wide sandy shore and shallow waters of Hamanasu Park are bustling with beach-goers. Relaxing under the shade of trees, strolling over the Nagisa Bridge to Shinsetsu-Kaihin Park, and leisurely enjoying the gentle sea breeze is the best way to unwind in the summer.
- ■Swimming season lasts from late July to late August
Ajigasawa camping park
Located at the base of Mt. Iwaki, this camping park is a great place to experience nature at its finest. The park also offers visitors the chance to try their hand at making pizza and bread, craft activities, and tree-ing!
- ■Months of operation:
4/28 ? 10/31 (log cabins available year round)
- ■Contact: 0173-72-1571
- ①Ajigasawa Onsen and hotel Grand Mer Sankaiso
- ②Ajigasawa Onsen Suigun Inn …0173-72-6511
- ③ROCKWOOD HOTEL & SPA …0173-72-1011
- ④Ishioka Ryokan … 0173-72-2055
- ⑤Ono Ryokan … 0173-72-3038
- ⑥Kuma no Yu Onsen …0173-79-2518
- ⑦Toyo-Akabane Bed & Breakfast …0173-72-5371
- ⑧Naojiro Bed & Breakfast …0173-72-5613
- ⑨Yamanosato Lodge …0173-72-1355
- ⑩Nagadai Traveler's Lodge(Ajigasawa Camping grounds)