Natural Japan Asia And The Pacific Ajigasawa-machi, Nishitsugaru-gun, Aomori Prefecture;Fukaura-machi, Nishitsugaru-gun, Aomori Prefecture;Iwasaki-mura, Nishitsugaru-gun, Aomori Prefecture;Fujisato-machi, Yamamoto-gun, Akita Prefecture

Situated in the mountains of northern Honshu, the area includes the last remaining virgin stand of Siebold's beech forest, the typical Japanese climax temperate forest. The area covers about one-third of the Shirakami Mountains which are a heavily dissected range with summits rising to just over 1,200 m.

The Shirakami Mountains extend over 450 km2 and comprise a maze of steep sided hills with summits. The mountains were rapidly uplifted during the Quaternary, causing faulting which has resulted in a dynamic landscape with numerous mass movements. More than 50% of the area comprises deep valleys with steep slopes. Many streams have their sources within the area and it is an important water catchment area.

More than 500 plant species have been identified from Shirakami. This figure is not particularly high compared with other mountainous areas in Japan, but does include many plant species characteristic of the country, and many species generally seen in its alpine and subalpine zones.

All mammals found in northern Honshu exist in the area, other than two species whose existence is restricted by heavy snowfall. The 87 bird species currently identified from the area include Golden eagle, which has limited breeding record and is endangered in Japan. Three nesting pairs of Black Woodpecker, also endangered are found in the core zone. Hodgson's hawk eagle, has also been recorded in the site as well as Japanese serow. Japanese black bear is common. Seven species of reptile and nine amphibians have been recorded. The insect fauna is particularly rich, with 2,212 recorded species.

The beech forest is virtually entirely undisturbed;the area is a wilderness with no access trails or man-made facilities. Occasional use by bear hunters occurs but other wildlife is fully protected. A 6,800 ha buffer zone surrounds the property within which no extractive activities are allowed.

Special hunting techniques and faith ceremonies, by a group of hunters, known as 'Matagi', surround bear hunting in the region.